We’re all on social media all the time, and the social media platforms are stretching into new areas of our lives – Facebook now has an “at work” option called Workplace. So how good are we at using it? Back in 2013 I looked at some Social Media fails (and one brilliant response), now I’m looking again. Are companies making the same sorts of mistakes? Have we got better at using social media?
Some of the same mistakes occurred.
Confuse private and public accounts
This tweet came from the US Justice Department, clearly not something a US Justice Department employee should ever be saying, so what happened? The twitter app lets you switch easily between accounts, and many people use the app to access their personal and professional accounts. In this case the staffer’s access to the twitter account was revoked, the tweet deleted and an apology issued.
We’re still making this mistake. I advocated keeping accounts separate, or even using separate devices, but I think that this error has become so common that people understand the error and it doesn’t seem to result in lasting damage to the organisation. If this happens to you apologise, delete tweet and move on.
Misuse of Sensitive Hashtag/Event
Carrie Fisher died, and the internet mourned. Cinnabon tried to gate-crash the wake with this image, recycled from their May-the-fourth post. The geeks of the internet were not impressed, many pointing out that she was much more than Princess Leia, that she’d hated this hair style, and anyway it’s crass to use someone’s death to promote your product.
As a best practice do not comment on a celebrity death unless they had a direct tie with your company or organisation. If there’s an emergency or an event where people are in danger only comment on the event in ways that are offering practical support.
Some Social Media Fails were more prominent in 2016.
Geography is Hard
Social media posts almost always have images now, and that opens up a whole new world of pain, as Coca Cola found out when they used a map of Russia in their Christmas promotion. They managed to annoy Russia by not including Crimea, and then Ukraine by adding it.
There are a surprising number of tricky borders around the world and a surprising number of sharp-eyed people ready to comment on it. You’re in a no-win situation, you’re bound to annoy someone so avoid maps of contested areas in your imagery if you can.
Artificial intelligence got a bit hyped in 2016, if Microsoft’s experiment with “Tay Tweets” is anything to go by humans aren’t ready for it. In just 24 hours twitter taught Tay to be a racist bully.
Within days Microsoft ceased the experiment.
Social Media Amplifies Your Bad Decision
UN hires and then fires Wonder Woman
The UN has a whole organisation devoted to gender equality which states that “UN Women is the global champion for gender equality”. But the UN’s track record isn’t so convincing; just three of the 71 presidents of the UN General Assembly have been women, and all of the Secretaries General have been men.
So when they announced that the new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls was a fictional character, specifically Wonder Woman, it didn’t go well. There were protests within the UN, negative feedback in the mainstream media, and across social media.
This is a case of a bad decision being amplified in social media, and it seemed to lead to a change at the UN.
Racism Isn’t a Joke
Maybe the people running the MTV Australia twitter account on the night of the Golden Globes thought the humour would work since America Ferrera and Eva Longoria were making fun of how Latina actresses are often mistaken for each other. But it’s one thing to make a joke about your own race/nationality and very different for a company to make a joke about someone else’s. Just don’t.
On the same theme; know whom you’re talking about. Total Beauty confused Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.
Fake news reached a whole new level in 2016, and is set to reach new depths in 2017. There are thousands of US examples out there but I’m going to choose a less contentious example from the UK.
The Grim Reaper was busy in 2016, and with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds dying within days of each other we were primed for more bad news. So when Queen Elizabeth II stayed home from Church with a cold a fake BBC account reported that she had died and people fell for it. The report was quickly debunked, leaving twitter embarrassed but relieved.
Which leads to a prediction for 2017; this will be the year we get smart about our news sources. Once I’m earning again I’ll be supporting one or two sources of good journalism.
So what’s changed?
I didn’t find examples of people jumping on trending hashtags any more, or of people sharing information that shouldn’t be made public, so we’ve got smarter. The errors now seem to be more in the area of content creation, social media managers need to understand how their promotional content might land in a global market.
We’ve got better, but the job has got tougher.