By Bridget Gammage
Unless you have been living under a rock, you are well aware that social media has become a platform for organization’s to build their brand and connect to their customer base. Consumers want to buy products not only from socially responsible organizations, but also from people they feel they can connect with and respect. As such, it is becoming imperative that companies and their executives have a social media presence. This translates into Facebook and Linked in posts, Tweets, and Instagram photos to name a few.
However, the use of social media can be a double-edged sword. Posting your thoughts can have a positive impact on how your firm is perceived and ultimately your bottom line, but irresponsible use of social media can have many consequences including damage to relationships, reputations, and to the company brand.
We have all heard and read the stories of organizations whose social media tweets or posts have had a negative impact on the business, including extreme results such as consumer boycotts (think Chick-Fil-A). Our advice is simple: Think, Before You Write. Below are a few things to consider to ensure your social media reputation remains intact.
- Refrain from comments about controversial topics: As in the case of the Chick-Fil-A CEO, tweeting about topics related to political issues can result in backlash from your consumer base. Whatever your personal opinions are, the business etiquette rules regarding discussions on race, politics, and gender remain the same for conversations in the office and social media posts. Given the recent politically charged events, posting about politics can be a sure way of alienating 50% of your viewers.
- Consider outsourcing social media posting: CEO’s and executives are extremely busy and may want to consider outsourcing their social media posting activities. While this may seem like an ideal solution to ensure that posts are made on a frequent basis, remember that your audience believes the posts are from you, not an outside source. Misspellings, bad language, and misinformation, can undermine your professional presence. To ensure that postings are accurate and appropriate, also consider adding an approval process for all posts.
- Be careful with using humor: Twitter allows only 140 characters, which makes it difficult to combine humor and sensitivity in a tweet. Remember Kenneth Coles’ tweet about the uprising in Cairo? “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is available online.” As you can imagine, this joke did not go over well. We would suggest refraining from combining sensitive issues with your sense of humor. Things are not always interpreted as you intend.
- Know that what gets posted is discover-able: Whether you are using a private account or business profile, what you post can be considered discover-able. As was the case for the CFO of women’s clothing retailer Francesca who posted to Twitter during a board meeting, “Good Numbers = Happy Board”, causing the company’s stock price to spike. Unfortunately, a post of this nature is considered selective disclosure and illegal. This mistake ultimately led to the CFO’s involuntary departure from the organization. While checking in has become a popular way of letting others know what you are up to, be aware of corporate confidentiality policies before sharing.