Marketers and business owners rely on social media to communicate many things about their brand. But there are also some dangers inherent in communicating with a large, diverse audience who you don't know on a personal level. Oh, and by the way, you are limited to getting your point across in only a few sentences (or characters!), and must achieve a tone that simultaneously entertains but does not offend.
Needless to say, the opportunities for misunderstandings and miscommunications abound. And I'm sorry to say that no matter how hard you try, you will inevitably encounter some negative social media experiences along the way. But you can greatly reduce the number of mishaps you experiece -- be it trolls, unfollows/unfans, or PR nightmares -- by simply avoiding certain topics of conversation.
Before you publish your next status update or 140-character nugget of social media gold, consider whether it's definitely the right thing to post to your brand's account. If you're unsure, make sure this list of social media update no-nos is nearby. By avoiding these topics, you can avoid most of the worst problems faced by brands active on social media.
10 Things A Business Should Never Publish on Social Media
1.) Off-topic subject matters. Staying on-topic when publishing social media updates is crucial for encouraging engagement and growing a sustainable base of followers. People subscribe to your account for a specific set of reasons, and every time you go off topic, it makes your account less valuable. If you're finding that there's a subject matter that really needs to be covered, but your account simply is not the right channel to do it, it may be time to consider starting a new social media account to achieve that purpose.
2.) Smack talk your competition. Say what you will about your competition behind closed doors (come on, they're not that bad), but don't ever let your feelings make it to your social media networks. Even if they're embroiled in a PR disaster, rise above and don't comment on it; doing so make you look worse, not them. You should, however, use marketing automation to track mentions of your competitors. This lets you speak with your prospects when they are in the research and comparison phase of the sales cycle, see if your customers are shopping around, and identify opportunities to close business with leads that weren't even in your pipeline.
3.) Smack talk your prospects and customers. Have you ever had a particularly frustrating customer service problem tweeted at you? Or did you have someone attack you on your Facebook wall? It's really, really frustrating. Your first instinct is probably to give them a piece of your mind, or post something passive aggressive about their sour attitude. Step away from the keyboard, calm down, and construct a more measured response that's focused on solving the problem at hand, not perpetuating it. Even if they're wrong, you can't bad mouth them. But if you're solution-oriented and don't give in to their negative attitude, your social media spat will soon blow over. And sometimes, your community even comes to your defense!
4.) Resolutions to complicated customer service issues. Using social media to solve customer service issues is one of the best developments since sliced bread. But not all questions come with a one sentence answer. If someone has presented a complicated question to you on one of your social networks, don't try to solve it publicly. It clogs up everyone else's feed, and unless it's a question that applies to your entire fan base, it's not valuable content. Instead, publicly ask them to privately message, email, or call you to work out the complicated kinks.
5.) Confidential customer information. Another potential pitfall when using social media for customer service is leaking private customer information. If you are troubleshooting via social media, be sure you don't accidentally leak information that legally shouldn't be shared. To you it may seem trivial, but it's actually quite common for people to not want to publicly discuss pricing, location, or other seemingly benign topics.
6.) Surprise pictures and tagging. Just because you're a social media super star doesn't mean your staff and customers are comfortable being in the public eye. Don't publish photos of them, use location based tagging, or even tag their names in public updates without their permission. Some people have stringest personal privacy rules of which you must be respectful.
7.) Misinformed updates. Whoever monitors your brand's social media accounts is responsible for knowing a lot about...well, everything. He or she will come up against questions spanning from product information, to billing questions, to industry insights, to support issues. And one of the worst things you can do is answer those questions without first getting all the facts. It makes your organization look confused, ill prepared, and untrustworthy. Remember that there are a lot of people you work alongside that deal with the issues you're facing on a daily basis; tap your internal resources before giving out incorrect information in cyber space.
8.) Apathetic updates. Everyone has *those* days. But one of the hard parts about being a social media manager (or any public figure, for that matter) is putting on a happy face. Please don't let apathy shine through in your social media updates. If you're not excited about your brand, how can you expect anyone else to be?
9.) Proprietary company information. This one is a tip specifically for the social media and community managers out there. Leaking proprietary information may not upset your network, but it will upset your boss. Keep your job safe, and remember that what is common knowledge to you is probably big news to a lot of people...namely, your competitors. If you have any doubt before hitting the "Enter" key, that's a good indication that you probably shouldn't post it. Or at the very least, check with your CMO!
10.) Personal rants and diatribes. If you manage a social media account, you may feel like you have your own soapbox off of which to rant and rave. In fact, you do not. Sure, you obviously shouldn't wax poetic on your religious and political opinion, but you also shouldn't opine about the horrible customer service from the sandwich shop down the street. Not only does it make you look petty, but remember point #1 (in my opinion, the most important one) from this post: It is not relevant to your audience.
What other updates do you think businesses should never, ever share on their social media accounts? Which of these points do you think does the most damage to a brand's social presence?