For the last few years, organizations have been told, “you’ve got to get involved with social media.” So, they hire someone. Or they sign on with a third party provider. This allows them to participate in social media conversations. But they may be placing too much trust in these individuals who they believe possess the smarts to represent them on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.
Recent incidents provide warning signals that organizations leaders must be aware of. Last week, a tweet sent on the Twitter account of Kitchen Aid appliances caught the nation’s attention. The content of the offensive tweet made reference to the death of President Obama’s grandmother. As it turns out, the person responsible meant to post it to his/her personal Twitter account, but sent it to the wrong set of followers. Despite its being deleted almost immediately, the damage was done. Kitchen Aid, to its credit, issued apologies quickly.
Another incident occurred last week in St. Louis. A person who works for the local Catholic Archdiocese posted content following Wednesday’s presidential debate that could be deemed offensive onto her personal Facebook page. The Archdiocese made it clear that the woman’s Facebook opinion was her own.
Just this past weekend, a local marketing company posted over 30 tweets regarding Vladimir Putin’s birthday to the firm’s Twitter account. The remarks may not have been offensive, but had nothing to do with this firm’s work for its clients and might even suggest a lack of focus and discipline.
What can organizations do to minimize risk so that social media mistakes do not cause damage?
- Hire responsible people. Your teenage nephew may be wise in the ways of social media, but may not be mature enough to exercise self-control. He may also be more careless than a grownup.
- Monitor what is being said. Just as you want to be aware of content of your advertising messages, you need to keep an eye on what’s being transmitted in the name of your organization on social media channels. When something is posted that may not reflect your goals or values, deal with it quickly.
- Have a crisis plan in place to handle issues if they should arise.
Also, those of us who handle social media for multiple clients must take extra care to be sure that what is being posted is going to the proper account. We must closely monitor what is being said about our organizations. Responses must be considerate and empathetic. We need to know when and how to send direct messages to followers.
We must take care not to post tasteless or profane content on any of our accounts—not only in case they should be sent by mistake to the wrong account, but also because they may reflect badly on our own personal reputations.