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We know how important social media is to online reputation, especially for brands. It’s a great resource for connecting with your customers and sharing stories that reflect positively on your brand. But, do you really know what you’re doing on social media? So many brands make mistakes that experts say are too important to ignore — and they can have a seriously negative impact on your reputation.

Read on to find out, straight from the experts, about the biggest mistakes that brands make on social media. From not using social media at all to failing to define social media policies, we’ll explain the pitfalls that can ruin your reputation — and explain what you should do instead.

Social Media Reputation Mistake #1: Not Using Social Media

This one’s a no brainer, really. Aside from the time and effort you put into it, social media is a free tool you can use to connect with customers, network with industry contacts, and build your reputation. So certainly, the biggest reputation mistake you can make with social media is not using it at all. Even worse? Signing up for accounts — and then not giving them any attention.

“Social media is extremely important to discovery (especially with the new Facebook “save for later” feature),” says OwnerListens CEO and cofounder Adi Bittan. “You can’t afford to ignore it. Claim your profiles, keep them updated, and continuously engage.”

Of course, it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. While social media is essential to building a positive online reputation today, you don’t have to try to do it all. “Some brands create social media accounts thinking they need to be on that platform because their competitors are, but don’t create a strategy and end up leaving the network stagnant,” says Vocus senior social and media relations manager Stacey Miller. “These stagnant accounts can sometimes portray that you don’t care, which may not be the case! In order to avoid this, only create accounts on the networks that your audience is on, and create an engagement schedule to make sure that you’re not ignoring any inquiries on social media.”

There’s no excuse for neglecting your profiles — even if you’re busy. Bittan says that ignoring your profiles is worse than not setting them up at all. Why? “The initial setup signals to customers that the business is engaged and accessible on social media,” she explains “Their expectations for responsiveness rise and so does their disappointment when they are ignored.”

Even worse, an inactive account may signal to potential customers that you’re no longer in business, explains Heritage Anderson digital marketing manager Ben Johnson.

“Typically, a Facebook profile or other social profile shows up at the top of search results for that company’s name,” says Johnson. “If a business has their social media profiles created, but they don’t post regularly or stopped posting years ago, this can lead people to believe the the business is possibly no longer exists and start searching for another company that offers the same service.”

This problem is compounded if you fail to respond to communications on social media. “When you ignore posts from customers on social media, they feel like you’re ignoring them,” says Bittan. “It’s hard enough to get a customer to come to your business, it’s even harder to get them to engage. Whether positive or negative, engagement is a sign of interest and passion. Responding to customers like that is a great opportunity to engage passionate and potentially very loyal customers.”

To truly be active, you’ll need to respond quickly to interaction with customers online. “Users and followers want answers to their questions now, not three days from now,” says Vantage Advertising marketing associate Margaret Colebeck. “By not answering their questions, comments, or concerns in a quick and effective manner users may think that the company doesn’t care about them or their needs. This in turn can and will cause customers to move on to other brands.”

In addition to paying attention to those who write to your brand directly, don’t neglect others who discuss your brand or related keywords on social media. Gossip Genie founder and owner Jacqui Liberman says it’s a mistake when brands don’t use Twitter to its full potential by neglecting to both monitor key words relevant to their product offering/target market and take part in these conversations. “It’s such an effective way to find new customers, and brands are missing out on a massive trick if they’re not engaged in this way.”

Social Media Reputation Mistake #2: Putting the Wrong Person in Charge of Accounts

Think about it: your social media accounts portray who you are as a brand, are used for crisis management communications, and are regularly used to connect with customers and other important contacts online. This is a high profile job, one that can truly make or break your online reputation. Should you really push it off onto an intern? Our experts say: NO.

“I’ve seen a lot of brands who don’t seem to see the importance of hiring knowledgeable people to manage social media accounts,” says social media consultant Stephen Anfield “For example, if you take a look at Craigslist (in Washington, DC), you’ll see that a lot of the social media positions are interns or are only compensated at an hourly rate. The thought is that since young people use social media, that they can also manage online reputation, and that is not always necessarily the case.”

Assigning social media duties to someone who is not prepared to take on the task is a big mistake. Liberman says that it’s clear when a brand’s social media manager lacks the PR skills and level of professionalism required for the job.

“For example, spontaneously tweeting controversial opinions or responding to customer complaints in an unfriendly manner on behalf of the brand – this kind of social behavior can be so damaging, and we’ve all seen these social media faux pas in the news!,” says Liberman. “Brands must ensure social media teams are professional at all times and understand what is and isn’t permitted.”

And these mistakes aren’t just fleeting moments: they can be shared, dwelled on, and live on for months or years. “I think many still don’t quite understand that in addition to viewing visible posts, pins, updates and tweets, anyone in your audience can screen grab, video or copy and paste just about anything that is on social platforms-and it’s even easier do this with the rise of mobile technology,” says online marketing consultant Laura Wallis. “What you wouldn’t do on a public street corner or in a conference room, don’t do on social.”

Wallis warns, “My Dad was in the Navy and he always said, “loose lips, sink ships” and this saying carries over to social media. You never know who is watching or listening or what their intentions are. Many of your competitors not only have community manager, but an entire team listening and watching for a way to leverage their competition’s mistakes.”

She also points out that it’s a good idea to secure a backup social media administrator, as more than one business has had their Facebook page dismantled or closed down by an angry employee.

It’s so important to put a professional in charge of social media. But assigning a responsible individual to social media duties isn’t enough: you’ll also have to set clear expectations and develop policies for appropriate communications. Spyglass Digital principal Katie Mayberry points out that a policy for dealing with conflict on social media is necessary. “One mistake brands make is not having a policy for dealing with conflict which leaves employees trying to wing it, and having inconsistent practices,” says Mayberry. “This is a problem because it leaves a window open for mistakes and will likely result in employees handling customer complaints poorly, and will ultimately negatively impact the brand’s online reputation.”

Experts also recommend developing individual personas for social media accounts. A dedicated persona can help customers put a face to your brand and offer a higher level of engagement.

“Personas allow customers to identify with a specific person, and make it easier for the consumer to engage with a consumer,” says Robert B. Payne HVAC marketing director Justin Kofron. “This is harder to do with just a nameless account, when you don’t know if anyone will even respond.”

Kofron offers Chipotle as a good example of using social media personas effectively: “They have a smaller social media team that allows for users to get to know each of the staff members,
plus each staff member signs their name after each interaction. This promotes one-tone user engagement, which helps build relationships with the customer and brand loyalty.”

Social Media Reputation Mistake #3: Failing to Effectively Engage with the Audience

Social media offers the opportunity to have a direct conversation with your audience, but so many brands miss out on the chance to do so. Instead of sharing community content and engaging in conversations, they broadcast impersonally, relying on automation and even turning social media into yet another sales channel. Experts say this is a major mistake.

“Social media is about having a conversation, and if you’re not responding to customers or followers, then you’re making it one-sided and tarnishing your brand as cold and removed,” says Capterra’s J.P. Medved.

“Not having authentic audience dialog is a big mistake because it shows there is no true and constructive social media dialog to elicit people to engage with your brand in a substantive manner,” says RYSE Marketing & Communications CEO & founder Erik Mason. “Most often this leads to anemic returns for your social media efforts.”

And a major mistake in social media engagement is using accounts to sell rather than building relationships and educating your customer base. “Yes, sales are the bottom-line,” says Colebeck. “But, bombarding your followers with content focused on selling your product will cause your followers to quickly hit the unfollow or unlike buttons.”

“The internet is only powerful for companies who can build trust,” explains Lean Labs inbound marketing artist Ryan Scott. “Talking all about yourself doesn’t build trust at all. It makes you sound like a one-sided brand concerned about one thing: the sales pitch.”

Scott recommends a four-stage approach that offers a higher ROI than spammy sales pitches: Listen first. Respond second, Educate third, and sell fourth. For example: Rather than spamming for a week about how we sell axes cheaper than our competitors I should listen first. Find someone who is discussing a problem our axes could solve. Respond to that person directly and give them content that educates them on the best ways to solve their problem. Then, offer your product as a solution to that problem.

And rather than focusing exclusively on promoting your brand, Colebeck suggests focusing on sharing content that educates and inspires your audience first and sells your product second.

“I encourage companies to humanize their brand, rather than just using social media to sell, sell, sell,” says Fish Window Cleaning Services public relations representative Jennifer Black. “Posting welcomes to new employees and fun employee news will help your audience see that there are real, live, breathing, people behind the logo and the brand.”

It’s also important to mix it up, promoting the content of others as well as your own. Instead of sharing all of your own content, Medved recommends a 3:1 ratio of sharing other people’s content to sharing your own. “Social media is about being social and having two-way conversations, and if you’re not working on relationships and being generous sharing other people’s content, they won’t do the same for you,” he says.

Colebeck suggests that brands develop a social sharing relationship with services or products that are complimentary to your brand. For example, a business that sells household goods can develop a relationship with a home improvement company. “By sharing their content and services with your audience, your audience will be educated and know which company to turn to for home improvement,” she says. “The home improvement company is then more likely to share your brand’s content and services and refer customers to you too. It’s a win-win relationship.”

And when customers choose to engage with your brand, take the opportunity seriously. Don’t offer a pre-planned response that’s likely to pan. Give them the real you and your undivided attention. “The Golden Rule of social media is authenticity – if it’s a canned response, customers are going to know that,” warns Royce Leather marketing director Billy Bauer. “Offering transparent, sincere responses will allow your customers to really get to know the brand.”

Also: quit with the auto-DMs already! “It’s clear these aren’t personalized, and they’re usually some spammy marketing message which makes you seem like a spammer who doesn’t care about individual followers,” says Medved.

Automation can also be dangerous during times of crisis or public tragedy: that upbeat post you planned a few weeks ago just doesn’t hit the right tone when the rest of the world is mourning. “When everybody else is writing, “R.I.P. Robin Williams” or “God Bless Katrina Survivors,” you can’t be the only social account announcing, “Summertime Sunshine Sale! 50% Off!”,” says Dennis Duty of Castleforge Media.

Frederick & Associates president Hunter Frederick relates, “I can’t tell you how many brands I see pitching their products, talking about themselves, etc. when there’s a crisis or news happening around them that could be portrayed as insensitive.”

And if there’s a crisis within your brand, says Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson, make sure your social media account appropriately reflects what’s going on.

“When a crisis hits in the media, brands always are rushing to get their story to the traditional media,” says Johnson. “Brands realize failing to respond rapidly means losing a news cycle and allowing others to set the narrative. Yet brands often overlook social media. A crisis may be raging in the media yet often brands fail to incorporate their responses on their social media pages. This means a brand may be apologizing and coping with a crisis in print and broadcast but on social media acting as if nothing is wrong and even doing promotions. This is a fatal mistake, as more and more consumers and reporters check out social media pages. They expect the social media pages to reflect the company’s public response to a crisis. Failing to do so will result in critical news stories and angry consumers.

Social Media Reputation Mistake #4: Not Knowing Your Audience

Of course, an important part of effectively engaging with your audience is knowing who they are and what they want. It’s essential to not only understand your audience, but have an idea of how you should tailor your content to appeal to them. Keep in mind that your social media audience may not be the same as those in traditional marketing or even in your overall customer demographics.

“If you don’t know who you’re talking to, how do you know what to say?,” asks Rockhouse Partners content marketing manager Emily Harris. “It’s easy to make assumptions about your fan base, but if you’re wrong, you’re risking alienating the people who should be buying your product.”

Harris shares an example of this mistake in action:

“At Rockhouse Partners, we had a client who was putting on a first-time country music and comedy festival. The client thought that the fan base would be guys who drive pickup trucks, wear boots, and drink cheap beer. They had us run social media ads and promotions that featured women in short shorts and cutoff shirts, and this campaign was not successful. We had a hunch that this wasn’t our target audience, but we needed to come to the client with proof, so we partnered with an analytics company to find out who their fans really were.

It turns out that their assumption of the fan base was way off. They thought it’d be young guys who live the country lifestyle, but in reality it was single, middle-aged women. We quickly tailored our content to our actual fans and saw significantly more success.”

Instead of guessing, Harris recommends learning more about your brand’s social media audience. “There are a lot of tools out there that can tell you about your fans, but even Facebook insights can help by showing you the gender and age breakdown of your fans,” she says. “That might not seem as important as things like affinity, but it’s a great start to help guide your content.”

It’s also essential to tailor your approach based on your audience. Anvil Media president and founder Kent Lewis worked with the RIAA to try and discourage college kids from illegally downloading music in 1998, and his experience is a lesson in understanding your audience:

“The big five record labels that make up RIAA hired us to connect with college students online and inform them of the evils of music piracy. Relatively recently out of school myself, I advised them not to take a Big Brother tone and instead, talk to them as respected peers. They ignored the advice and paid the price.

We developed a blog/website regarding music piracy and they hacked it. We engaged in chat rooms and they flamed us out. When RIAA unveiled 128 BIT RSA encryption for CDs, college students leveraged the Internet to break the encryption within weeks. Not until Steve Jobs and iTunes came around did the issue abate, and it had nothing to do with RIAA.”

Being sensitive to your audience is important whether you’re the RIAA or an online seller: Tom Lira, founder and CEO of has another story that illustrates how essential it is to understand how to speak to your audience:

During our growth stage a while back, we started getting a little aggressive with our marketing and social media. Due to the fact we were exploiting people’s crappy situations, it was already “taboo” to talk about people breaking up. At that time, we had a new social media assistant join the team and was eager to carry their weight. So, what they decided to do was search for @mentions and #hashtags for “breakup”, and reply to these people. Seemed like a good idea, considering that would be our market, the problem was, it was far from it.

Turns out when people hashtag or mention “breakup”, they are going through a break up at that exact time, the problem was in how our assistance media liaison handled it. His reply to “breakup” was, “It’s ok, time to move and sell their stuff!” received so much negativity it was incredible. It opened a whole can of backlash. People were calling us vultures, capitalists, and a slew of other words. They wanted to be mad at someone because of their breakup and they took it out on our name.

Of course, we had to go into damage control and cleared things up, but we definitely caused some ripples. We would rather build a reputation of “helping people move on”, vs trying to capitalize on their situation. Even though that’s what is happening, we have learned to be more gentle with the message.

Digital lifestyle expert David Ryan Polgar relates, “The biggest mistakes that brands make on social media are forgetting that their words can easily be taken out of context and trying to force something to go viral. The metabolism of the Internet is incredibly fast. That often prompts brands to put messages out before carefully considering the many ways the words and/or images could be construed. The Internet is perfect for quickly mixing words and pictures, often to the detriment of a brand that has now been stripped of context.

Gina Rau agrees that it’s easy to unintentionally offend your audience. “Sometimes this can be a snarky remark, other times this can be an image or message out of context that is offensive to a group of people,” she says. “As many brands have experienced, one small slip can impact your reputation and everyone knows that it’s much harder to regain trust once you’ve lost it.”

Rau recommends that brands avoid these mistakes by developing a review process for outgoing social posts. “Getting the content in front of different people, with different backgrounds and perspectives, avoids the embarrassing posts that tear down the reputation you’ve worked too hard to build,” she says.

Digital marketing and Latin America marketing specialist Karina Alvela encourages brands to consider bilingual solutions as well. “Almost 17% of the United States is Hispanic and 37.6 million people aged 5 years and older speak Spanish at home – yet most big brands don’t have responsive Spanish speaking solutions on their social media pages,” she says. “As someone who grew up in a Spanish speaking household, if my family couldn’t communicate in Spanish with a brand or service provider, they’d prefer to go elsewhere.”

Social Media Reputation Mistake #5: Responding Unprofessionally (or Not at All)

Perhaps the easiest way to ruin your brand’s reputation on social media is responding unprofessionally to customers. Getting defensive, deleting comments, and blocking users is a very bad idea. And it’s a great way to lose control of your social media outlet. It’s not always easy to take criticism, especially in a public forum, but it’s essential that you remain professional, even in the face of negative feedback.

“All brand interactions on social media should be honest, kind and transparent,” says Miller. “Anything more than this tends to get looked at under a microscope by customers, prospects and even bloggers looking for brand slip-ups. The rule of thumb is to always be the bigger person, whether you’re being called out by a competitor or a critic and only correct misinformation. If the issue deals with customer service, remember to remain cordial and kind. The best method here is to take the conversation offline and asking for an email address or phone number where you can resolve the issue amicably.”

Bittan agrees. “You can disagree, but be professional and don’t get into back and forth that leads nowhere,” she recommends. “Best to offer a polite and professional response and move the conversation to a private channel when possible.”

Or even better, says Bittan, give customers a private channel for complaints to begin with. That way, they may not feel like they have to take their complaints public on social media. “Tell them about it explicitly on your social media profile (e.g. Direct message us on Facebook if you have a complaint, we will respond),” she recommends.

Above all, remember that you’re the professional, you’re representing your brand, and you’re the one with something to lose (your reputation — and customers). That means sneaky tactics like covering up negative comments or outright deleting them is a major no-no.

Anfield shares that this terrible strategy often makes a bad situation even worse. “When crisis strikes, there are some brands who have a tendency to delete negative commentary,” he says. “This usually backfires because once people realize comments are being deleted, they’ll try even harder to repost what they’ve already said.”

Instead of taking negative feedback personally, Harris recommends that you consider it an opportunity to convert a disappointed fan into a brand advocate. “Most people who are critical on social media just want to be heard,” says Harris. “They legitimately had a negative experience and are disappointed. The best thing a brand can do is respond to them directly, apologize for their disappointing experience, and ask them to message you privately so you can come to a solution together.”

Harris favors this approach because other fans can see that you’re addressing their issues, and you’ll have the opportunity to privately resolve concerns. “If nothing can be done, a simple apology often works wonders, too,” she adds. “Remember, there are people behind those profiles, and it’s easy to forget that.”

Of course, not all feedback is productive, and some may feel downright abusive. Customers who don’t seem interested in a solution (only complaints) are frustrating, but remember: you’re representing a brand, and you must remain professional.

“You’ll know when the conversation has reached an impasse,” says Harris. “Our typical rule is to offer assistance to a fan two to three times. If the fan denies assistance, you can stop trying, and stop responding, but do not delete the post or ban the user. Trust us, if you responded publicly asking the fan to call, email, or the like, and they’re still complaining, any other fans who see that post won’t blame you—they’ll see you offered help multiple times, and people will respect that.”

Whatever you do, remember that it’s essential to respond to your customers. Ryan Ernst, director of communications with Connor Group cites this as the biggest mistake he sees on social media. “Even if the feedback is negative, an immediate response is warranted and brands should ALWAYS take the high road to see the customer’s point of view,” he says.

Brands should also maintain a professional tone. Trident University International content design specialist Daniel Sloan points out that often, social media users don’t take spelling and grammar seriously — but they should. “Even on Twitter, when one is restricted to 140 characters, it’s more effective to craft a tweet that uses proper grammar and spelling instead of one that resembles a 14-year old’s text message,” he says.

And another part of maintaining a professional tone is staying on message in your interactions. “Do not clutter your followers’ feeds with what you ate for lunch or your coffee habits,” says Mavens & Moguls founder and CEO Paige Arnof-Fenn. “Share relevant information and articles so people want to read your updates. These tools are a way to build your brand, so be authentic. If you are funny, then showing humor is great, just be professional, too. If you are angry, do not send out a message in haste: you will regret it, trust me.”

Social Media Reputation Mistake #6: Trying to Do it All (And Doing None of it Well)

With hundreds (thousands?) of social media sites available, it’s tempting for brands to want to cover them all, but this is a mistake. Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none. You’ll find that trying to connect on every major social site out there will spread your resources and attention too thin, and make it difficult to genuinely connect with your fans. Instead, choose just a few that you know you can keep up with.

“Marketers are easily excitable,” says MGH social media marketing director Ryan Goff. “We hear about the next greatest thing – Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine – and we decide that we have to get there before anyone else. While that may work for brands like Coca-Cola and Gatorade, most small to mid-size businesses don’t have the luxury of an entire social media team to manage these channels. When a team with limited resources attempts to take on too many channels, you end up with mediocrity across all channels.

Even worse, says Karen Yankovich, is rushing to link social media accounts on a business website, as buttons that lead to dead or inactive accounts do not reflect positively on a brand’s reputation.

“It’s much more professional to have one or two buttons that go to active, vibrant pages than six buttons that point to pages that have only a few followers with no activity,” says Yankovich. “This gives a newbie vibe to your potential client. You certainly aren’t positioning yourself or your business as expert if you are promoting social media sites that haven’t been accessed in months.”

To prevent overextension, Goff recommends that brands focus on building a few core communities, and then working hard to knock them out of the park. And be honest with yourself about the workload you can handle, he says. Social media marketing takes a ton of time, so brands and marketing professionals should stick to what’s reasonable.

Colebeck advises that brands determine which platforms their audience is most active on, and focus on those. “For example, if a brand’s audience is very active on Facebook and Twitter, but not as active on Google + and Pinterest, then we encourage that brand to focus their efforts on Facebook and Twitter instead of trying to do it all,” she says.

Then there’s the mistake of sharing the wrong message for the social media platform you’re using. doitwiser‘s Juan Velasquez explains: “You’re speaking the wrong language. You wouldn’t speak Spanish in Lituania and you shouldn’t post essays on Instagram. The best social content is native to each platform, meaning the content speaks the right language in the right place. The goal should be to seamlessly blend your message into each platform’s unique style.

That means a post that might be appropriate on Twitter doesn’t translate well to Pinterest, or vice versa. For this reason, Miller advises against crossposting, the practice of automatically posting messages to multiple social media platforms at once.

“Posting your tweets to Facebook isn’t amplifying anything,” says Miller. “It’s annoying people. People who engage primarily on Facebook might not be familiar with hashtags. The likelihood is that when you post your tweets to Facebook, your fans or friends are seeing these and question marks are floating above their heads. Don’t devalue your community with the same content on each network. Customize content to your audiences for the best effect. Cross-posting can be done, but in moderation and with care.”

Ophis founder and CEO Ben Guez breaks what works on some of the world’s most popular social media platforms:

  • Facebook: The biggest opportunity. One good article can make you get thousands of traffic hits into your website. Tips: Make contests, tag people, and get people to share your content.
  • Twitter: Go straight to the point. With twitter you need to go to the essentials. It is the best way to really connect with your customers. Tips: Engage in conversations, ask questions, BE HUMAN.
  • LinkedIn: A company with a LinkedIn profile looks more legit and professional. Building a LinkedIn profile for your business will make others in the industry more confident to deal with you.
  • Instagram: Don’t sell a product, sell a lifestyle. It’s not about text. On Instagram, it’s all about visuals: picture and video. Show your customer a dream.
  • Pinterest: All about inspiration, and a very good way to drive traffic into your website. Share dreams and ideas that users hope to attain.

Social Media Reputation Mistake #7: Chasing Trends

Every message your brand puts out on social media should be authentic. That’s why it’s important to stay true to your company’s voice, and avoid chasing trends that may or may not fit with your brand’s personality.

“Some marketers think that just because they’re on an Internet platform, they need to appeal to ‘Internet humor,’ – constantly creating forced memes, trying to make everything viral, etc,” says Ian D.G. Sandusky. “Some companies are suited to this, others are not. Some companies benefit from being earnest and educational. Some companies benefit from a juvenile image, others need to be absolutely serious.”

Brandon Seymour also cautions against commenting on polarizing topics to drive up engagement. “As a marketer, I understand the temptation to latch on to trending topics and stories to gain more news-feed real estate, but it’s important to be mindful of how your input might negatively impact your brand,” he says. “If the topic is relevant to your brand specifically or your industry, then go for it. But if you sell auto insurance and you’re commenting on gun control, then you might want to save that for your personal accounts.”

And don’t fall into the trap of cause marketing. Branding expert Rob Frankel insists this type of marketing is a huge hoax that doesn’t serve brands well at all. “At the very least, the cause distracts from the brand’s message; at the most, the hipsters get the brand involved in political issues that serve to alienate more people than they’d ever attract,” he says.

Of course, brands should never, ever make the mistake of using world news to gain exposure, adds Bring Digital outreach manager Suzanne Yates. She insists that doing so will never promote a company in the best light and encourages brands to carefully consider (and reconsider) any attempts to exploit current affairs for corporate advantage.

Social Media Reputation Mistake #8: Not Developing a Social Media Policy

Your employees are online, and there’s a good chance they’re on social media. They may tell people that they work for your company — they might even represent your brand online. Have you given them any guidance on what’s acceptable online or not? If you haven’t, you’re in very dangerous territory.

“If a company fails to define guidelines, best practices, and proper usage of social media by their employees, they may be asking for trouble,” warns OPUBCO content marketing specialist Dan Holmes. “Embarrassing mistakes that might damage your brand can be avoided by putting together a social media policy that heads off any trouble, and not just for your staff that will use social media as part of their jobs.”

“One client failed to have a social media policy of any sort and learned (via an alert social media agency that handled brand reputation for them) that an employee was complaining about his job via Twitter while using profanity and the full name of the company. The damage to the brand could have been serious if the messages weren’t caught and removed, the employee consulted about his behavior, and a policy put in place for moving forward. Any policy that a company adopts should be vetted by senior management and the legal department and all employees should be asked to sign it as a condition of employment.”

Creating a social media policy may feel restrictive, but it’s essential to protect your reputation — as well as your company’s relationship with employees. Without guidelines or policies in place, employees don’t have clear expectations of what’s allowed and what’s not. That can leave things open to abuse and embarrassment — and also create gray areas when it comes to discipline for behaviors that may be considered out of line.

A good social media policy should outline what’s considered confidential, and explain what consequences are, if any, if employees are out of line on social media. It should also educate employees on what’s appropriate and reflect the company’s culture.

How Brands Can More Effectively Develop a Good Reputation on Social Media

It’s clear what brands shouldn’t do, but what ideas should they implement to develop a more positive reputation on social media? Our experts offer the following recommendations:

  • Use social media: Don’t ignore the power of social media. Set up accounts, use them regularly, and engage with your followers online.
  • Trust a professional with social media duties: As a major brand representative, the person who handles your social media accounts should be a dedicated, responsible individual — not just someone around the office who needed a new task to do.
  • Engage with your audience: Don’t simply broadcast your brand’s news. Respond, have conversations, and interact with those who want to interact with you.
  • Understand your audience: Consider who your audience is and how you should tailor your social media conversations to attract and interact with them. Avoid making assumptions, and be sensitive about how they might receive your messages.
  • Be professional, always: Getting defensive or deleting comments is a great way to alienate your audience and breed distrust. Instead of shutting down negative conversations, show that you care by welcoming them and encourage your audience to share directly with you so that you can address their needs effectively.
  • Choose your accounts wisely: Avoid trying to take on every new social media outlet available. Pick the ones that fit your brand and audience, and use them effectively. Tailor your message to each social media platform to really engage effectively./li>
  • Make your own trends: Trend chasing isn’t a smart move for many brands. Instead of following the crowd, think about how you can share messages that make your brand more authentic.
  • Develop a social media policy: Like it or not, your employees are on social media. Set clear expectations for what’s appropriate and what’s not to protect both your brand and your employees.