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3 Steps to Avoiding a Social Media Disaster

By Sarah Rudston

We’ve all seen examples of corporate social media gone wrong. McDonald’s inviting customers to share fun memories of the fast-food restaurant on Twitter and being met with a barrage of mocking tweets. Tesco sending a late-night tweet announcing their workers were tired and “hitting the hay”, shortly after the horse meat scandal broke in the news.

Small business owners may think that without huge numbers of followers they’re safe from anything quite so disastrous. However, it’s not just the big brands who have scored own goals through social media …

Keeping a dialogue with the critics

After their infamous episode on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Amy’s Baking Company in Arizona did themselves no favours by taking to Facebook to openly insult their critics with a stream of expletives which were inevitably shared around the world. While most small businesses know it’s not a good idea to air your dirty laundry in public, it’s wise to keep an eye on how you’re responding to your clients through social media.

Being polite, ensuring a timely response and listening to what’s being said will go a long way to keeping everyone happy. Most importantly, do not delete criticisms if and when they appear. Removing negative responses is akin to throwing petrol on a fire – people will simply post more, share their complaints with others and invite their friends to join in.

Reading up on current events

Even if you’re absolutely positive that only a handful of people are monitoring your social media accounts, you can still be thrust into the limelight in a split second at any time – and not necessarily for good reasons.

Up-and-coming fashion business Celeb Boutique learned this to their cost after sending a tweet shortly after the horrific cinema shooting in Aurora, Colarado. “#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress J,” said the tweet. The message caused uproar, with customers furious that the business appeared to be trying to sell clothes on the back of the tragedy. Only a small amount of research could have shown them what was really going on and saved them some serious damage to their reputation.

Being personable

One thing that can challenge the resources of smaller companies is the sheer amount of information they may have to deal with on a daily basis through social media. Larger companies can also face this problem without a strategic plan. American Airlines made an embarrassing mistake when they opted to reply to all messages sent to them through Twitter with automated responses. “Thanks for your support!” was their cheery reply to a customer’s disgruntled, “Congrats on creating the largest, sh**tiest airline in the world.”

When it comes to staying on top of social media, there really are no shortcuts – it’s something which takes a lot of time and care – and it’s definitely not something to leave to the intern.