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Social media can be a great thing for your business. After all, it’s a free way to engage with your customers and raise awareness of your brand. You can promote your products, services or even blog posts and gain more traffic flow, conversions and sales. What’s not to love about social media?

Sometimes, things can go wrong. Businesses make simple mistakes which can reflect badly on your brand.

So what are these mistakes, and how do you avoid making them?

1. Know who has access to your accounts

It’s important for businesses to only let certain people have access to your social media accounts. Often, mistakes occur because people are not experienced enough and don’t know how to react. In some instances, fired, disgruntled employees still have access to the social media accounts. Back in 2013, the official HMV Twitter account live-tweeted the mass firing of 60 staff. The tweets have since been deleted, but highlighted how senior management did not have control over the social media accounts.   

2. Not responding to comments

It’s important to engage with your audience on social media. This includes any negative feedback. Some businesses will choose to simply delete any negative comments or block the user. This strategy can have its downsides. If comments are deleted, the user can simply post again, or tell other people to post. This risks making the user even angrier, instead of resolving the problem.

Rather than deleting the comments, it’s best to respond in a polite, calm manner. If necessary, ask the user to directly message you. This way, the comments aren’t made in public for everyone to see, and you can work to resolve the issue.

Make sure to avoid automated replies, as customers can easily see you send the same response to each person who comments. These responses aren’t personalised and don’t work towards a resolution. It’s also important to keep your composure, and never attack the person leaving a negative review.

The chef of Boston restaurant Pigalle learned this lesson the hard way, after a customer left a complaint on their Facebook page. The negative comment not only received a rude response, but caused an angry status to be posted as well:

Source: Spokal

While the customer and chef were able to make amends, this is a great case study on how NOT to respond to customers on social media.

3. Promoting your products

Your social media accounts are about your business, you should be able to promote your products or services all the time, right? Wrong. Social media is not just a place to try and make a sale. Instead, you want to build a relationship with your customers.

A good rule to follow is the 80/20 principle. This means you should only promote your products 20% of the time, while the remaining 80% of the time should be dedicated to sharing insightful, engaging content. After all, people use social media to be social. They don’t want to be bombarded with sales pitches.  

4. Not following current events

Businesses can often end up with a damaged reputation simply by not following current events. It’s not uncommon for businesses to schedule their social media posts in advance. On the plus side, this saves time and means you can have tweets being posted when you’re out of the office. On the down side, an auto scheduled tweet can look insensitive if it doesn’t take into account current events.

Back in 2012, the NRA posted the following tweet:

Source: Mashable

This seems innocent enough, considering it’s the NRA. However, the tweet received considerable backlash, as it was posted after the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. While a spokesperson for the NRA said the tweet was taken out of context, the tweet was removed by 12:15pm, with the entire account being deleted at 4:45pm. The tweet states was posted via HootSuite, indicating it was scheduled in advance. To avoid damage to your brand’s reputation, it’s always best to review scheduled tweets.    

5. Hashtags

Particularly on Twitter and Instagram, hashtags can be a great way to increase the views of your content. If you make your own branded hashtag, you can also encourage users to post it to communicate with your brand.

Some businesses leverage hashtags and use them as part of a campaign. The company will ask users to tweet a story or question and use the hashtag. However, this can very easily backfire if the campaign isn’t completely thought out. Sometimes, there is another meaning to the hashtag - anyone remember #susanalbumparty? Other times, the campaign will start innocently enough, but will take a quick turn due to the negative public perception of the brand. This is what McDonald’s learned the hard way.     

The #McDStories started out as a way to talk about its staff:

However, the hashtag quickly went downhill, and users shared their bad McDonald’s stories, fast food facts and sarcastic comments:

Source: iMedia Connection

The hashtag was initially a paid promotion, but this was removed within the hour of it starting. If you’re thinking of starting a hashtag, make sure to check the spelling, know the public perception of your brand, and have a strategy in place if it gets overrun by trolls.  

To avoid any damage to your brands' reputation from social media use, it’s best to ensure your staff has social media training, you know who has access to your accounts, and you have a contingency plan in place in case things do go wrong. This way, you can avoid situations becoming uncontrollable and avoid further damaging your brand.