Business owners often receive tips and ideas on how to do social media right (sometimes even from us!), but rarely do they get advised on what NOT to do. Social media may seem more informal than traditional media but it doesn't mean you can do whatever you like. Social media platforms act as vital mirrors into an organisation like yours, so it's important to be on your best behaviour.
If you're in Melbourne, no doubt you would have heard about the eyebrow-raising #YourTaxis social media campaign conducted by the Victorian Taxi Association. Social media was used as a tool to reshape the way in which Victorians thought about taxis, starting with a Twitter campaign where users were encouraged to recount their experiences using cabs, good or bad.
Now, we all know that social media is a useful tool to get instant feedback and increase customer engagement; VTA was trying to do both. What they weren't expecting, however, was the massive flood of negative stories that ripped through their Twitter feed second after second. We read stories of drivers refusing to pick up passengers, stories of drivers acting inappropriately with female passengers and drivers who had no idea where they were going. It was very much a PR disaster for them - after hearing these stories, who WOULD want to take a cab?
How VTA handled things, however, was a lot worst. From the #YourTaxis situation, there are three things you must avoid when you're managing your business' social media account(s):
1. Admit your mistakes. From time to time, we get things wrong. It's all part of being human. At the time of writing, VTA still denies their social media campaign has been an 'epic fail' when clearly it has. When things like this happen, apologise. Admit you're wrong. The transparent nature of social media also means that everyone can see what you do - if you deny the obvious, you risk looking even more stupid.
2. Never get sarcastic with the customer. Sarcastic humour may work when you're Larry David doing a stand-up in New York but not with your customers, many of whom will take offense. It makes you look nasty and uncaring, NOT an image you want to project to the outside world. Keep sarcasm to your personal social media accounts.
Don't be sarcastic.
3. Don't cut and paste generic responses. Templates are useful tools no matter what industry you're in but if you're manning a social media account and you're copying and pasting the exact same response to a whole bunch of people, it makes you look insincere. Case in point: a cascading sea of 'sorry to hear about your experience [Twitter user name]. We are working hard to try to improve the service' tweets, one after the after for all to see doesn't convince me that you're a company who really cares about their customers.
It'll be interesting to see how VTA will bounce back after this. Watch this space.