Social Media Abuse | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Social Media Abuse

Posted: October 12, 2012 - 9:19pm

As Election Day draws near, I feel the need to speak out about something that is evident not just in the political field but also an easy habit to get into when using social media for business.

In all of social media the common denominator is that you are networking; building relationships through a series of contacts that you can leverage to promote your business, cause or opinion. The strength of social media allows you to connect yourself with people you may not meet in real life, experts who can add credibility to your posts or simply provide an audience that can elevate your opinions amongst your peers. And that’s where an easily overlooked problem can fester.

If you have followed politics in any way shape or form, you may be quick to point out that many media outlets, while claiming to be unbiased, definitely feel like they do have an opinion on most matters. For better or for worse, it will always be the responsibility of the end user (you) to do some fact checking on your own to make sure that everything is on the up and up. The poster, politician or business posting the information must also be sure to check their facts before posting lest they be labeled as posting inaccurate information ... or worse. We have all seen the result of social media gone awry, celebrities being blasted for sticking their foot in their mouth, politicians who “misquote” statements and athletes who are busted by sharing party pictures.

As business owners and partners, we must be careful that we are aware of what information we are presenting and any ramifications it may have. This can be especially true for business owners who do not separate their personal social media accounts from their business accounts. If there was ever a time that you considered creating separate accounts, don’t wait any longer.

If you are the sole proprietor of the business, or you have a relatively small staff, you may find it fairly easy to get together and discuss the cause and effect of social media mishaps and preemptively block poor judgment in posts. However, if you have more than a couple employees, or your business is fast paced and you can’t get everyone together, I would strongly recommend adopting a social media policy. Establishing some guidelines for your business will help prevent some of the risk of rogue posting, and let employees know what is acceptable use of social media within your business.

So what happens if something goes terribly wrong? Sometimes, things just happen. This past week there was a story about an employee, thinking they were posting to their own account, tweeted a message about the partying they were going to do and how ridiculously inebriated they would be and all the dumb things they were planning on doing. Of course, I have edited my rendition of their post but you can imagine the havoc that caused. By the time they realized they had made an error, the twittersphere was abuzz with negative feedback and when the Internet raises its hackles it can be merciless.

If, by some unfortunate instance, you find yourself up this same creek, there are some basic things that have worked for others in redeeming themselves and getting them on the road to recovery.

Be honest and take responsibility for the post. Unless you were genuinely hacked you need to admit your fault. Denying that any post was made is often a moot point because a reader can take a screenshot and immortalize that terrible moment for all eternity.

Rectify, or clarify, what you meant. If you were misunderstood, chose a poor choice of words or maybe auto-correct got the better of you let your audience know as soon as possible. Setting the record straight is a no brainer way to get back on track.

Don’t dwell on it. Sometimes the worst thing you can do is keep hamstringing yourself by revisiting the issue, especially if you were in the wrong or were inconsiderate.

Social media, networking and business are a natural fit, they can compliment your business plan and help you reach out within your field of expertise and bridge a gap with your customers. But you must be aware of any potential risks you may run, a little planning goes a long way!

PHIL SEIBEL, Digital Manager, may be reached at 855-5862 or phil.seibel@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pseibel(@pseibel).