Social Stumble: 4 Common Branding Mistakes on Social Media and How to Avoid Them

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Social Stumble: 4 Common Branding Mistakes on Social Media and How to Avoid Them

In a world where globalization has challenged the idea of nationalities and borders, the issue of identity has been put to the forefront. Talk show host Trevor Noah, an African-born comedian now hosting one of America’s late-night talk show, ignited a conflict with the French government when he made a joke about how Africa just won the World Cup, alluding to the fact that most players on the French soccer team is of African-descent.

When the Israeli government enacted a law declaring Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”, they were both vilified and praised, depending on who you ask, as prioritizing identity over democracy. This issue might seem a little bit too heavy for a discussion on marketing but identity is an integral part of branding and when you’re trying to establish yourself as a company on social media, having a good grasp on your identity is crucial for the process.

The concept of branding

To begin with, what exactly is the definition of branding? First, we define a brand as an identifying feature that differentiates one company or their services and/or products from another. Using that definition as baseline, we can conclude that branding is the process or activity in establishing a brand. Essentially, branding refers to the journey an entity makes in establishing an identity unique to said entity.

This branding process can be a natural extension of the personality of the individual involved or just something ascribed to the brand through everyday life. For example, the Australian Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo is now known as the guy who regularly drinks champagne from his shoes on the podium, a move popularly known as the ‘shoey’. In an unfortunate example, the authentic Alfa Romeo experience usually includes pulling over to the side of the highway, which apparently is still true even in 2018.

With the advent of social media, where companies and other public figures can interact with their audiences on a daily basis, branding can be slightly more complicated. Because it is possible for you to reveal yourself, so to speak, as often as you’d like, you have more control in deciding how you’d like to be seen. On the other hand, society’s tendency on screencapping and sharing everything means that every single mistake you make will be dissected and amplified.

Luckily, social media platforms have existed long enough for companies and marketers to know which pitfalls to avoid when dealing with the internet. Here are 4 of the biggest and most common mistakes we’ve seen over the years.

Controversial topics and risque jokes are a minefield

You know that old adage of if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say it all? Heed by it. Snapchat lost US$1 billion of their market value after the American singer Rihanna called them out on one of their ads that made light of the domestic violence case involving Rihanna and her then-boyfriend Chris Brown from 2009. It doesn’t matter if you’re a billion dollar startup or a small local business; social media has a tendency of highlighting your flaws.

Back in 2013, a 30-year old publicist by the name of Justine Sacco had her life ruined when she fired off a risque joke in Twitter before checking in into a flight from New York to South Africa. In the 11 hour time span of her flight, she slept blissfully unaware of how she’s been demonized all over the internet. It’s impossible for brands to be able to avoid tripping over themselves from time to time but they should always be prepared to handle these blunders before they turned into a crisis, which leads me to my next point.

Always be quick to respond to anything

If one of your posts is being viewed negatively by your audience, make sure to acknowledge and rectify that as immediately as soon as possible. As a general rule, you should be quick to respond to feedback on social media. They’re no longer simply a marketing channel anymore; they also double as a customer service channel. When inquiries and complaints are being thrown at you, respond to telling them that you’ve reached out to them via direct messages and mentioning publicly that you’ve done so.

The tendency in social media when these things happen is to refer them to another channel, like and e-mail or a hotline they could call. People hate being thrown around and this is not the right way to handle these things.

Inconsistency across different channels

There’s Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube and I’m guessing there could be a few more I’m missing. The point is, I’m guessing that you as a company would like to be in as many channels as you possibly can. The problem is when you are represented differently across those channels. In could be in the language of the posts, the color palette you’re using or something as drastic as your company’s profile.

Taking yourself too seriously

Why so serious? Uptight professionalism should be limited to e-mail, your own website and LinkedIn. When we’re talking Snapchat and Twitter, you have to be able to make fun of yourself from time to time. Emojis, gifs and memes are all fair games in the realm of social media so don’t be afraid to experiment so long as you remember and try to avoid controversial social issues unless you’re absolutely confident.

First impressions are always hard to shake off. Despite playing some notable roles in his career, Harrison Ford will always be Richard Kimble to me, the doctor who was wrongfully accused of murdering his wife in the 90’s classic The Fugitive simply because it was the first film I’ve seen him in. With this nugget in mind, try to avoid being known as that brand that did an awfully racist joke that one time on Twitter. First impression definitely lasts.