Online, mistakes live forever. While it’s becoming standard practice for businesses to use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, many of them seem to be at a loss when it comes to using these platforms effectively. Here are four ways you can improve your company’s online presence and avoid making costly mistakes.
The Grammarly team pitched popular brands against each other in the ultimate grammar battle to see which heavyweight household names value good writing the most. By comparing the companies’ recent LinkedIn posts, they discovered that Pepsi makes four times as many writing errors as arch-rival Coca-Cola (3.6 mistakes per 100 words/0.9 mistakes per 100 words). Facebook misses more errors than its social media frenemy Google (4.3 mistakes per 100 words/1.1 mistakes per 100 words), while Ford not only ran over competitor GM but emerged the winner of the battle of the brands (0.5 mistakes per 100 words/1.3 mistakes per 100 words.)
Why does good grammar matter? Writing is one of the most important ways that a company can show that it is credible, cares about accuracy, and pays attention to detail.
Do Your Homework First
The archives of the Internet are rife with ill-considered auto-tweets and scheduled posts that inadvertently made light of disasters, such as the shooting in Aurora or Hurricane Sandy. Even companies that outsource their social media presence to a media management firm often find themselves with their feet firmly wedged in their mouths.
Corporate social media campaigns sometimes backfire, especially on Twitter and Facebook. For example, McDonald’s well-intentioned #mcdstories tag was intended to encourage happy, media-friendly stories from their customers. Instead, they got jokes about dog food and obesity. Similarly, JP Morgan’s disastrous #askJPM opened the floodgates for harsh (though sometimes hilarious) criticism about the bank’s bailout and lending practices.
The moral of these, and countless other, horror stories? Always think through the possible implications and misinterpretations before launching a campaign or posting a tweet. And double-check that you know why a particular hashtag is trending before you hitch your wagon to it.
Keep an Eye on Your People
As the lines between personal and company social media presence continue to blur, a thoughtless or inappropriate comment can ruin a person’s career. Consider Justine Sacco, a PR executive whose tone deaf tweet about the AIDS crisis in Africa caused her to be international news in December of 2013. After getting fired, Sacco issued an open apology for her remarks, but the damage to her reputation had already been done.
Dorie Clark, writing for Forbes, advises companies to encourage employee participation in brand’s social presence. When they fear what employees might do or say instead of encouraging a positive social culture, Clark argues, companies are missing out on an opportunity for engagement and development. Unfortunately, incidents of employees behaving badly and engagement campaigns gone wrong have left companies less than enthusiastic about welcoming employees and customers to the discussion.
Use Humor Responsibly
Humor can be difficult. What one person finds funny, another might find offensive—but watered down, politically correct humor isn’t likely to get many retweets or shares. Finding a balance is very difficult, and brands (or their representatives) are likely to be called out for making off-color comments. Humor can be done well, however. During the live Sound of Music broadcast, DiGiorno Pizza’s Twitter account exploded with a series of pun-filled, good-natured comments on the broadcast.
The Bottom Line: A company that can’t even manage to use Twitter without causing an international incident will lose the trust of their customers, partners, and employees. Whether you’re at the social media helm of a major corporation or a local bakery, think before you tweet.