5 Minute Read

[July 17, 2023]

For better or worse (and if we’re being honest, it’s mostly worse), your organization’s social media presence is just as much a part of your brand identity as the products and services you provide.

Nearly every customer has an online presence, or is at least tech-savvy enough to understand and use social media platforms. And those same customers expect you to be right there with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc.

The upsides are obvious. You can engage directly with the people whose money you hope to earn, giving you the sort of market insights your pre-internet peers could only dream of. Plus, you can use the platform to explore your brand voice and reach new customers who might never find you otherwise.

Going viral on social media typically isn’t as simple as crafting an amusing, catchy post. That’s why many marketers find success by glomming on an existing trend.

But be careful when riding the social media trend wave. Even the best-intentioned posts can backfire for the smallest of reasons. And that’s not the kind of viral exposure you’re looking for.

That old expression about no publicity being bad publicity has gone the way of the five-dollar footlong. It might have been true once, but when everyone is always online – and very willing to share their opinions – it absolutely is possible to get your name out there for all the wrong reasons. And when that happens, it can be hard, if not impossible to come back from.

 

BEST PRACTICES

Brands have experimented with their social media voices for as long as sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have existed. And while that experimentation will most certainly continue, some best practices have emerged.

When trying to establish a brand voice on social media is to understand your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? How do those people like to communicate with each other and other brands on social media? Finding these answers will help you establish a baseline or precedent for your social communications.

If your customers think they can reach you through your social media accounts, you better make sure they’re right. That means responding to direct messages and customer inquiries. Ideally, you’ll be able to anticipate some questions and have scripted responses prepared. But no matter the query, try not to make potential customers feel ignored.

Responsiveness and actually listening to the feedback you receive and adapting accordingly will be incredibly valuable tools as you establish your voice.

One way to check several of those boxes with minimal legwork is to leverage current social media fads and trending topics to promote your business.

Social media trends allow people to unite around a shared topic or idea while also putting their own spin on things. A trending topic is basically an open invitation to popular conversation and can provide an entry point for your business.

But be warned: Pitfalls -- potentially devastating, costly ones -- abound.

 

LESSONS LEARNED

In 2014, the poor soul behind the DiGiorno Pizza Twitter account, posted the following: “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.”

It was a simple, punchy tweet. Not particularly clever, but amusingly terse.

However, the DiGiorno social media manager clearly failed to understand the hashtag the brand was co-opting. It began trending in response to video footage of a professional football player violently assaulting his girlfriend, leading many to share their own stories of surviving domestic violence.

The hashtag was meant to illustrate the horrors of domestic abuse and, perhaps more importantly, the challenges – logistical, emotional, physical and otherwise -- many victims face when trying to break free. DiGiorno was effectively equating its frozen pizza offerings to real-life domestic trauma.

DiGiorno quickly realized its mistake and posted a follow-up tweet: “A million apologies. Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting.” But not before hundreds of Twitter users publicly shamed the brand for its apparent callousness, and the gaffe made international headlines. Just one more proof point that not all press is good press.

Brands must understand that social media is not compartmentalized. Deeply serious topics get discussed alongside fluffy, silly things every hour of every day. You have to do your due diligence before attaching your brand to any trending topic.

If you’re working on a social media presence for an already established business or organization, be mindful of its general perception to the public. It’s incredibly easy to offend or alienate an audience. And once things start to go sideways, they can snowball out of control alarmingly quickly.

A perfect example of not understanding your audience can be found in this 2014 social media post. The Federal College Financial Aid account posted an image from the 2011 film “Bridesmaids” depicting the film’s protagonist saying “Help me, I’m poor,” to a flight attendant.

“If this is you, then you better fill out your FAFSA,” the account tweeted.

The agency, part of the U.S. Department of Education, was shredded online by users, many of them student borrowers who felt belittled by the tweet’s tone. The tweet was quickly deleted and an apology issued.

“(It was an) ill-conceived attempt at reaching students through social media,” the DOE said in an apology statement, noting that FCFA exists to further a “mission of opening doors of opportunity for every student.”

A lot of marketing, especially on social media, involves trying to understand talk to younger generations. While you absolutely don’t want to offend them, you also don’t want to give them an opening to mock you for being out of touch. It’s a fine line to walk and can make the job of social media coordinator stressful and difficult.

Finding your voice, knowing trends and when to use them, and staying in-touch with younger generations will certainly help you avoid the pitfalls of trying – and failing – to be cool on social media.

Another way to conquer these issues is to work with us! Fill out the form below and we’ll help you get started on your social media strategy.