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October 10th, 2012

How Not to Embarrass Your Brand (and Yourself) on Twitter

In college, I majored in radio. Back then, in the days vinyl still ruled, the common nightmare was not being able to put the needle on the record, much like the victim in the horror movie who couldn’t get the car keys to work. The resulting dead air may well have been a bloody death. Another waking dread was leaving the microphone on and saying one of George Carlin’s Seven Words.

Why do I bring this up? The new nightmare for brand marketers is putting the wrong message over social media. Worse than dead air, the misguided and often offensive message is what keeps many of us Tweeters and Facebookers up at night.

There is no shortage of examples:

HPIM6387Add to that two high-profile examples from the past week or so:

Each case is different, and the reactions – and consequences – have also been different. Since I am someone who helps brands manage their online social media presence, I have my own waking nightmares of having this happen. Thus, I have a few thoughts:

  • Most of these problems happen with Twitter. That is not an absolute, but Twitter is especially dangerous due to its ephemeral nature. Many times we publish and move on, and it’s easy to make a mistake. In the early days of Twitter I had the occasional private direct message go public due to a simple mistake. I survived, but as these brand issues show that can be a matter of luck or circumstance.
  • I use Tweetdeck as my personal social publishing tool. I use it largely for Twitter and Facebook, but under no circumstances do I add client accounts. I know myself too well, hilarity would not ensue.
  • I use separate browsers when logging in to a client or corporate social account. The best side effect of the Browser Wars is that I can have my own accounts on Google Chrome, and client’s in, say, Safari or Firefox- think of it as using separate kitchens to bake cookies due to peanut allergy. Actually, that’s a stretch, but that’s the best analogy you’re going to get when I write on a Monday night.
  • Always log out. What’s a bigger pain, logging in anew for each session or explaining how that offensive Tweet got on the corporate account? I’d let you think about it but if you have to think about it I don’t want you in charge.
  • Don’t be profane in your personal accounts. You will rarely see me swear in my public social media posts. I may get edgy here and there, but the fewer F-bombs I drop, the fewer F-bombs that have a chance of slipping into the wrong social media stream. It’s a personal choice with which others will differ, but I like to take down the odds (metrics!)
  • Are you still hiring “interns” to do your social media? A lot of this, outside of the mechanical mistakes, is relying ont he judgment of someone representing your brand. I’m not going to say a 25-year-old can’t manage your social media (and people on our teams fall into that age group – I exempt all of them as they wouldn’t be with us if they couldn’t handle it), but I will say that maturity, regardless, of age, is an absolute requirement.

What’s it going to be? Are you going to be careful with your brand? I’m entertained by the mistakes for the most part, but these things are keeping a lot of us up at night. Put the needle on the record, make sure the mic is off and avoid dead air – or worse.

Original version posted at DougHaslam.com
Flickr photo credit: jennconspiracy

About the Author
Doug Haslam is a Supervisor on the Voce Connect Client Services team, managing client programs and developing strategy. In addition to Voce Nation, Doug writes his own personal blog and you can find him on Twitter as @dough.

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