Yeah. Don’t Do That.

One of the most common reasons I hear, from business owners that are hesitant about getting into Social Media, is that they are afraid of it. Not afraid of the technology or their lack of understanding of it, but afraid of what it could potentially do to their business. This is fairly understandable, considering that you will find hundreds of articles on tech and industry blogs, about success using Social Media, but the traditional media only reports when something bad happens. When you see just how bad things can go, it is easy to understand why some would say “No, thanks”.

Poor planning, lack of preparation or policy, lax security, poor staffing choices or any number of other reasons can lead to a Social Media train wreck. Here are a few that stand out, potential reasons why they happened and things to consider, so that they don’t happen again.

Not Paying Attention


Social Media was alive on June 20, 2012, when a lone gunman walked into a theatre in Aurora, Colorado, and opened fire. Tweets and Facebook posts were flying from people who were there, media trying to be the first to report and others who simply wanted to be in the conversation. In the midst of all this, a California based clothing store picked up on the #Aurora hashtag and Tweeted out their belief that the trending topic was about one of their new clothing lines. Social Media lit up with anger about this Tweet, ripping into the company for their thoughtless and opportunistic use of a trending topic, to market their wares.

In fact, what happened was that they company had contracted out it’s Social Media management to a PR agency, who was likely using software that allowed them to follow trending topics, but had no idea what that trending topic was about. The person responsible simply saw it and acted on it (both the PR firm, and the person managing the account, had their contracts terminated). All of this because they were not listening and paying attention to the actual conversation around the trending topic.

This scenario could have been avoided if the people behind the management of the account made sure that they had policy and procedure in place that ensured staff members were actually following a trending topic and conversations, before diving into them. There are many different applications that will allow your to see what is trending, but they offer no value if you don’t look into WHY they are trending

Know Your Accounts


In 2011 an employee of the PR and Marketing firm responsible for managing the Social Media for Chrysler in the US, got more than a little frustrated with the traffic on the way to work. Like many of us, these days, he tweeted that frustration to all who would listen. Problem was, he did not look to see what account he was Tweeting from. As a result, the tweet went out on the Chrysler account and, between the insult to citizens of a city and the use of the F-Bomb, the car company took it on the chin for a few days.

Tweeting from a corporate account, by accident, is not uncommon. The solution to avoiding this problem is actually pretty simple. Don’t use the same app or dashboard that you use for your personal accounts, to manage your corporate account. It may seem a little cumbersome, but you avoid the accidental crossover, because there is no way to miss what account you are using. In my case, I use Hootsuite for all of my personal stuff and Sprout Social for all of my client work.

Know Who Has The Keys

HMV Twitter feed

As if HMV wasn’t having a hard enough time, in this world of digital downloads, they got slammed on Social Media, too. Worst part was that the Executive level people, including the Marketing Department, had no idea it was happening and, even when they did find out, they had no idea how to stop it. That point was made clear when the marketing director was overheard saying, “How do I shut down Twitter?”

HMV made a classic mistake that a lot of businesses make, big and small, when it comes to heading down the Social Media Super Highway. They handed the keys to an inexperienced driver.

The accounts had been set up by an company intern a couple of years earlier and the company had simply let her look after it, paying little or no attention to it until is all hit the fan. The head office actually had to ask (and they did receive) the password for the account from the unhappy employee, but not before the damage was done and the firings had gone viral.

The lesson? If you are going to get into Social Media, take it as seriously as you would any other aspect of your company, plan and execute with same oversight you would have for any other operation and never let the company voice be left in the hands of the employee that just happens to use Social Media.