Lessons from 2012 Social Media Goof Ups

Radhika Sivadi

3 min read ·


Social media is the wild beast that everyone wants to tame and domesticate for their individual purposes. We have witnessed a rapid progress in social media in the last couple of years and now that everyone – early adopters, followers, and cynics – is on the social media bandwagon, the need to master the medium has become imperative for businesses as well as politicians. First came common folk like us, and when you have a crowd, businesses and celebrities are not usually away for long.

But with no historical data on follower behavior in this channel, we have all become natural guinea pigs. Social media mishaps by celebrities and the likes have burnt their fingers many times – only by doing something stupid and new every time. So what can we learn from these mishaps?

Lessons from 2012 Social Media Goof Ups image social media lessons learnedLessons from 2012 Social Media Goof UpsImage By: Greg Westfall

Don’t be Insensitive

The Tweet from the official account of Kitchen Aid about President Obama’s grandmother’s death or this unpleasant tweet by a Patriots fan about the death of the brother of a Ravens player invoked an angry response from thousands.

It is easy to submit to the urge of tweeting or posting something on Facebook when you have a mobile device at hand and are a power user. It is equally easy to hurt people’s sentiments. Your affiliation for a political party or passion for the game can often make you blind to other people’s sensitivities.

Don’t Demean or Talk Down

Talking down to your prospective customers or their influencers is not the best strategy to win hearts. Unless you are a competitor’s spy and want to sabotage the brand.

Volkswagen India’s official account recently tweeted something like ‘women don’t really understand driving experience’ – a completely politically incorrect remark that is sure to ruffle a whole demographic.

Avoid Association with Negative Events

Yes, social media is the medium of choice and Yes, you need to be current all the time. But that doesn’t mean you need to exploit all events for commercial gain or earn a celebrity status. All the social media tools that help you put generic messages in a queue can backfire in the event if the ‘Breaking News’ is not in favor of your industry.

The National Rifle Association learned this the hard way when their Twitter account posted ‘Good Morning Shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?’ early morning after the terrible shooting event at the Colorado theater.

Avoid Personal Attacks

Well, you may be very angry at someone or about something. But making personal remarks are definitely a sign of weakness. And if that does not appeal to you, this may well: New York Times writer, Andrew Goldman was recently suspended for making a personal attack against Tippi Hedren on Twitter.

Don’t Lie!

This one is a no-brainer. Everything you say is public and can be verified. You don’t need me to remind you of the hoopla caused by Manti Te’o confession about an imaginary girlfriend.

Don’t RT Information From an Unconfirmed Source

It’s all right to RT someone’s article or a quote. But something else if you RT specific and critical information like a flash flood or some similar event without verifying the truth.

Spike Lee, I am sure, unintentionally, retweeted George Zimmerman’s (charged in Trayvon Martin shooting) fake address, causing much trouble for the real house owners.

Don’t Turn a Discussion into Blatant Self Promotion

Hosting a Twitter conference on a technical subject or a new policy? Don’t answer every question by adding how your business or you as a candidate can do it for the audience. You could easily anger the participants and this might even backfire on you causing damage to your business.

What is the most important social media lesson you have learned in the last year?

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Radhika Sivadi