Thursday, April 9, 2009

Social Media disasters

Misspellings, missteps and missed opportunities for businesses on SoMedia

"Disaster" may seem like a strong word. But in Social Media, as in life, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

What happens when something you’ve written strikes the wrong chord, has embarrassing errors or, worse, is just plain wrong?

Here, in no particular order, are things that can quickly take your Social Media efforts from a soaring trajectory to a downward death spiral.

Abusing – or misusing – English

Yes I am as guilty as the next when it comes to making mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar. But I do usually catch most of these mistakes.

Correct use of English in Social Media is important because your written ideas are the first place someone encounters you. If they see mistakes their opinion of you, consciously or unconsciously, goes down. In the back of their mind they will assume this is representative of carelessness by your business or brand.

If you want to be seen as an expert or leader in your field you need to put your best foot forward in your communications – especially Social Media where everything you write is sitting in plain view for the world to see.

Hiding your agenda

The Social Media world is 99.9 percent transparent. If you want to survive and thrive in it you also need to be transparent. If you don’t openly state your commercial and other ties to what you are writing about or promoting you will be found out. But in Social Media it gets worse: Your credibility will disappear instantly when a reader discovers for themselves that you are directly connected to the thing you are promoting.

But it’s not just your connections that are problematic. You also need to be open about your agenda. We all have one. It's best to spell out in the "About" area who you are and what your goals are.

All of this matters in Social Media because when “a bad egg” is discovered word spreads very quickly.

Having a thin skin

Many writings on Social Networking sites can seem to be critical. Some, in fact, are critical of you. How you respond to criticism online (as in the real world) can set you apart. If bad behavior by others elicits equally bad behavior from you who wins? No one. Of course.

The best response may be no response. Or you may want to wait an hour or two before crafting a firm and positive or at least neutral response that relies on facts and leaves out all traces of the personal.

At the very least any criticism should be private and between two people and not conducted in group emails, the comment areas of blogs or other public spaces.

Annoying (or outright offending) others

Social Media offers so many ways to be annoying. You can be “too connected” to others. You can ask them too often for stuff (and in this category I would include invitations to play Facebook games from people you barely know). You may keep mentioning your business interests over and over. Then, there are those who post offensive material. All of the above will get you un-followed, un-friended and un-connected.

Lack of focus

Many individuals and companies get into Social Media with no real goals or understanding of why they are there. This leads to Social Media platforms that leave those who join you confused: “I thought I started following this guy because he was interested in music, but now all he posts are annoying ‘feel good’ quotes.”

So work on one platform at a time and decide what you are there for. You do not have to narrowly define your purpose, but having a plan will help you get more out of your time on Social Media and will prevent you from damaging your your company’s image.

Being cliquey

If you’re spending all your time Re-Tweeting the same five people and they are Re_Tweeting you. Or you write back and forth with a dozen people on Facebook walls you’re likely not in Social Media, but rather you are in “Club Media.”

These tight groups in Social Media are terrible for your brand. To outsiders – the vast majority of the rest of your followers, fans and connections – this seems like a club they cannot get into or, worse, would not want to get into.

Practice good Social Media skills by reaching out to the many rather than the few.

Are there other "cardinal sins" I'm missing?

Further reading:
10 Commandments for Social Media
Twetiquette: 10 basics for Twitter politeness


  1. Excellent article Mike, thanks for these requirements. I am re-dedicated to proofreading my posts even closer now. Keep up these very helpful articles and thanks again for sharing some of what you learned in the past. I look forward to more of it!

    Tim Moore

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