This week, a new free social media tool called Klouchebag hit the web. If you haven't played around with it already, it's a tool that tells you how ... uh ... annoying you are on Twitter. Yeah, we'll just go with "annoying" for the sake of this blog post. But it got me thinking: social media can be chock full of valuable content, but it's often buried among the mundane and useless social media updates, or hidden behind poorly constructed social media profiles. And this makes a marketer's job mighty hard.
So this post is going to outline all of the worst offenders we've seen in social media. If none of these apply to you, congratulations! Use these as entertainment over your lunch break. Otherwise, consider these cautionary tales to help protect your own social media strategy.
13 Ways to Make People Hate Your Social Media Presence
1) Launching a Private Social Media Account
Social media is about talking with and meeting new people. It's right there in the name -- social media. So why on earth would you set up a social media account and then set it to, gulp, private? That's exactly what CVS did when they launched its CVS_Cares Twitter account. If you had tried to follow them around launch time, this is what you would have seen:
Seriously? Well, luckily they learned their lesson and now have a fantastic, active, public account! Remember, the benefits of using social media for your business are virtually wiped out when your social media accounts aren't public -- it prevents you from growing your reach, getting visibility for the content you publish, and growing referral traffic and leads back to your website.
2) Having a Disproportionate Follower:Following Ratio
Have you ever seen an interesting tweet or gotten an alert that someone new is following you on Twitter, open up their profile to learn more about them and see if they're someone you're interested in following, and see one of the following screens?
Let's break down each scenario, starting with that first set of data. This particular tweeter is following 825 people, but only 21 people have decided to follow him/her back. Why might that be? Well, the account only has 8 tweets. That's not enough content to convince people you're a worthy account to follow. Instead of maniacally following hundreds of people with the hope that one follows you back, spend time writing interesting tweets, linking to great content that you and others have created, and retweeting others' tweets to build relationships and earn your followers.
Now let's take a look at the second set of data. 4,044 people are following this person, and he/she has only returned the favor for 5 people. What gives? We just got done talking about how social media is a social platform ... and that doesn't sound like a two-way conversation to me. In this particular scenario, there are enough tweets to back up the large followership, but a lack of reciprocation such as this can rub many people the wrong way and prevent you from growing your social media reach at the highest rate possible.
3) Writing Updates That Are Too Long
Did you know that Facebook lets you post an update that is 63,206 characters long? Nokia did. In fact, when Facebook expanded the character limit this past February, they took it as an opportunity to test the limits with this expansive status update on their Facebook page. If you're counting, I cut it off a little less than halfway through.
Obviously, this was a joke (and a great marketing move!) by Nokia, but it certainly proves a point. Is anyone going to read so much text? If your updates are even approaching the length of the update in the screenshot above, get yourself an editor stat. In fact, data from Buddy Media shows that the ideal length for a Facebook update is less than 4 or 5 lines -- posts under 80 characters receive 27% more engagement.
4) The Airing of Grievances
You know what no one cares about? This.
Late last year, a Boloco employee tweeted about disliking her job at Boloco. Bad move, but pretty common. What ensued was a dramatic Twitter firestorm from the Boloco CEO, a truncated version of which is pictured above. It all started when he took to firing the employee over Twitter, and then tweets shot back and forth about the situation, attracting horrified onlookers.
The lesson? Keep your personal business to yourself and off of social media -- whether you're an employee, or an employer. If your brand, or employees representing your brand, go on a rant like this, you look petty, unprofessional, and offer nothing of value to your audience. There's not much else to say on this one except if you're thinking about using your social media presence as a soapbox to rant and rave, step away from the keyboard and walk away. Your PR team will thank you for it!
5) Talking Smack About Competitors
It's not just public rants that make you look petty. Attacking your competitors on social media makes you look just as unprofessional, and gives your more sensitive customers another place to send their business. Does anyone remember the Whole Foods case from the early to mid 2000s? For 7 years, Whole Foods CEO assumed an online identity completely unaffiliated with Whole Foods, visited forums and blogs, and posted complimentary comments about Whole Foods while smack talking a smaller direct competitor -- who they then ventured to purchase. Aside from an SEC investigation when this was all uncovered, this type of behavior makes your organization look extremely unprofessional. Even if you're tempted to draft a snarky Facebook update or pointed tweet, hold your tongue and rise above!
6) Making Off-Color Comments
Finally, the last in the series of reputation management disasters. You'd think it would go without saying that joking about or commenting and capitalizing on sensitive news is the wrong way to go about newsjacking. You'd think. But for some reason, every few months we hear about some brand or spokesperson making off-color comments to propel their Twitter following or make a few extra bucks. Remember this tweet from Kenneth Cole?
When considering popular topics in the news to discuss in your social media updates, remember that everyone has a different sensitivity level. Sure, pushing the boundaries is alright, but defer to your common sense; if you're on the fence about whether you should post something, you probably shouldn't.
7) Publicly Solving Customer Service Issues
Whether you like it or not, people will take to social media for customer support. Which is why more and more brands are being proactive by maintaining a social media presence (some have set up accounts dedicated solely to customer service, in fact) so they can handle questions and complaints expeditiously. Where some brands fall short, however, is failing to direct customers to an offline or private channel to actually solve their problems. Take a look at how KLM handles a customer service issue correctly on its Facebook page.
See how they sent Ali a private message to handle the details? That's the right method -- nobody wants to see how Ali is going to get a replacement card through a series of back-and-forth comments. The value is in seeing that KLM can handle all manner of customer service issues on its Facebook page, not how they solve them. Don't clog up your fans' and followers' feeds with customer support, and show them that you'll handle their problems quickly and professionally over email, the phone, direct message, Facebook message, etc.
8) Hijacking Hashtags
What's hashtag hijacking, you ask? Here's an example from HabitatUK, courtesy of Social Media Today.
Notice all those hashtags called out in red? At the time, they were very popular hashtags (some still are) that indicate lots of people on Twitter are talking about that particular subject. So if your tweet includes the hashtag, it will appear in that popular conversation. Great! More visibility for your content, right? Well, yes, but it's not good visibility, because those hashtags have absolutely nothing to do with what HabitatUK does -- sell home furnishings. When you hashtag hijack, you're putting irrelevant content out to the masses and frankly, spamming. That's not the reputation you want to have in the social sphere.
9) Piling Your Tweets With Too Many Hashtags
Speaking of hashtags ... Twitter has forced a certain kind of social media shorthand on us all. People r used 2 writing n reading updates in a dif way to fit everything into 140 characters. We've also all gotten used to reading through tweets interrupted by a hashtag -- an annoyance, yes, but one that lets us piggyback on trending topics and find content related to our field more easily. But there's such a thing as hashtag overload, as evidenced in this tweet:
I'm thrilled that this user shared my content! But including four hashtags -- pretty generic ones, at that -- make this tweet hard to read, give it a spammy feel, and doesn't really contribute to the conversation around the subjects of social media, marketing, Google+, or Pinterest. Instead, choose one or two hashtags to include in your tweets that will really contribute to the conversation happening around those topics.
10) Insulting Your Customer Base
Seems obvious, right? It wasn't to online pawn show Pawngo. After the 2012 Super Bowl, Pawngo dumped a huge pile of Butterfinger candy bars in the middle of Boston's Copley Square a day after New England's heartbreaking loss. The reference was to New England Patriot's receiver Wes Welker dropping the catch that sealed the team's Super Bowl loss. Take a look at one of the tweets Pawngo sent out leading up to the PR stunt:
We're giving Boston a late morning snack to get over Sunday's loss #butterfingers— Pawngo (@Pawngo) February 7, 2012
Seem like a low blow? Customers certainly took it that way -- and they took to social media to let them know. Quite a different hashtag than the one above, eh?
@plymptonproper Sorry we lost you as a customer. If you live chat w/one of our reps on the site, u might realize that we're not that bad :-/— Pawngo (@Pawngo) February 8, 2012
Thing is, Pawngo really meant it to make Boston fans feel better; but it didn't feel that way to Boston residents. Make sure you know your customers well enough to joke around with them before getting so familiar like Pawngo did.
11) "Targeting" Poorly With Automation
Otherwise known as spamming people. That's what happened to AT&T back in March when they were trying to capitalize on the March Madness hoopla for which they had set up a promotion. The goal was to get the word out about their contest to those who would be interested, but what actually happened was poor targeting. Take former HubSpot employee Brian Whalley, for example, who was the recipient of one of AT&T's tweet. Brian doesn't follow AT&T, he has never been their customer, he doesn't tweet about basketball, and there is no indication he is even a sports fan, according to his bio.
In fact, the only thing Brian had in his profile to indicate he might be interested in the March Madness promotion was the fact that he lives in one of the many cities in which the promotion was happening. And it wasn't just Brian Whalley who noticed this problem, either. Thousands of spammy tweets had gone out to unsuspecting tweeters that had little or no interest in such a promotion. Which brings us to our next cringeworthy social media activity ...
12) Posting WAY Too Frequently
Another result of AT&T's social media automation snafu was a barrage of tweets that clogged up people's news feeds. Take a look at this posting frequency:
That's multiple tweets a minute. And nobody has that much remarkable, relevant content to share. Every social media network has a different optimal posting frequency. In fact, Twitter lets brands get away with the highest frequency of all the social networks because content is buried so quickly. But tweeting more than once an hour has shown to decrease the click-through rate of your links by over 200%, according to HubSpot's Dan Zarrella. And if you're using Facebook or Google+ for your brand's social media presence, shoot for 3-5 updates per day.
13) Retweeting Instead of Generating Original Content
Okay, so I did a little photo editing of my own Twitter account to prove a point for this one, but it did come from a particularly RT-heavy week for me. See those green arrows in the top right corner of every tweet? Those indicate the tweet was written by another user, and retweeted by me to my followers.
Retweeting is a way to share someone else's content -- a good thing! But doing it to this extent is going too far. That's because people have followed you to hear what you have to say. That means they want to hear your original ideas, see links to your content, and get access to the content others have published that you find valuable. If your balance tips too heavy on that last part, back off the RT button and start creating more of your own content that you can publish to your fans and followers.
What's your biggest social media marketing pet peeve?
Image credit: ChrisL_AK
Originally published May 2, 2012 12:53:00 PM, updated October 20 2016