Social media management is one of the most beneficial tools in a company’s marketing strategy

Social media is a great way to promote your company’s culture and raise product/service awareness while driving potential customers to your website. It adds another layer to your customer service game plan and helps you target your customers with paid advertisements.

However, as beneficial social media is as a tool, it is just as destructive a weapon – and the damage is usually self-inflicted.

Think of how many people use social media. Facebook alone boasts 68% of U.S. adults as users, and 76% of Facebook’s total users visit the site daily. That’s a huge chunk of your existing and potential customers.

While inside jokes and inappropriate comments are common on personal social media pages, a company page is no place for that kind of communication. The public, including customers, prospects, the media, and your competition, heavily scrutinize company profiles. Anything you say on social media can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion.

To avoid any firestorms, designate a reliable social media management team. Make sure they understand the company’s goals for using social media and restrict access to these individuals. Giving too many people access opens the door of possibility for posts made in poor taste or outside the established lines of corporate culture.

 

Social Media Management is What You Say AND How You Say It

During private conversations on social media, too often we fly off the handle when talking with our friends or family. We have to backtrack, eat a little crow, and apologize.

It isn’t that simple for company pages. What we say online lives forever, so make sure your words don’t blow up in your face. When engaging the public on social media, follow these guidelines to protect yourself and your company from any avoidable backlash.

Have a strategy for responding to complaints

This is a big one. When someone criticizes your product or service, it’s really difficult to not take it personal. And as much as we would love to put those customers in their place, we must remember that social media is an extension of our customer service.

Social media gives customers a platform to say things they probably wouldn’t say face-to-face. More often than not, they are just frustrated and letting their emotions do the talking. Usually, the best response is the simplest. Without admitting fault, show empathy and communicate in a friendly tone that you are addressing the issue.

“Hi, my name is Paul. I hear where you’re coming from and I’m sorry for the trouble. We’re looking into your issue and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Contact me directly at (123) 456-7890 so we can get you a resolution quickly.”

This response does several things. First, it humanizes the company for the customer and shows that he/she is working directly with another person, not a big, faceless corporation. Second, it empathizes with the customer and offers him/her a way to get directly in touch with the person who responded to the complaint. If you’re not comfortable using a phone number, an email address works too.

 

Avoid political/religious jokes, posts, comments, rants, photos…pretty much everything

Let’s face it. A calm political climate may never exist in our lifetime. Politics comes loaded with hot button issues that polarize families and close friends. So, why a company would want to address those issues on social media is beyond us.

Even if a political topic directly relates to your business (e.g. gun store, grower of medicinal marijuana, health care provider, etc.) erring on the side of caution is a good rule of thumb in social media management. There are practical reasons for keeping political opinions off the table:

• Debating a customer on social media is always a bad idea

• Your post or comment can be taken out of context

• If your humor is in poor taste, people will take offense (lest we forget IHOP’s famous misstep in 2015)

• It’s fair game for local, state, and national media

• Should you ever face litigation, social media posts:

· Are all discoverable in criminal or civil litigation

· Can and will be found by prosecutors or a plaintiff’s attorney

· Can be used by an attorney to determine mindset, motive, intent, character, view of minorities/political opposition, etc.

· May inflame a juror against you

Also remember that you have no right of privacy over things posted on social media. Thus, every word you say can undo any defenses you may have. It’s up to your social media management team to review and discuss any and all content before being posted.

 

Never use copyrighted material

While posting an image of a popular cartoon character, the logo of your city’s baseball team, or a video from your favorite band on your personal social media account is fine, it is an absolute ‘no no’ on a company page.

Copyright law exists in cyberspace. According to Harvard University, “A work that is available electronically—even if it is available only electronically—is as eligible for copyright protection as a work in any other medium. Thus, the fact that you can download text or graphics does not mean that the material is not copyrighted. And the ability to download a copyrighted work does not mean that you are free to disseminate that work to others, either electronically or in hard copy.”

Your company also uses Facebook and/or Twitter to help sell your product or service. This makes matters worse when it comes to copyrighted material, because it looks like you’re trying to use another’s intellectual property to make money. Not only will you be dinged for copyright infringement, but the owner of the copyright will come looking for compensation. Make sure your social media management team knows what they can and cannot use.

 

Don’t dog the competition

If you’re in business, you have competition. And while you believe that your product or service leaves your competitors in the dust, your social media management team must abide by ethics and honesty to get that point across. Avoid posting anything that is petty, personal, or factually incorrect. You end up looking like a jerk, and sometimes it can create legal issues.

 

Fact check everything before you post

Fake news was abundant on social media during the 2016 presidential election, proving that pranks, rumors, and overall B.S. are everywhere online. Before you Like, Share, Retweet, or post anything, have your social media management team verify it for accuracy. Otherwise, prepare to become part of the joke.

 

Pressuring customers for positive feedback

We didn’t even know this was a thing until we saw a story about a hotel in New York that threatened to fine guests $500 for leaving bad reviews on Yelp. Not just any guests either…wedding guests. Specifically, the bride and groom!

The hotel posted the warning on its website as “official policy.” After it received plenty of backlash (justifiably so), it removed the warning and said it was “just a joke.” Note our bullet point above about posting jokes. Yeesh…

 

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

We can’t stress the importance of proofreading your work before you post. A blog post on your website is a reflection of your company, and a spelling or grammar error will scream at the reader who catches it. Keeping your content free of mistakes reinforces your professionalism and allows the reader to focus on what you write.

Final thought

A little common sense and restraint go a long way in a social media management strategy. Every company should present a professional image at all times. And if you’re ever in doubt, it’s probably best not to make the post.