The Number One Rule Of Social Media Is…

Never use a tragedy as an opportunity to promote your brand. Ever. Period. The End.

And yet, people keep doing it. Large successful brands – companies with money to burn on, literally, TEAMS of social media marketers – are STILL making giant faux pas at an alarming rate. It’s confusing.

Yesterday, on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech, the Golf Channel (owned by NBC) tweeted this:

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Three hours later (after a very public uproar) they issued this apology:

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Oh was it? Was it inappropriate? Was turning a somber, important, grave moment in American history into a blatant ploy for social media attention inappropriate?  I had no idea. 

This happens more frequently than you would imagine but not always as offensively. When the royal birth was announced recently, many brands seized the opportunity to ride on its coattails – trending topic wise – on twitter. It’s the newest version of “real time marketing” and when done right – it’s great. Done wrong? It can be a disaster at worst and an embarrassment at best.

Oreo decided this was a good idea. I don’t really mind it but the public gave it a mighty thumbs down:

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Whereas this campaign from Dominos was just tasteless (PUN! Pizza Hut is gross):

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But then Hostess Snacks got it right:

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Why? They were funny, respectful and original. They didn’t ask for anything. They were self promotional but in a very subtle way while adhering to the normal rules of etiquette. Hard to do? Maybe – but that is why social media is a SKILL. It’s PR on a whole other level and with it happening in real time there is zero room for mistakes. Or for the big ones anyway. Small mistakes while a staffing company feels their way around the social landscape is understandable but when large companies – companies who have budgets for things like research and lawyers and writers and those cafeterias where they have all the different kinds of cereal and a Starbucks right inside the building have no excuse for this kind of mistake.

So how is this happening? Here are a few of my theories:

  • Companies are hiring marketers, not writers. And even when they do hire writers, they’re not hiring writers who understand or (in many cases) even LIKE the internet.
  • Companies are just appointing someone in the office who knows what twitter is to be their social media person.
  • They’re reacting too quickly and therefore are unable to react APPROPRIATELY.
  • Too much input from people who don’t understand new media
  • Too little oversight with a social media newbie who might just be flailing around with no understanding of best practices
  • A company culture which discourages experimentation, creativity and a respect for the internet
  • An undefined brand identity for new media
  • Trying to adapt traditional advertising for non traditional spaces
  • Not taking the emotional temperature of social media EVERY DAY

This last one is very, very important especially in the wake of any event of import. You MUST see how people are reacting on twitter before deciding how to proceed with your social media for that day. For example! During the Boston Marathon bombings I was glued to my twitter feed watching the events unfold in real time. Soon, outraged responses to brands tweeting about ANYTHING other than the bombings began to flood my feed. Anything that even hinted at blind ignorance of the tragedy was attacked by twitter users. Before this all happened, I was about to tweet and Facebook our blog post of the day but of course after seeing what would happen if I did – I put a hold on that. My boss had been in a meeting all morning and had no idea what was happening and the first thing he asked was “Kiala, have you put the blog on all the socials?” I quickly informed him it would be brand suicide if I did. Or well…we’d get yelled at a lot.

And that is just ONE of the tasks of a competent social media person.

So when someone at your staffing company suggests appointing a random employee in the mailroom or whatever to be the new social media person because they think it’s “easy” and “anyone can do it” just remember how “easy” it is to royally mess things up and in the process damage your staffing company’s brand – possibly irrevocably.


For help with social media marketing for your staffing company contact Staffing Robot today! We’re looking at you Golf Channel.

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2 thoughts on “The Number One Rule Of Social Media Is…

  1. This is so good and so important. Similarly, I wish companies or social media marketers would research trending tags before jumping on them. Taking a few minutes to browse even just a handful of tweets will pay off big in the long run. Or at the very least prevent a meltdown.

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