Nearly every day, we witness another social media blunder hit the headlines which, I suppose, is to be expected when we realise that they let pretty much anyone use the internet these days.
Starbucks’ Twitter wall at the Natural History Museum was hijacked last week by people proposing they should, in not so polite words, start paying some taxes.
Greenpeace members protesting against Waitrose’s plans to partner with Shell managed to get involved in a Waitrose Facebook Q+A with Delia Smith and troll it with questions such as “How do you make Baked Alaska?” and “How do you marinate a polar bear?”
For some, the idea of your brand having an equal voice as all those trolls, fanatics and people who just plain think your company/product/CEO sucks, makes social media far too dangerous a sphere to enter. But how much worse would it be if your brand had an even smaller voice than these? To try and rise above social media is to fall beneath it. It is no longer acceptable to try and live in a world where information only goes from top to bottom. Like the ‘bitey’ kid in the playground, if a brand isn’t willing to play well with others then it’ll simply be excluded.
Social media gives brands the privilege to be involved in the discussion and if it all goes wrong, gives them the opportunity to respond and defend themselves. For the most part an apology, some empathy and a bit of sensible damage control will help a company ride out the worst of social media mistakes. Or if you have the guts and the right brand you can claim it, laugh at yourself and follow it up with something equally bold and irreverent!
The important thing is to respect social media because the most embarrassing errors are the ones brands make themselves. When you have someone who takes social media lightly, someone will invariably end up at a #susanalbumparty or like Co-op, having to explain why someone posted a picture of a topless man taking a ‘selfie’ in the mirror on their Twitter feed. It was a technical error, of course; the technical error of letting that guy handle their Twitter.