Using social media requires just a little bit of awareness

Abs Gandhi – Senior Account Executive at Spreckley

Disclaimer: This is a rant

I will admit, I do love social media. It’s a great way to kill time (feel free to question my productivity), make train journeys seem far less dreary, help connect with friends and family, rack up a bunch of likes to make you feel [semi] valued, and enjoy a good meme or ten on Instagram. To date, I have five personal social networks – it seems a lot has progressed since the early days of MySpace.

In the same way social media is used on a personal level, businesses have also heavily invested in the power of these platforms in helping communicate a more personal brand with those interested in them, and creating new relationships and followers in the process. It’s a win-win, right?

Well…this is where things start becoming blurry. While social media is great, both users and businesses MUST be aware of the type of content posted and what actually works on each platform. This has become particularly troublesome with LinkedIn. Some particular user fails I’ve seen include:

  • Using a profile photo from a selfie with a snapchat filter – fail
  • Using a profile photo on a night out – fail
  • Posting irrelevant stories of football transfer rumours and other unrelated nonsense stories – fail
  • Memes – Instagram is the home for this not LinkedIn but still – fail!

Call me old school, but I thought the true value of LinkedIn was being a platform for business connections and professional news? If individuals are indeed doing some of these social media faux pas and are affiliated with a business or company, it doesn’t necessarily exude the most professional tone for that company. Being aware of what works best on each platform can help prevent situations like this from occurring and ensure all messages are tailored for the right audience.

And in the same way that individuals can be found wanting, businesses are also responsible for failing to truly understand how poor awareness of social platforms can cause a serious PR blunder.

One particular example that springs to mind is US-based Pizza company DiGiorno, that thought it would be a good idea to jump on a trending hashtag on Twitter to boost social engagement. Now, while this would normally be a great idea, using a hashtag that is actually relating to domestic violence, isn’t such a good move. DiGiorno used the tweet “#WhyIStayed You had pizza”, when the hashtag was actually used in messages from women explaining why they stayed in abusive relationships following an incident with an NFL player. The pizza maker soon apologised, but a clear lack of research about the hashtag consequently affected the company’s reputation. Research and knowing your audience is key on social media. Even the slightest mistake can be costly.

Of course, there is no prescriptive method of how one should engage with social media. The power of these platforms is in its ability to allow individuals and businesses to have a free area to voice their thoughts, opinions and news. Social engagement is key but if it’s at the expense of a possible PR outcry, users and businesses should be fully aware of the wider implications of what is posted on social channels.