Blog: beware the social media minefield

Beware the social media minefield

October 21, 2014

The undoubted benefits of social media in comms have been well documented.

The two-way conversation provided by social platforms can provide huge reach for both internal and external comms – as long as you are mindful of its potential perils too.

On the surface, social is a communication professional’s dream. You can discuss, debate and discover a host of things – as well as garner that priceless feedback to help shape future content.

However social can also have a nasty habit of biting back – just ask footballer Rio Ferdinand.

The former England international is no stranger to a tweet or two.

What he says certainly has pulling power, as his 5.9 million followers would indicate.

But his posting lastweek, using gender-specific terminology to respond to one user questioning his skills as a centre half, has landed him in hot water with the Football Association.

It isn’t the first time the QPR defender has been on the dark side of social media either – in 2012 he was fined £45,000 for appearing to endorse a message in the fallout from the John Terry racism trial.

Without question, organisations can benefit a lot from using social media if they harness it correctly. It can drive engagement, raise awareness and make your organisation relevant to members at limited cost.

But what can you learn from the mistakes made by high profile role models such as Rio?

Well, for starters you have to be aware that whatever is posted on social media, albeit a tweet, Facebook update or Instagram image, has the potential to go global.

It takes only seconds for tweets to be liked, shared and talked about.

And if that message comes out under the banner of your organisation then that is exactly how it will be seen – the view of your organisation from top to bottom.

Putting the wrong post on social media, whether you intended it or not, could open up a world of unnecessary bad PR and lasting damage.

Knee-jerk reactions to national issues or comments posted onto your social media sites need to be carefully thought through – if posted at all.

Take a breath, have a think and ask yourself the following question ‘Is this something my organisation really wants to say?’

The chances are it probably isn’t.

If in doubt – don’t publish.

The key to getting the best out of social media is ensuring it remains your best friend – just make sure you have a strategy in place so it doesn’t end up becoming your worst enemy.

Happy posting!