Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Avoiding Social Media Blunders

Compose Relevant and Respectful Posts
Some have used the day’s news as a way to promote their brand and potentially change the direction of the conversation to highlight their business. Some brands have done this to great avail, however, some have gotten it terribly wrong, and when national brands get it wrong, everyone takes notice.

Lately, you may have noticed a trend developing amongst brands using social media as a component of their marketing, especially on Twitter. This particular platform lends itself well to breaking news, as many in the media believe it’s crucial to be the first to report important news. Reporters have found that the quickest way to get information to the public and beat their competitors to the punch is by composing a 140-character tweet. It’s an immediate way for them to say, “I was there first,” and it’s even accompanied by a time stamp to prove they were. In addition to being the first to break news, journalists have also found Twitter and other social media platforms are a great way to connect with their readers and start a dialogue with them, as the public increasingly wants to play a role and have a say in the news. As a result, Twitter and other networks host huge audiences, all discussing similar topics at the same time and hitting refresh to see the latest post about the subject.

Companies have taken notice, and consequently, some have used the day’s news as a way to promote their brand and potentially change the direction of the conversation to highlight their business. Some brands have done this to great avail, however, some have gotten it terribly wrong, and when national brands get it wrong, everyone takes notice. So while they may have changed the conversation to their brand, we don’t think it’s what they wanted when they originally composed the tweet. We have a couple of recent examples to make our point:

Exhibit A: The Golf Channel

On Aug. 28, the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington, there were many voices on Twitter discussing what progress has been made since that day in 1963. The Golf Channel attempted a tweet that was relevant to the day and the on-going Twitter conversation, while also pushing their own mission. The television channel wrote, “Tweet your ‘golf dream’ on the 50th anniversary of MLK’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech using: #DreamDay: I have a dream that __________.”

It’s one thing for brands to post their thoughts on the historic event, but it’s another entirely to leverage the Civil Rights movement and years of intolerance and violence and diminish them to a mere marketing ploy. That’s exactly what the Golf Channel did when it repurposed the word “dream” to start a conversation about golf as a means to solidify its brand.  The tweet barely masked the Golf Channel’s intentions and, needless to say, it was met by great disapproval. Twitter is a fast-paced network, and soon enough the Golf Channel deleted the tweet from its account and posted an apology.

Exhibit B: Kenneth Cole

During the height of New York Fashion Week, designer Kenneth Cole used the on-going discussions of a U.S. military attack on Syria to discuss shoes. On Sept. 5, Cole tweeted, “‘Boots on the ground’ or not, let’s not forget about sandals pumps and loafers. #Footwear.”

    

Similar to the Golf Channel, Twitter users were outraged by the designer leveraging the death of innocent Syrians and the possibility of war to essentially discuss fashion and push his own brand. However, unlike the Golf Channel, Cole — who is known for other instances of provocative and controversial behavior — did not apologize for the tweet. Rather, he said his tweet was meant to spur a dialogue about what is happening in Syria. Understandably, Twitter users found that hard to believe considering the designer’s line of work and the content of the message itself.

Takeaways

Let’s hope that you and your advertisers never make social media blunders quite as heinous as these ones, but nevertheless, these tweets do serve some universal lessons. As previously mentioned, some brands have found success in starting a conversation about their brand by using current events or popular topics on social media as jumping-off points. These conversations offer the potential for your brand to seamlessly enter an already populated discussion on social networks. However, you should always practice caution and consider the current event or topic before using it, and as always, you should take a good, long, critical look at your post before pressing enter.