How To Avoid Social Media Mishaps

By Missy Sheehan

We all know by now that there are unwritten rules for using social media: Don’t post things you wouldn’t want everyone and your grandma to see. Don’t get into political arguments with relatives. Don’t clutter up your friends’ newsfeeds with trivial posts about what you ate for breakfast. The list goes on.

While individuals should be considerate about what they post on social media, it’s extra important for business owners to be cognizant and thoughtful about what’s posted on their business’s pages. An inappropriate post could offend your audience and undo any positive social media clout that you may have built prior.

Follow these tips to avoid social media mishaps that could derail your marketing efforts.

Be Careful With Hot-Button Issues and Events

When the Boston Marathon bombings happened in April 2013, food and cooking website Epicurious came under fire for its tweets offering sympathies for the tragedy and at the same time encouraging people to try recipes for whole-grain cranberry scones and a high-energy breakfast bowl. Not exactly sensitive, right?

Unsurprisingly, Epicurious faced a huge backlash of complaints from fans.

This example highlights exactly why brands should take special care when commenting on any kind of hot-button event or political issue.

Use Hashtags Appropriately

In September this year, DiGiorno Pizza made a huge social media gaffe when it used the trending hashtag #WhyIStayed, which thousands of women were using to open up about their experience in abusive relationships, in a completely inappropriate fashion. DiGiorno’s Twitter account, in an attempt to take advantage of a trending hashtag, sent out a tweet saying “#WhyIStayed You Had Pizza.”

Naturally, DiGiorno’s Twitter account soon lit up with responses harshly criticizing the tweet, demonstrating exactly why business should always do their homework before using any trending hashtags.

Use Correct Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation

Social media networks are rife with incorrect spelling and grammar usage. And punctuation? You’re lucky if you see a period at the end of a sentence in some posts.

“I cannot believe how much unintelligible garbage there is out there on public display via social media channels, and I don’t just mean abbreviated words that are made to fit into Twitter updates,” wrote Adrian Snood in an article for Social Media Today. “What I mean is: poor grammar, poorly executed thoughts, presentation and spelling mistakes.”

Social media pages are often the first impression consumers get of a business. “So if your online content has many spelling errors or grammatical mistakes, then why should your visitors take you seriously?” Snood asks.

Take special care to show customers that your business is serious and credible by using complete, well-thought-out sentences and proofreading to find any errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation before you post.

Maintain Separation Between Personal and Business Accounts

For those managing separate social media accounts for personal and business use, it’s not that uncommon to accidentally post something to the wrong page. In fact, in 2011, a social media specialist for the Red Cross inadvertently tweeted about finding some beers and “#gettngslizzerd.”

To avoid this potential mistake, always double-check that you’re using the right account before posting.

Keep Your Cool

In 2013, the owners of Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona, instigated one of the most epic social media failures of all time. After being featured on an episode of “Kitchen Nightmares,” where they admitted to some rather dishonest and sketchy business practices, the owners of the baking company took to Facebook and posted a series of extremely offensive and belittling messages directed at those who criticized them. The incident made national news headlines and no doubt alienated most of the company’s clientele.

Your frustration won't last, but the damage caused by an angry Facebook post sure will.

This is a prime example of why it’s important to always keep your cool on social media. Your frustration won’t last, but the damage caused by an angry Facebook post or tweet sure will.

If you do make one of these mishaps, it’s okay. Take a deep breath, admit the mistake, apologize, and move on. Above all, try to maintain your composure. Don’t delete negative comments. Acknowledge them. Ask if customers can address other issues to improve their experience. They’ll appreciate your honesty and willingness to fix the situation. 

Missy Sheehan 's photo
  • Author: Missy Sheehan
  • About Me: aka Media Marketing contributor, freelance writer for regional publications like Blue Ridge Country, WV Living, and Hagerstown magazines. I write articles on food, travel, and outdoor adventure as well as marketing materials for businesses. Connect with me on Twitter @SheehanWriting.