How You Are Ruining Your Reputation In 160 Characters


Simple practices to follow that will help ensure that your brand doesn’t get caught up in the next big social media controversy.

An old boss once shared a great lesson (a grilling, really) with me. I was on the receiving end of a pretty intense reprimand as my actions were –per usual at that time in my life – frowned upon by most of my employers. What I should have done was taken the tongue-lashing  (trust me, I deserved it) then pretended my parents were fighting and hid in my room to think about what I had done. Instead I fought back.

I defended my reprehensible and immature actions and shared everyone’s favorite “F” word – a lot. What resulted was a strategic and painful dissection of each and every aspect of my mistake. And it was done with the detailed and meticulous precision of a 12-panel focus group. At the time I was far too embarrassed and proud to grasp the grand scope of what that lesson taught me, but now, all these years later it is the very crux of the social media policies that I write for clients. It is:

What message are we sending?

Those five words are deep. And, if you’ll take a moment to meditate on them and understand them, I guarantee that the protection they offer will ensure your brand is safe from damaging social media mistakes. Mistakes that your brand may not be strong enough to ask the public to just forget about. Just ask Paula Deen.  Social media has given a very powerful voice to very small brands and very ordinary people.

Now, your brands relationship with those people is very different through social media than it would be with your personal circle of friends or family. As a Social Media Manager, Communications Director, Community Manager or Content Creator, you have to ask yourself what message your content is sending. It is both natural and easy for your personal opinion and tone to come through when posting for your brand. It is at the moment right before you click, “submit,” that you absolutely must ask yourself, what message are we sending?

If the content you are about post in ANY way makes you think about how it could be received by anyone…just-don’t-do-it. Turn down the volume on your inner critic and let go of your need to relate to your followers in every situation. Look for the good in people and in situations, rather than having an eagle eye for a cheap opportunity to gain popularity or followers.

Simple practices to follow that will help ensure that your brand doesn’t get caught up in the next big social media controversy are:

  1. Be acutely aware of the content that is set-up for automatic posts. Know who is in control of your content at all time and have a plan for how to quickly turn off this feature for all of your social media platforms.

The National Rifle Association would have benefitted this practice the morning after the Aurora, CO movie theatre tragedy.  Instead they Tweeted, “Good Morning Shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”

  1. Keep your content relevant to your brand.

When the Waffle House tweeted, “Thoughts on Whitney Houston’s funeral this past weekend?,” the brand was the victim of a firestorm of condescending and sarcastic replies at the expense of the brand.

  1. Let the news report the news. Do yourself a favor. Wait a few hours before your brand shares its sentiments on a crisis or tragedy.  This time will allow some facts to arise that you can share with your followers. Jumping on early opinions, reports and speculations will turn your brand into a conduit for the rumor mill. It is harder to apologize for reporting false information than it is to engage in a moment of solidarity with those affected.

Remember. Chances are, even if you quickly take down a damaging post, your content has already been seen and shared by enough people to make for a very bad day. Also, the world will tear your apart with the very same precision that my old boss did. The difference is, your brand is unlikely to get a written warning. So, before you share it with the world– just ask yourself, what message are we sending?

Joshua A. Queen 
Principal / Creative Director

EastCoast West Public Relations



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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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