Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#STFU please

Two more big brands stepped in it again using social media yesterday – The Gap and American Apparel both used Hurricane Sandy as an excuse to encourage people to shop online.


As you can imagine, reaction has been anything but positive.

You'd think not linking your brand to the death and destruction of the largest storm ever to hit the Eastern seaboard would be common sense. Common sense, however, is the one thing that seems to be sorely lacking in a lot of social media departments and social media agencies these days.

So as a public service, I'm here to offer a few guidelines for companies that have Twitter accounts, send email blasts and post on Facebook before another such tragedy occurs.

The OBX Thinking 10 Rules for Social Media Messaging
  1. Don't ever post anything you wouldn't say in public or want reprinted in the press.
  2. Unless you're tweeting about where to send donations to help the victims of a natural disaster, don't. And do not tie this effort to likes, retweets, purchases or anything else that's even remotely promotional.
  3. Don't post anything about politics. Ever.
  4. If your tweet is supposed to be sarcastic or ironic, run it by a few people before hitting send. Communications that usually require body language or vocal inflection to be understood rarely work online.
  5. Issue anyone who manages your social media accounts a dedicated mobile device. No one should be allowed to post to a corporate account from a personal phone, computer or tablet.
  6. Don't get into arguments online. Acknowledge customer criticism and use it as an opportunity to improve your product or service. If possible, deal with individual complaints via email, over the phone or in person, not in public.
  7. Don't ask or incent people to retweet/repost your content. Make your content interesting and valuable so people will feel compelled to share it.
  8. Remember, just because you created a hashtag subject doesn't mean you control it. Anticipate the worst place the conversation could go and if you don't like that possibility, don't do it.
  9. Read the posts from your customers and fans before you post. You might just learn what they want from you.
  10. It is perfectly acceptable to use social media as a place where interested consumers can learn more about your values, practices, people and company, but don't expect everyone to be interested. Most who follow you just want a deal.
One final piece of advice. If you or your team has a disagreement over whether to post something or not, don't. The cost of the lost opportunity will be a lot less than the cost of an epic social media fail that gets picked up by Gawker, AdAge, USA Today and every other media outlet that love these kinds of stories.


  1. Harvey:

    Fantastic piece, I'm going to borrow it and send it to my partners if you don't mind?
    When we get this glove line off and running you're our guy.