Avoid Social Media Slip-Ups
We have all heard the stories of social media scandals, blunders, and flops like the Domino’s pizza debacle – when two employees posted a highly unpalatable video to YouTube – or the Southwest scandal when representatives from the airline told famous director Kevin Smith he was too fat to fly.
Avoiding social media Facebook brawls doesn’t have to be a complicated, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants process. Just follow these seven simple guidelines for using social media from Associate Professor Gwanhoo Lee, an expert in open innovation and social media-based collaboration – on how companies use social media to improve service and connect with users.
Lee recently conducted a field study with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer on a groundbreaking Web site that asked the company’s tens of thousands of employees how to better serve its customers and improve its long-term performance. Employees voted and commented on ideas, and the best proposals helped Pfizer shape its new strategic plan.
But social media has a dark side as well. Lee says whether you’re merely employing social media for personal use or your company is looking to adopt social media guidelines, you can just think Aretha Franklin. You know, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
Reply professionally to others’ comments.
Greenpeace advocates launched a social media campaign against Nestlé in March 2010 that mushroomed into a sticky social media mess. Environmentalists long criticized Nestlé’s use of palm oil from suppliers like Sinar Mas that allegedly destroy orangutan habitats in Indonesia.
The campaign started with a grisly YouTube video from Greenpeace of a Nestlé employee unwittingly eating an orangutan finger disguised as part of a KitKat bar. The mixture of orangutan fur, blood, and chocolate is less than appetizing. Facebook users soon followed took up the cause, posting on Nestlé’s official page with modified Nestlé candy bar logos as their profile picture (think “Nestle KitKat” turned “Nestle Killer”).
A Nestle rep made the situation worse when replying to hundreds of comments with acerbic statements such as: “We welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic—they will be deleted.” And “Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced.” The rep later apologized.
The scandal showcases the fast-acting power of social media: within two months Nestlé – looking to avoid an ongoing PR battle after receiving 200,000 e-mails of protest – announced it would cut ties with Sinar Mas, the second-largest palm oil supplier in the world, and switch to sustainable palm oil by 2015.
Enhance public value when posting messages.
Don’t post useless chatter. Don’t blatantly push your product. Make each post meaningful. Your company switched to 100 percent recycled paper? Tell us about it. But, say, if employee #10,435 John Smith won Employee of the Month? Leave it out – no one cares.
Simplify your message.
Not everyone speaks business lingo. Rather than describe your propitious horizontal integration that aggrandized your market share, just tell your followers why your newest acquisition is downright awesome for your business.
Simplifying your message is especially important with the social media platform Twitter where you have a mere 140 characters to get the word out. Decide what it is you want to say, and say it clearly, yet in as few words as possible.
Protect reputation and privacy.
If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.
Ensure validity of information sources.
No one wants the embarrassment of posting something that is later proved wrong. Taking a few minutes to check the validity of your sources – not to mention spelling and grammar – is time well spent.
Correct errors/problems quickly.
In April 2009, two Domino’s employees filmed themselves messing with a customer’s order and violating public health codes, like sticking booger-covered cheese on a sandwich, and posted the video to YouTube. Domino’s initially chose not to respond to the video, hoping the problem would disappear if they ignored it.
It didn’t. In less than 48 hours, over one million people had watched the video. A national study by HCD Research found 65 percent of respondents who would have visited Domino’s to order food before the scandal wouldn’t after watching the video, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Although Domino’s launched its own YouTube video in response, hunted down the employees, and fired them, it was too little, too late. More than 24 hours in response time is too long in the age of social media.
Tell the truth … all the time.
Search engines and social media make fact checking extremely easy for everyone everywhere. Save yourself a scandal and tell the truth. All the time.