CK Insights

December 24, 2013

Avoid These Twitter Blunders In 2014


In 2013, social media continued its dominance among brands. With so many companies jumping on board, social snafus are inevitable. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest Twitter blunders of 2013 and how to avoid them in the New Year.

In 2013, social media continued its dominance among brands. According to Search Engine Journal, 93 percent of marketers are now using social media for business, and the top three networks – Facebook, Twitter and Google+ – grew by more than 20 percent in the last year.

Twitter experienced the highest level of growth among the top channels, growing 44 percent from June 2012 to March 2013. Marketers are taking note: 34 percent have now used Twitter to successfully generate leads. (Source: “The Growth of Social Media” November 15, 2013)

With so many companies jumping on board, social snafus are inevitable. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest Twitter blunders of 2013 and how to avoid them in the New Year.

Hijacked #Hashtags

When crafting a campaign hashtag, brands must tread carefully. Even the most carefully considered hashtag can take on a life of its own – including one the brand does not intend. From McDonald’s #McDStories hijack in early 2012 to JP Morgan’s more recent issues with #AskJPM, hijacked hashtags have become a trend in and of themselves. Here’s a good list of examples from 2013.

Quick Tips:

  • Think through the pros and cons, and consider any possible hijacks. Not every campaign or event needs a hashtag. If there are easily-anticipated risks here, then the upside of using a hashtag might not outweigh the potential negatives.
  • Have a crisis plan in place. So what do you do if your hashtag gets hijacked and quickly spins out of control? Know the answer to that question – based on a thoughtful and strategic discussion held before the campaign launches. The answer might simply be to “let it play out.” But play out the scenarios beforehand – so you always know your next potential move.

Trending Topics – Sometimes It’s Better to Stay Away

It can be valuable for brands to comment on what’s currently trending. It appears like an easy way to insert themselves into the conversation online. But it’s not always that simple. Ask yourself, is it really appropriate for your brand jump in and take part?

Among other companies, AT&T learned this year that trying to work your brand into a trending conversation can sometimes lead to serious backlash. The brand featured a Smartphone they sell as part of a 9/11 memorial tweet. Let’s just say it was not well received by the public.

Quick Tips:

  • Consider the situation holistically—and get a few opinions. If the topic is sensitive, then often it’s best for brands to stay relatively quiet on social media. If you’re determined to post, then make sure to run it by multiple colleagues with different perspectives before you share.
  • Don’t shy away if you have something to offer. Keeping the first bullet in mind, if your brand has something genuine to say about a trending topic, don’t hold back – even if it’s sensitive. For example, CooperKatz client TD Bank successfully contributed to the Twitter dialogue about the recent government shutdown when it launched its TD Cares program – which offered real and tangible benefits to government workers facing financial stress.

Be Careful, Social Media Managers: You are the Brand

Being a social media manager isn’t as easy as it looks (not that it always looks easy!). In addition to fully embracing the brand’s voice, the role comes with more serious responsibility—and liability—than some think. Two big issues to watch out for are ensuring you are on-message for the brand’s customers and keeping personal and professional accounts carefully separated. You don’t want to make the same mistake Brown University made with an incorrectly linked personal account or as T-Mobile did when its Twitter engagement appeared off-brand and unprofessional earlier this year.

Quick Tips:

  • Quadruple check your tweets before posting. What account are you sending from? Are your linked accounts (e.g., Instagram) connected correctly? Is the tweet on-brand? Are you using proper grammar and appropriate language? Should you do a quick gut-check with a colleague or two?
  • Always consider your audience and err on the side of professionalism. If you’re struggling to determine whether or not a post is appropriate for your brand, then edit it conservatively – or drop it altogether. Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of the brands’ customers or consumers. Is this something that would resonate with them?

What other big social lessons hit home in 2013? Tell us in the comments!

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