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What can you learn from social media stumbles?

[1]This appeared on our Small Business blog but because it’s always relevant (and good) we’re putting it here as well:

By Mark Evans

The year is almost over and it’s time again for end-of-year lists. This one is most interesting for anyone in business, small or large. It’s a round up of social media blunders by big US corporations.

In the 7 Worst Tweets of 2012 [2], Inc. outlines the big mistakes of the year and how they can be fixed.

While the stories are hilarious or worrisome, the solutions are a bit too high-end for a small business. But there are lessons to be learned that you can adapt for your own company. Here’s five ways you can avert social media faux pas:

Don’t be flip during disasters

Some of the most egregious Twitter errors of the year involved on-the-fly comments during Hurricane Sandy and the so-called Dark Knight shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Many of them were made by staff members who thought they were being funny.

Small biz solution: Check twice, click send once. Never assume your comments (be they on social media, to a reporter or in an email) will be taken correctly. Read things a few times before sending to make sure they cannot offend. During times of disaster or big news stories where others, even those far away, have been harmed, avoid being cheeky.

Don’t be out of the loop

Again, during big news events, being clueless about the news of the day can get you into trouble. (This can also happen when you call stakeholders in other parts of the country, not realizing they’re in the middle of an ice storm, flood or power outage.)

Small biz solution: Keep up on the news, even if it’s not pertinent to your business. A quick listen to the radio in the morning should do the trick for making sure everything you write and say that day is in good taste.

Keep it private

This year, a general tweet after a board meeting got the CFO of a clothing retailer fired from his job for offering what could be considered insider information — and the company was about to go public. While your smaller operation might not be pondering an IPO soon, there’s still the risk that private info about your company or your clients can get onto social media.

Small biz solution: Think it through: could a comment, even a small one, compromise your business if a competitor, your bank or your suppliers read it? If so, erase.

Be bias free

When a model working in Korea posted a shot of himself squinting his eyes with an ESL-style comment below, customers took great offense.

Small biz solution: Educate yourself about words that could be considered offensive or derogatory to other groups. You don’t want to offend others on the large scale of social media, or face to face either.

It’s not just you

While it’s all well and good to read these stories yourself and be aware of your own presence on social media, the truth is your staff and stakeholders are online too and may be posting and Tweeting and our company name can get involved.

Small biz solution: You likely don’t have a big software package that can monitor such things, but you can talk to your staff. Discuss social media dos and don’ts with your team. Even bring someone in for a quick afternoon of media training. But the bottom line is this: anyone who works for you is a representative of your company, even in their personal lives.

Social media can develop a life of its own so be sure everyone on your team understands what can go wrong and just how much small comments can impact the entire operation.

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