Most social media panels want to hear all about the case studies that work, who’s doing it right, and how to emulate them. But one question served up today at a MITX event was, “What are some of the dumb ass mistakes that people make in social media?” Well we’ve all heard the classics, from Motrin, to United to Dominoes, so I tried to frame my answer in the kinds of mistakes brands make. Here they are.
1. Not responding fast enough
In social media 24 hours is a long time. Really long. What hurt brands like Motrin and Dominoes was simply delaying their responses. In the old days of offline media, if something happened on a Friday, you could think about it all weekend before the Monday business press hits. Not in social. You’ve got hours not days. So have a plan in place. Then listen, respond, engage accordingly. In all likelihood you’ll get credit for confronting the situation head on. Any good PR or social media agency can help.
2. Promoting yourself before you have engaged, joined or built a community
This would be like showing up at a social event and pitching yourself to any stranger in the room. This is the classic mass media way of thinking. OK, there’s an audience here, I’ll broadcast a message. Doesn’t work that way out here. You have to bring something to the party, make friends, perform a few favors before you can even think about asking for anything in return. If you come to social media with a traditional media way of thinking you’ll be worse than invisible.
3. Neglecting to be transparent
That means hide or conceal nothing. And never forget to credit a source. Olympus camera recently made a video celebrating the 50th anniversary of its PEN camera. A beautiful story told by editing stills across time, the video was produced for the European market. But it didn’t take long for the online community to call Olympus out for creating something a little too close to another video using the same technique. We picked up some Twitter chatter on behalf of our American Olympus client and immediately notified them so they could alert Europe and resolve the whole thing by simply giving credit where credit is due. Lesson? You can riff off of someone else in the social space, but never without attributing it to the original creator.
4. Choosing not to be in social media at all
To me, this is the single biggest mistake any brand can make. A few months ago, I was asked to make a presentation and proposal to National Grid. In preparing I did a simple Google search for “National Grid on Twitter.” What came up, at the top of page one, in big, bold capital letters was F*@K YOU NATIONAL GRID. For two weeks running that was the number one result. Wow, I thought, how cool is that. I couldn’t invent a better argument for why a brand should start engaging. National Grid was getting pummeled in a way previously reserved for the likes of Dell and Comcast. Alas, my dramatic slide, blown up extra large on a big flat screen failed to convince. And while Dell and Comcast are now darlings of social, the utility is losing time, credibility and reputation.
I’m sure there are other mistakes you can make. Got any that you’ve encountered?