Social media can be a very effective way to reach customers and build brand recognition. However, a company should use it with caution: one wrong move can mean going viral for all the wrong reasons.
Rather than having to return to the rig for damage control, it’s wiser to avoid missteps by adhering to a set of standards. If you want your social media presence to stay intact, follow these 15 best practices for avoiding online entanglements, as shared by members of the Forbes Business Council.
1. Create complete instructions
I recommend thinking carefully before posting anything on social media, as it has become a full-fledged information platform that journalists refer to. Thus, we create comprehensive social media communication guidelines for our clients and agency team to avoid missteps and unwanted attention on their social media activity. – Valentina Drofa, Drofa Comms
2. Moderated Content
To avoid missteps, we have a clear policy in place for employees who wish to post or interact with content, which includes avoiding inflammatory or inappropriate remarks, putting the interests of the Company first, and refrain from any personal attack. We also use moderation tools to review and approve posts before they go live. This gives us the ability to react quickly to any potential issues. – Ritesh Dalal, Intellectual
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3. Test your messages
In the world of social media, it’s easy to go viral and unintentionally damage your company’s reputation. The best practice to avoid missteps is to predict your audience’s reaction to a particular post. Test posts on a specific group of people before sharing them with everyone on your social media channel. – Joseph Edgar, TenantCloud
4. Develop your own social media policy
Create a comprehensive social media policy that outlines the rules and guidelines for your company’s social media accounts. Regularly monitor your accounts to ensure that all posts are appropriate and aligned with your company values. If you make a mistake or a post receives negative feedback, respond promptly to clarify the miscommunication or apologize if necessary. – Dustin Baxter, Precision Builders Texas
5. Stick to your area of expertise
When creating social media content, we stick to what we know, stay within our expertise, stay authentic to our brand, and ensure posts are aligned with our corporate values, one of which is “making a positive difference”. These guidelines, along with best practices such as spelling and link checking, fact checking, knowing our audience, and listening to feedback, help us stay safe, engaging, and on-brand. – Cybele Negris, Webnames.ca Inc.
6. Have a well-defined approval process
We’ve learned over time that it’s important to have a well-defined process for approving social media content before it’s published. It’s easy for something to be misinterpreted or for an employee to post something without realizing its implications. We avoid this by having a set process for approving all posts so we can make sure no one accidentally says anything inflammatory or harmful. – Chris Kille, Payment Pilot
7. Diversify your social team
Going viral is a lot harder than most companies could imagine. I think the fear of going viral for the wrong reasons stifles creativity and won’t allow people to create something truly worth going viral! If your social team is diverse, you’ll be able to think through issues that might offend for the wrong reasons. – Jennifer Coy, Beauty Treatment Picks
8. Check Every Statement
Never say anything without checking it. Make sure what you post can be verified and is accurate. If a statement isn’t 100% true, don’t post it. – Rakesh Soni, LoginRadius
9. Incorporate accountability and “gut checks”
Always have a dedicated social media person to ensure accountability. This person should be aware of social media etiquette, do’s and don’ts, rules of engagement, and other community norms. It’s also helpful to have a second pair of eyes on content calendars for “gut checks” on content that may be sensitive to your audience. Also, think before you type. – Laura Silver, Blue Door Communications
10. Proofread all copies
Social media policies help you set limits on your posts and allow you to regulate them. We follow a “think before you post” policy on social media. We also make sure to proofread all copies before publishing to avoid missteps or snafus. – Pavel Stepanov, Virtudesk
11. Post for the right reasons
Do not overdo it. The purpose of social networks is to spread the right cultural messages; it is also to promote, motivate and recognize people. Once it flips to the opposite side, it can lead to bullying and controversial content. Never post things that might hurt feelings, and never over-share, because that might lead people to literally put your stuff in an archive! – Neha Madaan, Vanator
12. Search Customer Activity
One of the best practices for a business is to regularly monitor social media channels. This includes researching customer feedback, industry-specific trends, news, and any profile activity. Keeping track of mentions, likes, comments, shares, and other engagements allows the business to quickly resolve any issues that may arise in a timely manner. – Meg Yim, MSA Security
13. Be true to your intentions
Avoid social media faux pas by being true to your intentions. Every post should have a purpose and provide real value to your audience. Stick to being humble and authentic – don’t try to educate without fully understanding the subject yourself. Real commitment generates real results. Following the herd presents a robotic image that attracts the wrong kind of attention. – Ronke Komolafe, Integrated Alliance for Physical and Behavioral Health
14. Know your audience
Avoid being fake and not knowing your audience. People are smarter these days; if they see that you’re trying too hard or for the wrong reasons, you’ll quickly lose your audience. Social media is about people and ultimately the audience you are cultivating. If you let the relationship with your audience guide your strategy, you’ll go viral and get traction for the right lasting reasons. – Jérémy Finlay, Quantiem.com
15. Make amends when mistakes are made
Setting clear goals, establishing a voice for social media, and knowing your audience will go a long way to avoiding a social media faux pas. But in case something doesn’t go the way you hoped, act quickly to remove the content, apologize, and make amends. – Nell Callahan, Frontwood Strategies