How Not to Alienate People on Social Media

A well-planned, well-executed social media marketing campaign can work wonders for your brand, helping to boost brand visibility, facilitate meaningful engagement between your brand and your customers, and drive up sales. But social media blunders can have a catastrophic effect, and just one mishap can alienate large chunks of your followers and put a dent in your reputation, which translates to lower sales that hurt your bottom line. So, what can you do to ensure that you avoid costly blunders and do not alienate anyone on social media? Be sure to keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind.

DO Use Hashtags Wisely

One mishap with hashtags on social media can easily alienate a large chunk of your following. Consider the now infamous DiGiorno Pizza Twitter incident. The brand made use of the ubiquitous #WhyIStayed hashtag, which was created by survivors of domestic violence to shed light into why women often stay in abusive relationships. DiGiorno's social media manager came up with a fairly novel (and careless) use for the tag, tweeting: “#WhyIStayed You had pizza." Needless to say, Twitter wasn’t having it, and the brand alienated a good chunk of its followers.

The moral of the story is simple: before you use a hashtag – especially a hashtag that is trending – make sure you fully understand the context so you don’t inadvertently post something tactless. Misusing hashtags can offend and alienate your followers and ultimately cost you business. 

DON’T Try to Make Everyone Happy

“Social media algorithms want to give us content it knows we like—and that usually means content we already agree with,” Jayson DeMers explained in Forbes. “However, users also create their own echo chambers by following friends, brands, and other sources they align themselves with and deliberately unfriending, blocking, or avoiding sources that contradict them. This makes it hard to bridge the gap between your brand and users who aren’t immediately aligned with you and even harder to remain neutral.”

Given these dynamics, pleasing everyone on social media simply isn’t possible. Instead, focus on engaging your target audience

DON’T Expect Everyone to Laugh at Your Jokes

Some brands think they can joke their way to higher sales on social media, but the reality is that humor is hard to get right. And when it goes wrong, it can be a catastrophe. One joke in bad taste can alienate your followers and cost you business.

“Humor is such a hard target to hit. IHOP, for instance, thought it was being hysterical with the pancake photo tweet ‘flat but has a GREAT personality’ (never mind the one about ‘butterface’), but women everywhere had a very different reaction,” Minda Zetlin explained in Inc. “But even if you get it just right, the truth is that making people laugh won't get them to open their wallets. Even though 72 percent of respondents said they liked it when brands were funny on social media, only 36 percent of survey respondents said they would be likelier to buy from such brands.”

Feel free to use a bit of humor here and there in your social media campaigns, but keep your jokes fairly vanilla. If you pull out anything too edgy, it could be interpreted as bad taste. And of course, never make sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive jokes on social media unless you want your business to totally tank.

DO Respond to Customer Service Queries

An increasing number of customers report using social media to get in touch with brands to seek out answers to customer service inquiries, and they expect answers. A full 83 percent of customers report that brands who respond quickly to queries on social media are “cool,” and roughly half of customers reported being much more likely to purchase from a brand that is swift to respond. While quick response times can have a positive effect, lengthy response times can alienate people. If a customer senses you are ignoring them on social media, it could adversely affect their perception of your brand.

DON’T Exclusively Focus on Self-Promotion

Take a minute to scroll through your brand’s Facebook feed. What kind of posts do you see? What proportion of the posts is compelling or informative and what proportion is purely self-promotion, focusing largely on selling products or services? If a high proportion of your posts fall into the latter category, chances are you’re putting people off. People log into social media to be informed, entertained and humored – not to see an endless string of advertisements. If all you are doing is trying to sell sell sell, then you need to reevaluate your strategy. Make sure you are offering content that is valuable, engaging, and relevant to your target audience.

DON’T Try to Be Snarky

For some brands, leveraging a snarky attitude can seem witty and cool, but this can easily backfire on social media, particularly if the brunt of the joke is another customer or competitor. The number one most annoying social media behavior from brands on social media? Making fun of customers. According to recent research published in Inc, a full 88 percent of customers report that it annoys them when brands mock their customers on social media. Just over two-thirds of customers reported being annoyed by brands mocking their competitors. The bottom line? Being snarky on social media isn’t going to win you any points, and it likely to backfire and alienate people. 

DO Avoid Politics

It’s tempting to post opinions about politics, particularly in today’s political climate. But it won’t be good for your brand. A majority of customers report that they find it annoying when brands talk about politics on social media. If you want to ensure you don’t alienate any of your followers, avoid politics like the plague. 

DON’T Delete Negative Comments

There is quite a lot of debate in the world of social media about how negative comments should be handled, and there really aren’t any clear-cut answers. “Negative comments and feedback are going to happen, and how you respond to them says a lot about your brand. Some business owners are of the opinion that simply deleting negative comments is the way to go; getting rid of them instead of facing them head on,” John Rampton insisted in Forbes. But generally speaking, deleting comments isn’t going to do your brand any favors in the long run. There is an increasing push for honesty and transparency in terms of how brands handle these things, and customers appreciate it when brands address issues head on instead of ignoring them.

In conclusion, when it comes to social media, you can’t just hit “share” and hope for the best. You need to put the time and effort into developing a comprehensive social media strategy that incorporates a best practice lists of do’s and don’ts. An ad-hoc strategy or just winging it is a recipe for disaster and will ultimately lead to costly blunders. And of course, always make sure all of your social media staff are trained in what is and isn’t appropriate and how all social media interactions with customers should be handled. The more time you put into this now, the lesser the risk of making an alienating mistake. To learn more business social media tactics contact 10twelve.