Restraining Order: 4 Things Businesses Should Never Post on Social Media
For all of its silly memes and hilarious webcomics, social media is actually a pretty cutthroat world. A friend of mine who is somewhat big on Instagram came to this realization when she was caught posting something pretty insensitive while on a long haul flight. She was sat near a family with a raging toddler and out of frustration; she unwisely posted a story about how she’d prefer that pets are allowed on flights instead of toddlers. She quickly realized her mistake and deleted the story a couple of minutes after but as we all know by now, the internet never forgets.
Before long, her DMs were flooded with angry comments from other users and other influencer-types also began calling her out in their own posts. The thing is I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there before, being unlucky enough to be in the vicinity of a raging toddler but the self-righteous nature of social media has always been one of its worst qualities and businesses have to carefully monitor what they say on social media lest they became the internet’s punching bag of the moment.
Living in the age of callout culture
For most of my adult life, I’ve been mostly sticking to the more wholesome part of the internet. I don’t really spend that much time on YouTube and whenever I do, the comments I read are usually of the supportive kind. While I’ve read news stories and articles on how damaging this callout/takedown culture can be, it was the story of Justine Sacco that really opened up my mind just how one insensitive comment can practically ruin someone’s life.
Even now, when you Googled her name, her tweet and the story around it is still going to be the first things that popped up on screen. Last year, James Gunn was effectively removed from the Guardians of the Galaxy film series when some of his old insensitive tweets dating back to 2009 were unearthed. He was eventually rehired by Disney earlier this year but these examples should serve as a reminder on how damaging social media can be if you don’t know where to draw the line.
It should also be noted that this line can be different depending on your business and your audience. Donald Trump for example could get away with tweeting a lot of things that would’ve led to a business being blacklisted simply because that’s the kind of image he’s built around himself. While Trump has managed to cultivate a devoted following from his base, he also managed to alienate everyone else not inside that base. For most businesses, that is far from ideal so it would be wise for you to avoid posting the following 4 things on social media.
Misleading and exaggerated information
Donald Trump is a highly controversial figure but one thing he got right is that the phenomenon of ‘fake news’ poses actual dangers to society, even if the publications he cited are actually known for being honest and reliable, if perhaps slightly biased. Earlier this year, Chevrolet aired an ad in the United States about how Chevy is actually proven to be more reliable than other car brands, including rock-solid Japanese brands like Honda and Toyota. The ad was eventually pulled down after Ford, Honda and Toyota challenged Chevy for using a somewhat misleading data as the basis for their ad.
Every claim you make on social media can be easily challenged so any kind of lies or exaggerated information will never last long because there will always be a line of people prepared to call you out on your false claims. Even the most elaborate of lies will eventually be unmasked and when these things happen, all of the trust you’ve build with your customers and the public in general will amount to nothing. Even the mighty Volkswagen was forced to put a hold on their diesel range after the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal happened so always stick to the truth whenever you can.
Being confrontational or excessively defensive
When it comes to public relations, humility is always the name of the game. When you receive a complaint on social media, even if you are completely on the right, try not to act superior and always apologize and act as if it’s you that’s on the wrong. Try to be calm, professional even when you see capital letters, exclamation letters and colorful languages being liberally used by the complainer. Even if you don’t really have enough information on hand, be quick to response on how you’re still collecting information at the time and will immediately get back to the complainer once you’ve figured out what the problem is, which leads me to my next point.
Don’t leave them hanging with incomplete information
I follow a number of businesses on Instagram and I often see about the tendency for business to provide incomplete information whenever there’s a promotion or a sale going on. Only once they’ve been flooded with inquiries via DMs that they finally provide the rest of the necessary information. This is also exacerbated by the fact that the website for said businesses aren’t always updated with the latest information. To avoid misunderstanding, always make sure to post all of the necessary information and if possible, make sure your latest social media posts reflect your website and vice versa.
Too much irrelevant content
It’s advisable for businesses to always keep their social media feed regularly updated but you also have to make sure they’re not flooded with irrelevant contents. Every now and then, it’s good for businesses to step out from their niche every so often to highlight what’s going on around them such as the recent election or chiming in with what’s trending on popular culture. However, you also have to make sure that the amount of these contents doesn’t overwhelm your business-relevant contents. A ratio of 3:1 between the relevant and irrelevant contents for example is a good place to start.