Missing the Point: How Social Media Missteps Impact Brand Perception
Updated: Mar 18
Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlao
I came across an interesting conversation on LinkedIn the other day. The original post wasn’t specifically about branding or marketing like much of my feed, but rather a simple invitation to take part in an event for which the poster obviously had a great deal of passion. There was just one glaring problem – out of maybe a dozen words on a brightly colored background, two of those words were misspelled. It bothered me, and I chuckled at what seemed to be a willful disregard for proofreading. As I was ready to continue scrolling, I noticed a comment that called out the misspelling. The original poster then replied that the comment was “missing the point” of the post.
Missing the point? That reaction seems a bit ironic, but quite common. Too often, we try to deflect after we’ve just received a critique after posting something that has noticeable errors. On social media, most of us post things that are personal. We give ourselves a lot of leeway when it comes to “Fake News”, cultural bias, and yes even spell-checking. “We’re just sharing our thoughts and opinions…don’t get do damn technical." But everything you share helps others to understand you better, and form an opinion – good or bad – about your character, world view, or even intellect. It pays to pay attention to the details, precisely so you don’t clutter the message and distract from you point.
As brands continue to explore new online and social channels to engage with their audience, accuracy and consistent message presentation are crucial to shaping the brand persona.
Placing a priority on the details of the message is amplified for brands on social (as well as other) media. We all know of examples of brand blunders. Whether it was United Airlines’ tone-deaf response to a passenger being hauled off a plane, Addidas’ unfortunate congratulatory word choice after this year’s Boston Marathon, or the Department of Education tweeting a misspelling of W. E. B. Du Bois's name as well as another misspelling in the apology. All of these examples are regrettable, but nonetheless a permanent part of the brand story. They are truly Christmas Story “Oh, f***” worthy.
One of the latest examples is Dove’s Facebook campaign that some have labeled racist. In case you missed it, the campaign used a series of three images, showing a black woman peeling off her T-shirt to reveal a white woman underneath her skin. This seeming lack of awareness is especially baffling since it isn’t the first time Dove has been hit with accusations of racial insensitivity or body insensitivity. It has become not only a PR nightmare, but in some minds, a defining characteristic of the brand that once embodied female empowerment. Who is missing the point now?
These examples are probably not typical of the level of “Ugh moments” most brands will experience, and certainly not most small, growing brands. But, as brands continue to explore new online and social channels (as well as offline channels) to engage with their audience, accuracy and consistent message presentation are crucial to shaping the brand persona.
All brands have (or should have) a specific position they are trying to establish in the mind of the consumer – a story that connects. That’s the point! If potential customers aren’t clear about what a brand stands for and how it connects to their values, they will probably look elsewhere. We've compiled a few tips to help control your brand messaging on social media.
Proofread and then double check before you hit send (upload, post, etc.) It's only going to take a few minutes to check for typos before it goes out. If possible, establish a team, or at least a process, to try to avoid factual inaccuracies or unintended implications (the BIG OOPS!)
2. Plan if Possible
Establishing a content calendar to connect your content on different platforms will help with consistency. Of course, you want to be able to react and comment on timely relevant happenings, but don’t be reactionary. Always ask if your posts align with your brand positioning and if your posts are seeking to engage with your customers.
3. Avoid Controversy
Some topics are dangerous. While all brands have certain values that drive their business, tread lightly on topics like religion and politics. Unless your brand positioning is closely aligned with a specific religion (think Chick-Fil-A) or a specific political party (think Fox News) or a specific cause, your personal opinions are irrelevant!
4. Know Your Limits
Obviously, different social media platforms use different content types to engage the audience. Video, images, audio, long-form dialogue all play a role, but you need to understand the preferences of your audience, as well as which social media platforms convey your message most effectively. Most brands don’t need to utilize more than 3-4 social media channels. Trying to create content and manage more than that can lead to unintended mistakes.
5. Admit Mistakes
This is the most important lesson. If you make a mistake, admit it! Most brands are going to send a regrettable tweet or post an unintended image at some point. Be contrite, be humble, and try to make up for the error. Your prospects and customers don’t expect you to be perfect, they expect you to be authentic.
If you have any other questions about crafting and executing your brand messaging, rebranding, or new creative development, give us a call or connect with us on social media.