Social Media

How to avoid the #SocialFAIL

If you were on Twitter this weekend, you’ll likely have seen a couple of brands receiving considerable attention for tweets posted by their official accounts. Whilst management at Tesco Mobile may well be grinning today, the mood will likely be a little more uncomfortable in the offices of The Sun newspaper.

The Sun Showbiz account, live tweeting during Saturday’s episode of X Factor, made an ill judged attempt at being funny and topical by making a joke at the expense of beleaguered contestant Tamera Foster, who is alleged to have stolen make up from Boots. However, drawing missing child Madeleine McCann in to be the punch line of the joke drew the ire of tweeters on Saturday night.


It took nearly an hour and a half, but the account issued an apology for its mistake.

sun apology

Conversely, Tesco Mobile received plenty of praise for its response to a tweet knocking the brand.

tesco mobile comeback

This tweet went viral – at the time of writing it had been retweeted 6,401 times. It was a very well judged response. The original tweet by the member of the public had humorous intent, so the Tesco Mobile staffer responded in kind, being more playful than most brands would dare.

Interestingly, it’s not uncommon for Tesco mobile. If you check their timeline you’ll perhaps be surprised by how interactive and irreverent the account is – it even playfully spars with its competition.

Your social brand

In looking at the accounts it’s clear that both brands have taken a brand-led approach to conversation rather than a corporate-led approach. They have a view of how they wish their brand to be perceived by consumers and have decided that engaging through the use of humour is a good way to reflect that. The trouble is everyone has a very different sense of humour and you get to a certain point with jokes where you lose part of the audience. The art is in understanding where that line is and knowing when not to cross it.

Many brands struggle to put personality into their social profiles. Most tend to want to play it safe for fear of something going wrong and there being a backlash. Others are braver, realising it’s that personality that sets them apart from their competition.

So what do you need to consider for your own social media accounts?

Know your plan

Do you know what you want to achieve with your social channels? Many consider it a customer service channel, others view it as a brand building route. Many use it for both. Like with all your activity, you need to be aware of your objectives before you start. This will shape how you behave.

Know your voice

If you’ve ever done any brand development work you’ll have gone through exercises that ask questions like “what does your brand look like?”, “what does it feel like?”“what does it sound like?” The last one is key in this instance. At the very least you’ll have a tone of voice document (and if not, write one), that details how you should talk to your audience in your comms and advertising. Your social media conversation is an extension of these activities. It should be the same voice.

You may look at some of the great stuff brands are doing in social media and want to emulate it for your own brand, but using edgy language and humour because others successfully do it isn’t good business sense if it doesn’t fit with your brand. Instead, know your voice and find creative ways to engage your audience.

Everyone on the same page

Once you know your voice, you need to make sure everyone on staff representing the brand in social media knows it too. It’s not something that should just live in the head of a marketer. If your Customer Service personnel use social media to assist customers then they need to be well versed and comfortable in the way that your brand will talk. Imagine how jarring it will be if multiple employees are talking to customers in different tones of voice. You don’t want robots, but you do want consistency.

Likewise, make sure that anyone operating a social media account for your brand is fully aware of how you want them to behave. If the brand calls for you to exhibit a ‘quirky sense of humour’ make sure your employees know exactly what that means. They need to be briefed, trained, maybe do some workshops to give them some practice. That way you don’t have a staff member manning the account alone over the weekend, posting something you might regret.

This is about empowerment, not restriction. I’m not a big fan of corporate social media policies. They tend to focus on what you can’t do. I prefer guidelines – advice on things to consider when posting; about using common sense. Empowering people to make good decisions comes down to clear objectives, good planning and plenty of support. It gives you your best chance of making sure everyone is prepared to respond appropriately in the moment.

Know what to do when it all goes wrong

Okay, so you really don’t want to get to this point, but I’d urge you to think about what happens if things do go wrong. Can you answer these questions now, let alone when your brand is under fire in the socialsphere?

  • Can you quickly get a summary of what has happened and who is involved?
  • What is the plan to tackle the crisis?
  • Who in your business needs to be informed?
  • Do you remove the content?
  • Do you issue an apology? And how?
  • How do you ensure it doesn’t happen again?

You don’t want to be making this up on the fly, because you don’t know who will be around to pick up the pieces and your response could determine how your brand is remembered.

Play nicely

As an aside, Tesco Mobile did very well out of this situation, but poor Jay Feliipe took a lot of flak, which was probably not their intention. So it was nice to see this little exchange later over the weekend, with Tesco Mobile reaching out to him to offer him something to make up for all the negative attention. A nice touch. I wonder what it was?

tesco gift

Update 21/10/13 22.20 pm:

Ha ha, Tesco Mobile certainly have a sense of humour. Jat Feliipe, taking the comeback with good humour has since tweeted out a photo of the gift he received from Tesco. For a young man with specific requirements in his dating life, he’ll probably appreciate a selection of male grooming products and a copy of The Rules of the Game by Neil Strauss. And I’d hazard a guess that’s a Tesco Mobile SIM card in the background!

Nicely done, Tesco Mobile, nicely done.

Thank you @tescomobile for the gift much love for you!!

— Felipe (@JayFeliipe) October 21, 2013

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