How to Destroy Your Brand with a Single Tweet

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Think social media is something you can easily handle in-house? Many freshly minted business owners do, especially if their operation is small to medium-sized. How hard could it be, really? You set up accounts on the major platforms, task someone in the office with occasionally posting, and you're off to the races.

Like so many other aspects of building a great business, the devil is in the details. For social media, those details can make – or completely break – your brand. Done right, social media can serve as the high octane fuel driving your inbound marketing engine. Done poorly, it can bring that inbound engine to a grinding halt, never to recover.

Business owners are not alone in the unforced errors that poorly handled social media can generate. From politicians to A-list celebrities, the list of social media debacles grows longer every day. Fortunately, business owners can learn vicariously through the social media-based mistakes of short-sighted entertainers and other popular contemporary figures.

Heeding Griffin's cautionary tale

Exhibit A: Kathy Griffin. In a single tweet, comedienne, author and actress Kathy Griffin dealt what will likely prove to be a death blow to her career. In a short video, Griffin posed ISIS-beheading style with a bloodied likeness of President Trump's head.

Reaction was fast and furious. Pundits from both sides of the political aisle weighed in, and they spared no words in their vitriolic responses. In a videotaped mea culpa, Ms. Griffin offered an apology. Though many believe the apology was an appropriate move, and even that it may well be heartfelt, whether public forgiveness will follow remains to be seen.

If CNN's response is any indicator, forgiveness from her fans may be slow to materialize. In a tweet from CNN's communications department, the company attempted to assuage viewers' outrage, agreeing that Griffin's actions were unacceptable. Specifically, they indicated that she would no longer be hosting their New Year's Eve special.

As if the damage to her brand was not enough, Ms. Griffin's ill-thought-out post also had substantial legal fallout. In addition, her video earned her a visit from the Secret Service. In the time it took to snap a picture and post a tweet, Griffin engineered her own undoing.

Pursuing strategic agility

For Ms. Griffin, the damage is done – and the damage is substantial. There is a glimmer of hope in this unfortunate situation, though. That hope is that other brands and businesses might vicariously learn from Griffin's mistakes, thereby saving their brands from suffering a similar fate. What is the lesson in this for brands, businesses and others who regularly use social media for communications and/or promotions? To quote fictional "business person" Walter White from "Breaking Bad," "tread lightly."

It is undeniably valuable for brands to be part of the social conversation on current issues. The manner in which businesses leverage this opportunity, however, is vital. It is pointless and self-defeating to be fast if the end result is a post so poorly thought-out that it casts your brand in a poor light.

Savvy social media professionals walk a thin tightrope. Though they must be careful, metered and strategic, they must also be agile enough to detect and capitalize on trending material with a short half-life. Falling off either side can cause considerable damage to a brand or business.

Avoiding the risks of using in-house talent

Given the importance of being nimble in this area, it is tempting to simply assign an existing staff member to manage your social media. Most people understand the basics of establishing an account and posting to it. You may even have a specific employee in mind – perhaps one who enjoys personally interacting on social media platforms and who is eager to perform a similar function on behalf of your business.

In addition, you may believe that hiring a social media professional or an outside firm to handle your business's social media erects a needless barrier between you and your customer. Perhaps you are hesitant to hire a consultant because you are concerned that they cannot portray your business and your brand as personally and with as much agility as that in-house (but untrained) employee you had in mind.

Leveraging the know-how of social media professionals

Unfortunately, that deceptively logical reasoning could be one of the biggest mistakes you can make. A single, thoughtless tweet can bring a business to its knees. Whether a knee-jerk response to a controversial issue or an offensive post made after tipping back a few during happy hour, mistakes made on social media can have devastating consequences.

For good or ill, the internet never forgets. Not even when you delete the content, as Ms. Griffin discovered. If your well-intended employee accidentally posts material that angers prospects at the top of your sales funnel, the end result can be lost revenue. Such friction can create holes and leaks in your sales funnel that you simply cannot afford.

In many cases, the smartest move you can make is to leave your social media marketing and management to the professionals. At Example Social Media Managers, we'll always have your back. Contact us to discover how we can ensure that you are using social media to your business' greatest advantage.

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