Social media can be blessing and curse for business

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Social MediaIn business, social media can be a blessing and a curse. Chad Wiebesick, director of social media and interactive marketing at Pure Michigan, on Monday cautioned marketing professionals about the perils of posting on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets during a Detroit Regional Chamber lunch meeting at the Emagine in Royal Oak.

An example of a blessing: When Wisconsin announced in a tweet that it was using its state’s shape, which is sort of a misshapen mitten, to promote winter tourism like Michigan does with its mitten shape, Wiebesick said Pure Michigan didn’t protest. It seized the opportunity by launching a new website called Who is the real mitten state?

“Because we reacted to an obscure tweet, the result was 300 stories (in the national and international media) and $17 million in PR buzz,” he said.

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Use emojis judiciously and never tweet and drive, Wiebesick advised. Emojis, also called emoticons, are cartoons and symbols that imply a variety of meanings and can be misconstrued. Wiebesick said employees have lost jobs over using emojis inappropriately.

Perhaps the leading cause of firings over social media use are tweets gone wrong. A few years ago, a 30-year-old public relations professional named Justine Sacco tweeted after getting on a plane to South Africa that despite where she was going, no need to worry about her getting AIDS because she is white. During her 14-hour flight, the tweet trended around the world offending plenty of Twitter followers. Upon landing, she was informed she was fired, Wiebesick said.

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Sacco’s career suffered greatly, and although she eventually got another job, she keeps a low profile, according to a New York Times article last year on her racist tweet.

Most often at fault in social media debacles are employees who “do something dumb,” Wiebesick said. To contain and help prevent such occurrences, he said companies should:

  • Be careful with who is in charge of social media and make sure they enjoy posting.
  • Assume everyone can see everything.
  • Own up to social media mistakes and be genuine in apologizing
  • Create three social media policies – one for employees, the community (followers) and social media administrators

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  • Check to see how a hashtag looks before posting. In some subtle way, it can be offensive.
  • Always read tweets a couple of times before posting.
  • A company should post at least once a day and on Twitter more often.
  • Sometimes it is best for the social media administrator to have a separate smartphone for work.
  • Create a policy for handling social media hacking.


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