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By now I’m sure we have all heard of the importance of social media and how it can put you in touch with your audience quicker and on a much deeper level but this new form of online PR can be curse as well as a blessing. We have seen numerous examples in recent years of how using it in the wrong way or without due care and attention can really have a negative impact on your business.

Social media is sure to grow even bigger in 2013 and with more and more business taking to using it to interact with their audiences, we are sure to see an increase in the amount of social media disasters too. So how can you make sure that you don’t go the same way as Taco Bell, Burger King and the NRA?

Handle with care by Missive Maven

Check, Check And Check Again

The spontaneity of social media has already dented the reputation of Starbucks, McDonalds and Susan Boyle, to name just a few, and is sure to leave more people looking like twits rather than experienced Twitter users in 2013. The main thing to remember here is that with just one click, millions of people can read what you are about to say.

So if you are thinking of posting an off the cuff comment that may be controversial, take a step back, think about it a little longer and then decide if the virtual world really does need to hear your opinion on said topic. Double check your posts too for typos, spelling and grammatical errors. One mistake could turn your light hearted statement into one that seems a lot more forceful.

Be Wary Of Hashtags

You also need to be careful when using hashtags. Yes they can be a great way to get your audience involved in what you are doing and for you to hear their views directly but, as Starbucks quickly found out, they can easily be hijacked.

If you are thinking of creating your own hashtag to start off a discussion; make sure the hashtag doesn’t say anything rude when read as one word, have someone standing by to filter the tweets if they are going to be posted live somewhere and prepare yourself for some unsavoury inclusions of your hashtag; you can’t expect it all be praise.

Pick Your Times Carefully

When using social media to market your products or just merely interact with your audience, you need to be aware of what’s going on in the world so as to not contradict something or worse still; cause offense. This is something the NRA neglected to think about when they tweeted ‘morning shooters’ just hours after the terrible shooting at a screening of ‘The Dark Night Rises’.

What was meant as just a chipper morning message from the American Rifleman magazine quickly became an untimely reminder of the previous night’s events.

Keep Tabs On Employee Accounts As Well As Company Ones

Although it is hard to control what your employees get up to on social media sites, the least you can do is to warn them of the consequences of mistreating social media and control what they get up to on the company’s time and premises. This is something that both Burger King and Taco Bell failed to do last year when stories emerged of the not so savoury things some of their workers get up to when they are out of the boss’s sight.

No matter how much you write ‘views are my own and not that of the company’ on your Twitter profile, you are still representing any brand that you are affiliated with when you post pictures or statements on such sites; especially when you are in work uniform and are clearly at work at the time.

The sad fact remains that however diligently you go about your social media campaigns, the likelihood of a disaster, big or small, is still high. With this being the case, you need to have a strategy in place should the worst happen. So whether you are a start-up fashion boutique or an experienced technology PR agency, there needs to be a plan of action to deal with the short and long term effects of a social media tragedy.

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