How Not to Suck at Social Media: The Most Obvious Guide Online

In school, there’s always that one kid.  The one who is so obnoxious it seems like a disease. The loudmouth, the bully, the jerk, the unaware-of-how-obnoxious-they-are kid.  Then, we transition into the real world, and we realize there’s always that one adult (who was probably that same aforementioned kid), who’s so reprehensibly oblivious to their bad attitude and non-politically correct nature that they don’t realize, or worse yet, don’t care about the things they say or the consequences of their words.

Then the internet happened and gave all of those people an outlet.  Awesome.

In order to maintain a positive reputation online, we have a fail-insured guide of things to avoid:

Epic Fail #1

Saying dumb stuff, including, but not limited to:

  • racist comments

  • sexist comments

  • ageist comments

  • bigoted comments

  • uninformed comments

  • shameless (and insensitive) engagement attempts

  • bad-mouthing the competition 

  • foul language

Hopefully, you understand what constitutes any of the “ist” comments listed above, as well as what would represent bigoted comments (if not, however, here is the definition of a bigot), but you might be wondering what exactly comprises “uninformed comments”:

  • using any trending hashtags without knowing what made it popular — check why it’s trending to avoid using something out of context.

    • In the midst of the Casey Anthony murder trial, for instance, American bakery, Entennman, decided to get involved with the trending #notguilty hashtag by tweeting, “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!”

  • tweeting or posting things without realizing you might coincidentally and unknowingly be referencing something negative.

    • For example, if you were a rifle company, and you tweeted something like, “Hey, shooters, check out our new inventory” without realizing a massive shooting just occurred at a school or other public location.

    • Be careful with scheduled tweets as things like the rifle example often mistakenly occur because of that convenience.

As obvious as the reason for not tweeting racist, sexist, and bigoted comments should be, it apparently is not, so we’re going on record to advise you — don’t be a hater.

Incorporating obscenities would also seem an obvious misstep, but we’re not ass(uming) you understand why.

Using foul language, anything from profanity to inappropriate subject matter, is a disaster waiting to happen. Dropping f-bombs, referencing vulgar material or subjects, or making lewd remarks in a tweet is unprofessional and off-putting. By marginalizing audience members (everyone from current customers to potential clients), you are needlessly alienating people from your business or brand.

Rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say it in front of your grandmother, a church leader, or small children, you shouldn’t tweet it.

Epic Fail #2

Not realizing all of this applies to your personal accounts, too, not just your professional ones.

Maybe you heard about a certain woman who caused a Twitter revolt due to a very racist tweet?  Let’s call this woman, Justine Sacco. While in the air traveling for a business-related trip, Justine tweeted from her personal handle, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just Kidding. I’m White!”

Two words: That’s. Bad.

Damage control commenced

Don’t learn the hard way, like Justine, that your personal agenda can spill over into your professional influence and make for a messy situation.

There must be a filter when communicating online.  Social media is a bittersweet temptation; it lures us into a sense of superiority and false bravado (a bad combination), so we say things we’d never say without the security of social media-specific anonymity.

We’ll leave you with this fail-safe: If you don’t have something nice to tweet, keep your beak shut.