Errant KitchenAid Tweet Highlights Importance of Social Media Policies

In today’s modern marketplace, it is increasingly rare to find a company that does not utilize social media in one form or another. From customer service interaction to market analysis to brand promotion, many companies make social media engagement an important component of their business activities.

While utilization is up, so are cases of major – and very public – missteps.

This week’s errant Tweet from KitchenAid highlights the struggle many brands have encountered with appropriate management of their social media channels. The unfortunate mistake by a staffer has resulted in an uproar, and despite a sincere apology, KitchenAid faces an uphill battle when it comes to brand perception.

While mistakes do happen in the social media world, KitchenAid’s error and other high-profile social media failures may have been prevented through the application of social media safeguards and guidelines.  Despite the obvious benefits of following specific guidelines, a 2011 survey by MarketingSherpa, found that only 25% of companies had implemented a social media policy. Even more startling, 56% of surveyed respondents did not see the need for a policy or did not intend to implement one.

Guidelines create a shield against the kinds of errors in technology and human judgment that frequently occur. The challenge is developing guidelines that are appropriate and enforceable. While there are many social media resources to draw from, there are a few best practices that should be a part of every organization’s social media guidelines. They include:

  • Define boundaries. Outline to social team members that company accounts are no place to share personal views unless they reinforce brand values. Even then those views should only be shared according to company guidelines and code of conduct.
  • Establish workflow. Establish a clearly defined social media team workflow and structure. Accounts must be administered by responsible individuals who are assigned to those social media platforms, and social media managers must be a part of the content approval process for those platforms. 
  • Maintain a regular schedule. Limit “off hours” engagement. While the social media world is 24/7, there is value in limiting activity outside the standard work hours of the team. Having social media team members post during personal time raises the risk of sharing content that is not meant for the organization’s social media platforms (particularly if alcohol has come into play after work). Allowing employees to post after hours must be done with extreme care. Most social media dashboards allow you to schedule future posts, which can help in this situation.
  • Isolate risk. Diversify and separate organizational social media tools from the tools used personally by social media employees. Many major social media mistakes arise from employees accidentally posting personal content via company platforms. One of the best safeguards against this is having social media team members use different dashboards for personal and professional use. If your company uses Hootsuite or Sprout Social, have team members use Tweetdeck or Echofon for their personal accounts. It is a simple safeguard that can save the day.
  • Think twice, publish once. This is perhaps the most essential safeguard of all. Make it a rule that anytime someone is going to post something that they ask themselves or the person next to them “is this the least bit controversial?” If the answer is yes, or even maybe, don’t post it.

Whether an organization has 10 employees or 10,000, enacting guidelines is a must for social media. Brand identities that have been built over 20 years can be undone in just a matter of minutes and deleting a post can’t undo that damage. If a company follows basic rules of the road and puts in place their own safeguards, they can go a long way to avoid replicating the mistake made by KitchenAid.


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