In the interest of saving you from embarrassing and costly public failure – or worse – here are some positive lessons from some very negative social media fails.
1. Think twice before you press any Submit button: According to PC Magazine, Twitter’s CFO, Anthony Noto, thought he was sending a private message to complain about how he had to buy a company because an M&A deal failed. He wasn’t. He tweeted the message publicly. This reminds me of a lesson I learned long ago… you can take your computer to the top of a volcano and throw it in, but all the emails and social media posts and documents you have ever sent out will still exist on computers around the world.
Once you hit Submit, others will know about it, even if you delete the post.
2. Don’t go public if you typically hide from the public: J.P. Morgan’s vice chairman was going to answer questions from the public, supposedly about the still-not great economy of 2013. The firm invited the public to tweet questions at them, most of which turned out to be along the lines of “How do I apply for a job?” or “I forgot my password.” After six hours of this, the Q&A session was canceled.
If your culture is to be quiet and confidential, public use of social media may not be for you.
3. Don’t share mystery images or uncertain facts: On the 4th of July, American Apparel featured what someone thought was a festive display of smoke in the air. It turned out to be a picture of the aftermath of the Challenger space shuttle disaster.
If you don’t know exactly what you are sharing and where it came from, don’t share it. The risk is just too high.
4. Trust, but verify: In 2016, Facebook itself admitted that they had been incorrectly calculating how long each video had been watched. Here’s how Facebook’s David Fischer explained it:
The metric should have reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who played the video. But it didn’t – it reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by only the number of “views” of a video (that is, when the video was watched for three or more seconds). And so the miscalculation overstated this metric.
Why does this matter? Social media is media, and that means advertisers are buying space in return for cold, hard cash. Imagine if Super Bowl advertisers learned that the average viewer turned off the game after three seconds. Would Super Bowl ads still sell for huge sums? No way.
It makes sense to use social media, but only with a responsible approach backed by reliable metrics. Recognize that everything you do reflects back on your brand.
5. Don’t promote your competitors: In the someone’s-really-not-paying-attention department, British Airways shared Virgin Atlantic’s Facebook post promoting its own nonstop flights to London. It even included Virgin’s tagline in the post.
What’s the real lesson here? Have at least two sets of eyes – and brains – check every social media post before it goes out.