It wasn’t the best of tweets. It wasn’t the worst of tweets.

Just another tweet among hundreds, if not thousands. Routine. La, di, da.

The people handling the Twitter accounts of online clothing seller Celeb Boutique and American Rifleman, a publication of the National Rifle Association, probably didn’t think there was anything controversial when they tweeted the following:

La di da quickly turned into a firestorm of criticism. Each organization was lambasted as being insensitive — and worse. The reason: The tweets were posted Friday morning in the hours following the deadly movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colo., that horrified the nation.

Here’s a representative example of the reaction:

Celeb Boutique found itself in damage control mode, apologizing profusely and attempting to explain itself. The American Rifleman’s Twitter account was deleted, and an NRA spokesman reportedly said that a person who was unaware of the shootings composed the tweet. What Celeb Boutique had to say is more revealing:

In these days of instant information, however, few are willing to accept ignorance as an excuse.

The point of all this isn’t to criticize Celeb Boutique or the American Rifleman. One can even feel bad for them (provided, of course, that their explanations are true), for they had the most unfortunate timing.

Rather, the point is these examples are a powerful demonstration of how tweets gone awry can negatively affect companies and organizations. While one person may be responsible, the entire company or organization will be tarred.

On the other hand, successful tweeting has tremendous value as a marketing tool. The key is to use practices that will help you reap the rewards while avoiding the potential pitfalls. Following the tips below will help:

     1. Don’t piggyback on inappropriate topics. Taking advantage of trending topics is a key concept in social media marketing, but it’s vital to know why a topic is trending. Celeb Boutique learned this the hard way. Knowing why a topic is hot also allows marketers to send more effective messages to targets.  This also points to the limitations, and danger, of single-word trending data and tag clouds — the kind of data that most social listening software provides. Marketers need more context. See tip No. 2 below.

     2. Use tools and software that are helpful with social media management - but don't rely to heavily on automation. Use tools that help find trending topics, and also provide analysis of them, so you know they are appropriate to piggyback on. This is one of the benefits of social "conversation" analysis software, like SocialEars, which goes beyond just analyzing the social update (e.g. tweet) to also analyzing the blogs and news stories associated with the update. This gives marketing and PR departments deeper insights and some context into the topics being discussed on social networks. And if you use social automation tools (e.g., scheduled Tweets, auto re-tweets, etc.) be careful not to get burned

     3. Use good social media marketing practices. It may be one employee or a PR firm that is responsible for a company’s Twitter account, but to followers, the tweets represent the entire company. Thus, it’s important to be respectful, accurate and trustworthy, and to use reasonably good grammar.  And most importantly, if you do outsource the day-to-day management of your Twitter and other social accounts (something we do NOT recommend), be very careful who you choose. This is serious stuff.

     4. Lastly, remember what famous financier Warren Buffett once said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you will do things differently.”

These are words to live by — or perhaps more aptly put, words to tweet by.

Further Reading: Or, should we say must-reading.  Check out Scott Stratten’s web site for more ideas. Scott is the President of Un-Marketing. He is an expert in Viral, Social, and Authentic Marketing which he calls Un-Marketing and his web site contains a ton of great information. We do not know Scott but we read his blog and you should as well.

Post written by HRmarketer / SocialEars staff member Eric Anderson.

Labels: , , , ,