who should know better misusing their public platforms to say unfortunate things, people using traditional media arguing about the wrong parts of the problem and the great piranha tank of social media weighing in with opinions without context.
There was a lot of misunderstanding on all sides and everyone was wrong. And in the mix of screaming and screaming about screaming, everyone missed the three lessons everyone who works with Social Media needs to know.
You Cannot Control the Message
In the closed world of the conference room, you might make an off-color joke about the mail guy. Depending on your level of power, people might pretend it was funny. If you have less power, someone might look at you and say, "that was uncool." You then backtrack, claim it was a joke. But the mailroom guy is not likely to hear about it, whatever happens.
In Social Media, even with locked accounts, you are speaking to an open room. Once out there, a screencapped image can live on forever. Forget claiming an account was hacked or that it was a joke...the evidence of your inside voice can and will get to the mailroom guy....good luck getting your mail forever.
Being tone deaf to the AIDS crisis or Middle East uprisings will not make you look clever, it will not get laughs, except those "Hah-Hah!"s that accompany pointing fingers as you go down in flames. Political and social crises are not acceptable vehicles upon which to piggyback your marketing messages.
If you wouldn't want 7 billion people seeing, talking about or retweeting it - don't say it.
Everything You Say on Social Media is Relevant
The person you hire to spread your messaging is You. The message they spread is You. The name that is used in those messages is You. It is not Social Media's fault if you won't admit that yours is not the most popular company.
When a person states in their profile that they are your PR person, they will speak about your corporate culture 24/7. If they post dismissive, rude comments at 3AM on Saturday after a night out, it will still reflect on you.
There is no "time-off" for your company. No kicking back, taking the shoes off. Everything ever said by you, about you or for you reflects on you.
Social Media is Not An Advertisement
In a discussion with an agency recently, we commiserated over the case of the client with a missing clue. They want to get straight sales conversion from a Social Media profile but they don't want to do actual sales tactics. Apparently, the client believes that merely liking their page - and never hearing from them again - should magically convert into higher profit.
Advertising works because it saturates a space. Social Media works because it doesn't saturate a space, it targets very specific, very precise areas. Social Media is the way we communicate with people in small, deep pockets of the Internet, not broad swaths of it. If you're looking to work the advertising funnel model of conversion, do not go with Social Media.
You get to choose one way to communicate: You can talk to everyone through advertising or You can talk to a few people through Social.
Both can create value for your brand and your bottom line...but you have to choose each one for itself, mixing them up doesn't really work.
Learn these three lessons about Social Media and you'll never be embarrassed again.