Six of the 10 PR disasters of 2012, according to a BusinessInsider article on Monday, started on Twitter. For example, a twitter campaign by McDonald’s backfired in January when people started using the #McDStories for negative stories instead of the positive ones the marketing team had anticipated. “Fingernail in my Big Mac” and “Hospitalized for food poisoning…” made its rounds on Twitter. #notthestoriestheywanted. Or remember the Tweeted photo of the Burger King employee standing in lettuce in July? #gross. Or more recently, when American Apparel (and several other big brands) exploited Hurricane Sandy as an excuse to offer sales to victims? (Are you bored during the storm?” the company tweeted. – #PRfail.) Burger King fired the lettuce-stomping employee, McDonalds pulled the hashtag as soon as it saw the campaign going south, and American Apparel chose not to do anything. All three brands suffered to varying degrees.
So how can you take advantage of the benefits of reaching thousands – even millions – of potential customers on social media without falling victim to social media gaffes that land your company on the front page for all the wrong reasons?
Put a social media policy in place. While this wouldn’t have mattered for the #hugeidiot that posted photos of himself in lettuce at Burger King, it should establish set guidelines that will help guide the majority of your employees to keep on topic with positive stories from your company.
Make sure your employees understand that while they are free to express their views, if they reference being an employee of your company in any posts or choose to discuss company happenings, they basically represent your company at all times, even off the clock.
In light of this, your social media policy should include at least some of the following:
1. Be Yourself: On your main social media page (whether Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or a personal blog), make it clear to your readers that the views you express are yours alone and that they do not necessarily reflect the views of your company.
2. Be Confidential: Avoid disclosing any information that is confidential or proprietary to the company or to any third party that has disclosed information to your company.
3. Be Respectful: Since your Twitter or Facebook account - or blog - is a public space, be as respectful to the company, its employees, its customers, its partners and affiliates, and others (including competitors) as the company itself endeavors to be. If you start to get negative feedback, count to 10 before responding. Consult your company’s PR/marketing team to help determine the best way to continue the discussion, if at all.
4. Be Mindful: Know that as with any coverage, your company is watching for and tracking any mention. They will see your posts. Speaking of which, limit social media while at work to posts and comments related to work as part of an intelligent, strategically directed social media campaign. Even more important, if you have any doubt about whether to Tweet or post something on Facebook, have someone you trust look at it first!!
Am I missing anything? Do you have any stories to share of Tweets gone bad?