How Not to Interact with Your Audience on Social Media

By: David Tile| Founer @
Posted On: July 29, 2015

In today’s world, the power of those who buy social media content is undeniable. Unfortunately, the allure of this reach and impact has led plenty of brands to make some pretty boneheaded moves regarding their social media content. Regardless of the reason or intentions behind these faux pas, it’s virtually impossible to scrub the traces of these mistakes from the web. To ensure that you never join this inglorious company, let’s spend some time looking at a few examples that show exactly how you shouldn’t interact with your audience on social media.

Failing to Take Note of Socially Sensitive Conversations

From the above screen cap, it’s easy to see that the team in-charge of DiGiorno Pizza’s social media content had no clue what they were walking into when they chose to join the conversation surrounding the #WhyIStayed hashtag. As Adweek’s David Griner explains, this Twitter misstep is a classic case of a popular brand not taking the time needed to do a little research before posting.

“Jumping onto the popular hashtag, DiGiorno clearly didn’t look into its context before tweeting…” – David Griner, Adweek

The #WhyIStayed hashtag conversation was designed as a way to promote understanding and awareness of the trials and tribulations faced by those who are the victims of domestic abuse – specifically in the wake of the violent encounter caught on video involving former NFL star running back Ray Rice and his then fiancée.

While this leading brand almost immediately deleted the tweet, it wasn’t able to gloss over the inexcusable lack of understanding regarding this delicate issue and related conversation. If you don’t want your brand to fall into the same trap, make sure you spend a few minutes – or more – thoroughly examining potential discussions and communities before diving in headfirst with a potentially inappropriate addition to the discussion.

Inappropriately Dealing with Those Who Don’t Agree with Your Message

Outside of stumbling into an unexpected fail via insufficient research and planning, Rebecca Borison of Inc. magazine points out that there’s also plenty of other ways to have your brand fall flat on its face. In the case of the Union Street Guest House hotel in New York City, this slip up came in the form of threatening those who don’t always see eye to eye with the company.

Specifically, Borison explains that this hotel and hosting venue had a strict policy regarding negative social posts related to the facility. For those who crossed the line with bad reviews or less than glowing recommendations – most notably in the case of wedding parties – the Union Street Guest House had no problem tacking on a 500 dollar fine to the bill.

When the news surrounding this social control tactic went viral, the hotel opted to forgo honesty and instead claimed that the tactic was simply an inside joke. Unfortunately for this brand, the paper-thin claims of attempted comedy did little to shield the hotel from a deluge of negative social interaction and discussion.

If you’re facing down some negative feedback on these networks, that’s okay. Not everyone is going to fall in line with your message or social media content. To help smooth over the situation and rectify the issue without tossing around feedback fines, Darnelle O’Brien of Business 2 Community offers up a few keys to a proper response:

  • Stay Cool – Getting flustered and acting rashly on behalf of your brand is a quick way to end up on the wrong side of your audience.
  • Contact the Hosting Site – If you don’t think the negative response is warranted, don’t hesitate to reach out to the hosting site (Facebook, Yelp, etc.) and see if there is any recourse you can take against a factually unsound post.
  • Research What Went Wrong – Whether you go this route or accept that your brand came up short in some way, research the incident and determine where things went awry.
  • Learn from the Incident and Move on – Once you’ve completed your research, take a moment to pick out any lessons garnered from this event. With this experience in hand, you can safely leave the incident in your rearview mirror and enhance your social media content and interaction going forward.

Going Live in the Face of Controversy

If your brand or organization is already mired in an unrelated controversy – even on a small scale – leaving behind scheduled social media content posts and going live with Twitter hashtag conversations and other real time events is an easy way to end up with digital egg on your face. Yes, having a flowing conversation with your audience is a great thing most of the time, but there are occasions when a little discretion goes a long way.

For examples of this miscalculated move, look no farther than the Florida State University (FSU) public relations team’s handling of the planned #AskJameis hashtag conversation and Bill Cosby’s request to be turned into a “meme” by his Twitter following.  Starting off with the #AskJameis debacle, Sean Newell of Deadspin points out that expecting the sometimes fervent college football fans on this network to look past the allegations surrounding then starting quarterback Jameis Winston of rape and theft of crab legs from a local store was wishful thinking at best.

“Not many folks asking about #Noles football. Probably should have seen that one coming.” – Sean Newell, Deadspin    

Similarly, the New York Daily News’ Meg Wagner notes that whomever was in charge of handling Bill Cosby’s social presence should have known that followers would quickly turn the discussion toward the mounting accusations of sexual misconduct surrounding the former television star and comedian. Simply put, asking for attention and social interaction in the face of other controversies – even on a smaller and far less serious scale than the examples provided here – is rarely a good plan of action in comparison to laying low and sorting these issues out in due time.

Having Spectacularly Poor Timing

For the final lesson on how not to interact with your audience on social media, let’s turn your attention to the repeated use of poor timing by the National Rifle Association (NRA.) As Michael Schlossberg of the Political Fails blog notes, the NRA has a history of posting questionable content at all the wrong times.

From asking “shooters” about their plans for the weekend in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre, to offering up a list of fun activities for children at the gun range immediately after a nine year old girl accidently killed a gun instructor with a sub-machine gun, these two tweets from the NRA are the perfect examples of pressing send or scheduling a tweet without giving timing its proper concern.

Thankfully, by spending the time to learn the lessons offered up by these social media fails, your brand won’t be doomed to walk in the footsteps of those who have already made some major digital blunders. Instead, you can let your social media content grow and prosper while others apologize for avoidable situations and unnecessary controversies.