Scrolling through Facebook, I see a headline that, as a writer, marketer, and social media participant, gave me the willies. "6 Worst Social Media Fails in 2016--So Far." Staff writer Lindsay Friedman for Entrepreneur lists the top fails in these three short months of the new year in her article.
You can check out her full piece, but briefly, she lists these losers (or winners):
1. Coca-Cola's use of an outdated map of Russia in a fun holiday tweet prompting Russian patriots to post pictures of themselves pouring the drink into toilets, with the hashtag #BanCocaCola.
2. MTV Australia's tweet while America Ferrera and Eva Longoria were on stage to present an award at the Golden Globes, asking: "Where are the English subtitles?"
3. DC Comics' printed photo crediting a translation "from Pakistan," rather than the country's official language of Urdu.
4. Thai beauty brand Seoul Secret's advertisement with a woman in blackface, using the slogan "White makes you win," to promote a skin whitening product.
5. Total Beauty, an online publication with a tweet that confused Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey in their Oscar commentating about Whoopi's tattoo. (image was taken from Google search.)
6. The National Republican Senatorial Committee's tweet about Tammy Duckworth not "standing up" for the nation's veterans. Duckworth, herself a veteran, lost her legs while on active duty in Iraq.
How to NOT mess up on social media
We seem to live in an age where mistakes are forgotten rather quickly, and as easy as it is to offend, someone else is due to come behind you--soon--with an equal or worse offense, done deliberately or by accident. But there are ways to avoid these mistakes.
1. Remember that your audience is the world. You might be talking about something that is only of interest to residents in Wichita, Kansas, but if someone catches a sensitive mistake, your tweet or post can go viral, quickly. So, as in the Seoul Secret campaign for skin whitening products, where flawless, light skin is a cultural preference (the way tanned skin is in Western cultures), your message is global the second you put it online.
2a. Fact check, then,
2b. Proofread. This is common sense, but so often it's easy to whip up a thought and hit "send" without worry. The Coca-Cola campaign, with one cartoony image of a country that isn't geographically accurate, made them look ignorant. And ignorance is not quality branding, no matter what your company does.
Once you've developed your message, let at least one other person take a look. Mistakes like the Whoopi Goldberg/Oprah Winfrey blunder are entirely avoidable if someone else, not sleep deprived and in a hurry, scans the content before posting.
3. Practice awareness and social responsibility. Some say "any publicity is good publicity," but deliberate or even non-deliberate offense is unacceptable. The Republican Party is embroiled in a social responsibility mess that is dividing the country. Tweets like the one about Duckworth (posted on International Women's Day, no less) is what Friedman calls "muck-slinging." When considering publicity for your business, take the high road.
You might be forgiven, but mistakes are not always forgotten. Your mishaps can show up in discussions across the internet, and are up for regular commentary, (just as they are here!). Bottom line: pay attention to every message you put out.