September 07, 2017

Social Media Tips: Avoid These Faux Pas

Your goal is to make news—but not through social media faux pas. The constant introduction of new platforms and features can bewilder even the savviest digital natives. Here are some tips for making the most of your company’s social presence, without inadvertently igniting a crisis.

Social Etiquette

It can be easy to forget that social media is a very public platform. Make sure your brand is represented at its best across all platforms. Maintain a positive, professional tone, and always proofread. Beyond polishing your presentation, sensitivity is key. Before launching a campaign, or even posting a quick tweet, think about how it might be received by a diverse audience. Remember that subtleties and nuance can be lost when written in short form. What sounds great internally may not play out well in front of an online crowd. Be mindful of timing— the wake of a local, national, or international disaster is not the time for promotional or light-hearted posts. Over-posting, too, can be insensitive to your followers and erode your credibility.


Many companies underestimate the legal risks hidden in their social media plans. A dangerous assumption is that, “If my competitor is doing it, then it must be okay.” Be aware of copyright infringement when posting material, especially photos and videos. Set clear guidelines for what employees can and can’t post on behalf of the company. To head off disaster, draft a company social media policy. Make sure there are open channels of communication between legal, marketing, HR, and those responsible for social media, and that all are involved in setting up policies. As is true of any crisis, taking preventative steps early in the process is the best way to avoid worst-case scenarios.


There are forces in the online world that are difficult to predict, never mind control. In one recent social media crisis, Starbucks faced the wrath of trolls who convincingly promoted a non-existent “free coffee day” for undocumented immigrants (#borderfreecoffee). “The rapid spread of the fake news showed again the power of social platforms to damage reputations.” Starbucks was wise to issue a swift response correcting the issue. Planning ahead for unexpected blows – as well as responding with speed and honesty – can help soften impact to your brand.

A thoughtful social media presence can go a long way in building loyalty and engaging audiences in a meaningful way. Other resources can guide you towards not only avoiding missteps, but also putting your most polished, engaging self forward in the online world.

By Charlotte Gross