What Not to Post on Social Media

Jenny Force Jenny Force, VP of Marketing

When planning your social media strategies, it’s not only crucial to know what to post but what not to post. We’ve all seen high-profile controversies about large brands that allowed an inappropriate tweet or Facebook post to tarnish their reputation. This is a problem that can affect anyone whether you’re a solo entrepreneur, small business or large corporation. There are certain guidelines you should keep in mind when considering whether or not to post something on social media.

Detailed Personal Information

It’s fine to mention certain non-business related items on your social media pages. It’s a way for small businesses to keep the personal touch and let their customers know that they are real people. What you should avoid is posting detailed information about your family, personal plans or physical location. This can be a security risk. Too much personal information also dilutes the main purpose of your account, which is to promote your business. The easiest way to avoid this mistake is to have separate personal and business accounts. The same should be true for your employees.

Anything Potentially Offensive or in Poor Taste

This can be problematic, as people obviously have different standards That’s why you should avoid posting anything that people are likely to find offensive. Some of the obvious things to avoid are profanity, discussions of religion or politics or anything that attacks or ridicules groups of people. You have to be especially careful with humor. What might seem like a harmless joke to one person might be considered offensive to someone else. iHop made this kind of mistake last year when they posted what they thought was a humorous tweet on their Twitter account. There was a big backlash and the company had to apologize. Use your best judgement, but it’s best to be cautious and avoid posting anything that might be considered offensive.

Negatively Aimed at Competitors

If you are in a competitive industry, which includes just about anyone in business, you may have occasion to compare yourself to a competitor. It’s fine to do this as long as you stay ethical and honest. What you should avoid is posting anything that is petty, personal or factually inaccurate in order to score points against the competition. This can backfire and make you look unethical. It will also provoke your competitors to respond in kind. In extreme cases, it can even cause legal problems. Make sure you verify anything you write about a competitor before posting it.

Arguments With Fans or Followers

This is one of the trickiest areas for businesses to navigate. Your natural impulse is probably to defend yourself when attacked by followers on your page. It’s important, however, to think before you act. First of all, you have to learn to separate legitimate criticism from trolling. You should monitor your pages regularly and eliminate spam and troll posts. The latter refers to attacks that are slanderous or personal and have no basis in reality. Don’t bother to respond to these; simply delete the comments and ban the user. Trolls like nothing better than to get attention and any online arguments that turn nasty can only harm your business.

On the other hand, if someone makes a specific claim about your product or service, you should address this in a polite and reasonable manner. If it’s an issue based on a purchase, you should reach out to the person privately and attempt to resolve the issue, perhaps with a credit, refund or whatever is appropriate. One of the best examples of what not to do when you have trolls or disgruntled customers is Amy’s Baking Company. After a controversial episode on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, the business was inundated with negative social media posts. Rather than ignore them, the owners responded with insults and profanity. While most business owners are not likely to respond in the unhinged manner of Amy’s, the lesson is that you have to be very careful when responding to negative comments. It’s also crucial to have accurate social media reporting so that you are aware of what people are saying about you at all times.

Not Checking Your Facts

While this applies more to news sites than marketers, it’s still crucial to make sure you are accurate about everything you post on your social media pages. This is particularly true when posting something that sounds outrageous, hard to believe or too good to be true. An example of what can happen when you don’t verify information occurred in 2015 when a BBC journalist posted a tweet about the Queen’s death. This turned out to be false and based on a prank. Pranks and rumors are everywhere online, so it’s important to verify everything.

Attempting to Pressure Your Customers

There can be a fine line between legitimately requesting likes or reviews from your customers and attempting to pressure them in a way that’s unethical or that violates the TOS of social sites. Before you run a contest on Facebook, you should make sure you’re familiar with their rules regarding contests. You cannot, for example, create a contest where people can enter by uploading a photo or liking a wall post. Each site has its own TOS, and you don’t want to risk getting your page banned by violating these rules.

It’s fine to request that your customers review your business or product. Do not, however, specifically request a positive review. Even worse, never threaten customers with negative consequences if they post a negative review. This was actually done by a New York hotel that attempted to fine guests who posted bad reviews on Yelp.

Devising Your Social Media Strategy

These precautions should not make you reluctant to participate in social media. In most cases, it only takes some common sense and a little restraint to avoid making the type of social media gaffes discussed above. Remember that, as a business, you should focus on conveying a professional image at all times. When in doubt, it’s usually better not to post something.

Image credit: David Goehring