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How to Avoid Social Media Gaffes

Almost overnight, it seems that social media has taken over our lives. We use it to stay connected, express opinions and follow the issues that are important to us, among a myriad of other reasons that are proliferating by the second with the growth of existing and newly launched platforms. Most of us feel that we honestly couldn’t survive a day without social media.

Whether for bringing in new business or launching a new product, social media campaigns work wonderfully with pivotal moments in a company’s journey. Any time that you need to generate buzz or communicate a USP, social media is the cornerstone of your success. Social media is no longer ‘the thing that the kids do’ – it’s the communications medium of our age and businesses need to take it seriously.

But what can be done when a thoughtless post goes viral and a company’s social media campaign takes an unexpected turn?

Various companies have found themselves on the wrong side of social media, including giants like Kitchen Aid and McDonald’s with its #McDStories gaffe.

From the outset of planning a communications campaign, it is essential to incorporate a tactical social media plan. Use it to define your campaign’s short-term objectives across each social media channel, organise team assignments, and generate content that you can build on and tailor to specific platforms.

Show it to everyone on your team – social media is all about sharing, right? Experts say the most successful social media plans include input from different areas of expertise including risk, marketing and even HR.

Educating employees is absolutely essential, from board members to junior staff. Consumers love nothing more than sharing cringeworthily examples of bad practice and making these cases go viral in catastrophic fashion. Preparing media management plans in advance can help companies to avoid incidents and deal with unexpected outcomes by establishing methods for crisis management. These should focus on rapid, professional and effective responses to unanticipated social media blunders.

When KitchenAid posted a tasteless tweet concerning US President Barack Obama’s late grandmother in 2012 – mistakenly sent by an employee from the company’s official account rather than their personal account – the brand responded quickly. As well as deleting the message, which had already been seen by many people, a senior executive took to Twitter to apologise and confirm that the individual would no longer be tweeting on behalf of the company.

While it is important to have rules and regulations that offer guidance in times of crisis, it is even better to establish guidelines that prevent gaffes from occurring in the first place. Sensitivity is of utmost importance, and communications teams should be assessing content from all angles before it is released into the social media sphere (a scary place for underprepared companies).

Social media is no longer a toy for bored people – it is big business and should be a significant and carefully considered component of your strategy.