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Backpack Executive

I'm Jason. I've spent most of my career developing marketing strategies for student housing communities. Now, I own Pixel Riot - We help your website send the right signals to land the right visitors. Need Google Ad management? I'm your guy. I have 14 years of experience in digital advertising for Multifamily.

Blood Muffins And Other Social Media Disasters To Avoid

Social media is a powerful force. Most of the time that's a good thing. For some of you, it's the lifeblood of your brand's voice. But sometimes, social media can turn against you and in one trending hashtag, your brand is destroyed. Here are 5 such examples and how to avoid them.

 

5. J.P. Morgan AMA (Ask Me Anything)

J.P. Morgan, the firm that helped underwrite Twitter’s IPO, decided to do an AMA with the hashtag #ASKJPM. For those that do not know what an AMA is, think interview but with the entire internet. The problem was, J.P. has been accused of everything from embezzling money for the Mexican drug cartels to involvement in the highly publicized Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Obviously, regardless of guilt or innocence, these were not topics that could be discussed over a Twitter hashtag. When thousands of tweets came in asking about scandals the company couldn’t answer, J.P. Morgan was forced to cancel the AMA the following day.

The lesson: If you’re not prepared to answer tough questions, do not engage in an interview style that is literally titled "Ask Me Anything". If you want to have an open conversation with your customers, nothing can be off the table. Anything short of complete transparency and candor will be met with hostility and ultimately lead to a public relations nightmare. 

 

4. Marriot #BloodMuffins

For 9/11’s 14 year anniversary a Marriott hotel decided to offer free muffins and coffee “in remembrance of those we lost on 9/11”. Was it a nice gesture or a tone deaf promotion? The internet decided it was the latter. Within hours of someone posting the image to Reddit, Marriott's botched tribute went viral and #bloodmuffins began trending on Twitter.

The lesson: This one is tricky because it doesn't appear that Marriott posted the picture, a patron did. So, just because your company doesn't willing engage in a social media faux pas, doesn't mean someone else won't help you along. 

If you are unwilling or unable to provide the proper checks and balances for content that your company shares publicly, stay away from sensitive topics like national tragedies. It’s that simple. I've never heard of a company being criticized because they did not post something recognizing a tragedy. If you want to do something that honors our heroes and victims but aren't sure what to do, I suggest blacking out your social media for the day (no posts, shares or activity) and take that time to reflect.

 

3. The #Aurora Dress

Shortly after the horrific shootings in Aurora Colorado, #Aurora began trending on Twitter. Understandably, many used the hashtag to grieve and share their condolences. Celeb Boutique had other ideas. In a moment of unclarity, the boutique decided that #Aurora was trending because of their Kim Kardashian-inspired dress. The misguided tweet lead to a fumbled apology and ultimately a company name change. 

The lesson: Check hashtags before you use them. What's associated with the hashtag? Why is the hashtag trending? These questions can easily be answered by searching or clicking on a hashtag and reading the tweets. 

 

2. What About All The Good Things The NYPD Does?

The New York Police Department has had an image issue for quite some time. In the summer of 2014 they decided to counter that by asking Twitter to post photos of them with NYPD officers using #MyNYPD. Problem solved! Paradigm shifted! We can all go home, right? No. Using their hashtag against them, Twitter users quickly began positing unflattering, sometimes graphic images of what appeared to be the NYPD mistreating the citizens of the Big Apple. 

The lesson: When the general public has a negative, emotional reaction to how your organization is ran, either tackle the issue head on or shut up. The last thing you want to do is try highlighting all the good things your organization does by giving your supporters a hashtag. Right or wrong in your merits, this particular strategy doesn't work on social media. Your hashtag will be high jacked by those who disagree and that never ends well. 

 

1. American Apparel and the 4th of July

This is the type of screw up that really keeps me up at night. A quick re-blog on Tumblr of what appeared to be firework smoke (to the account keeper, at least) turned into a huge public backlash for American Apparel. The re-blogged photo was actually a picture of the Challenger explosion in 1986. The company’s excuse? They stated the person in charge of the account was not born before 1986 and therefore didn’t know what the photo was. 

The lesson: There's a couple lessons here. First, be cautious of re-blogging or retweeting other people's content. I'm not suggesting to avoid it completely. These types of engagements can really help with your social media presence. What I am saying is take a moment to understand what exactly it is you're sharing. If you're not sure, move on. 

Finally, if your company uses social media, invest in the resources needed to properly maintain it. A teenage intern will likely not be qualified to speak on behalf of your brand. 

The Big Takeaway

Know that social media is like a megaphone for your brand's voice. The person or team behind that megaphone should understand how to advance your brand during the good times and protect your brand during the bad times (or avoid it all together). 

 

 

 

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