Social media has changed how the world experiences news events. Increasingly, people are becoming involved in happenings through social media – whether that is tweeting their opinions on X Factor as it happens or uploading pictures of the Olympics to Instagram.
We may be living in a social media age with a large proportion of the public very comfortable with conversing on such platforms, but even big brands continue to get it wrong on social media. The latest case in point is Gap, which posted this unfortunate tweet earlier today:
Reactions to the tweet included “shameless”, “good taste?”, “not appropriate” and “social media shocker”. What exacerbated the situation is that as I am writing this, the tweet is still live on Gap’s profile – eight hours after it was posted.
So what can content marketers learn from this gaffe?
1. Be careful who you put in charge of social media
Brands need to ensure that the team in charge of posting updates on social media are perfectly in tune with their organisation’s values. In the early days of social media, many companies were more than happy to leave the tweeting up to interns or tech-savvy junior members of the team. However, as time has gone on it has become clear that what is more powerful – or destructive – is to have someone who really understands the brand, rather than the platform, in charge of communications.
For an example of a team who got it right in a crisis situation, see O2′s response to its network outage earlier this year. Another clothes retailer that got it wrong? Celeb Boutique who tried to sell dresses on the back of the Aurora shooting – it later apologised and said its UK-based marketing team hadn’t checked why “Aurora” was tweeting before posting the “very insensitive” update.
2. Don’t just broadcast … listen
The Aurora tweet was up for an hour before it was removed. If Gap used social media correctly, that is to engage in two-way conversation with its target audience, its team would have checked in to check for responses to its question posed in the offending tweet. If it had, it could have picked up on the negative response immediately and reduced the negative impact by deleting it or at least responding to it.
3. You can say a lot in 140 characters
A tweet can pack a punch. A 140-character update may sometimes feel like a throwaway remark, but in this day and age it has the ability to make or break a brand. Social media updates, however short and punchy they may be, should be treated as individual pieces of content. This means ensuring the copy is well-written and typo-free, appropriate for the platform, and interesting and relevant to the target audience.
As Hurricane Sandy heads for landfall, our thoughts are with everyone on the east coast of the USA, in particular with our colleagues at the Boston office of our US sister company.
***UPDATE*** Gap has now responded to its earlier tweet, which has been deleted. However, initial reactions are less than favourable, while the original tweet is still being retweeted. Another lesson in that: once something is published online, brands are no longer in control of their messages.