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Huge social media fails from 2016 - and how to avoid them in 2017

Many techies are calling 2017 "The Year of Video." But there's a right - and wrong - way businesses can embrace social media, explains Sarah Pearce.

Thanks to social media, brands are closer than ever to their customers. There is no shortage of fresh ideas on how to use this exciting medium to enhance business success. Yet, despite all the professional creativity and innovation going into many big brand marketing campaigns, not all of them are good, and some are even shockingly bad. With the kickoff of 2017, I’d like to take a quick look at some of the biggest fails last year and suggest how to avoid them in the future.

1 .Take cultural sensitivity seriously.

The online world has brought us all closer than ever before. In fact, it has effectively created a whole new generation of super-connected people. Working and communicating with people in other countries is now an everyday occurrence for most companies, and it requires that we really step up our game around current events and information.

One of the biggest fails from 2016 was Coca-Cola’s Russian Christmas greeting. The company tweeted out a cartoon map of the country. Unfortunately, the map left out Kaliningrad, and this infuriated many Russian patriots. Similarly, DC Comics also tweeted a photo from one of their comic books indicating it was translated from Pakistan (not a language), rather than Urdu (the official language). While no one is expected to know everything that is happening globally, it’s still a very sensible idea to vet any information before publishing it!

2. Tailor content to the platform/application.

It’s common these days to simultaneously manage multiple, media accounts in both our professional and personal capacities. With the rapid rate of information exchange online, this can be an exhausting task. However tempting it might be to take shortcuts, do yourself a favour and resist that urge!

First of all, the content may suffer. Each platform has its own unique strengths and idiosyncrasies. When you understand these, you can use them strategically to your advantage. For example, how you behave on LinkedIn will be different to the way you behave on Twitter. You may share a business blog from your website directly to your LinkedIn page, but then tweet a link of that same blog to your Twitter account instead.  Even better to tweet it with an engaging comment - and better again if that comment connects you to a topic that is trending online.  On both LinkedIn and Twitter, you can include one or two trending topic keywords for optimum reach and visibility.

Here’s another example: you may share that same blog onto your Facebook business page, but include an appealing image to better grab the attention of your target audience there. Always ensure the blog includes a link back to your website so you drive the traffic between your accounts too. One blog: maximum impact. While it is possible (and advisable) to save time by sharing the same content across multiple platforms, take the time to share it in the appropriate way.

Secondly, if you take short cuts on your proofreading or checking, you risk posting the wrong information to the wrong audience. It happens too frequently. Consider the 2016 instance in which the US Justice Department tweeted that “CNN is the biggest troll of them all” during the Presidential campaign. An incredibly politically charged statement coming from an agency committed to neutrality, and all because a staffer tweeted on the wrong social media account. Save yourself from drowning in social media troubles and double check everything before hitting POST.

3. Experiment with a new application/feature first.

Social media applications evolve at a dizzying rate. New ones are constantly being introduced - some are successful, but most are not. That should not deter you from exploring them anyway. Our capacity to learn and adapt in many ways is a key component of long-term success and this is no different with new technology. Discovering a new app may give you better access to your customers, provide them a superior customer experience, or allow you a smart solution to your business needs.

For example, many techies are calling 2017 'The Year of Video' in social media and it's worthwhile to learn how to use video to your advantage. With the introduction of Facebook's live streaming feature in 2016 and the growth in the use of video features on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, there is strong evidence that this will become a much more valuable component for direct messaging in the future. So, do get involved with the latest developments, but research and test them before you use them. It’s a good look to be an early adopter but getting it wrong will only earn you early visibility...for all the wrong reasons.

The New Year is going to see many more changes to technology and social media. Staying active and relevant in this space is essential to good business…but only if you use it wisely! Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2017!

Sarah Pearce is a professional speaker, business coach, social strategist and author of Online Reputation: Your Most Valuable Asset in a Digital Age.

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