Avoiding Social Media Marketing Mishaps

Too often the headline, “Company makes social media blunder, offends large group of people,” goes by on social media. And these headlines aren’t exclusive to social media, but can happen with any advertising, public relations or marketing tactic. There are a few simple ways to avoid this becoming your reality.

Use Common Sense


If your are recognizing a day of remembrance of a tragedy, you can pretty much guarantee slipping a product reference or sale price in to your social media or other content or advertising is probably going to be received poorly. People are passionate about these events, and if they think you are trying to make a profit off of a national tragedy, they will call you on it. If you are going to recognize this day, separate your promotional materials. Have to push a sale or marketing piece, then don’t recognize the day of remembrance, or what ever the tragedy or event might be, at the same time. Make separate posts, and space them out a bit.

Plan Ahead

I know I’m the biggest poster child for planning ahead, but this is even more important in this type of situation. Think out what you are going to say well before hand. One word slightly out of place could be enough to upset your audience. I find myself double checking the meanings of words that I know the meanings of, just to be sure it can’t be taken in a way I didn’t intend.


We all know that tone is lost in written digital communications, so make sure your tone can not be misconstrued. If you take the time to do this all ahead of the posting time, then you can be confident your post won’t land you in hot social media water.

Wear Other’s Shoes

Take some time to research the event or day that you will be making a post for. Do you consider Memorial Day as the first day of summer? You should probably take some time to read up on what Memorial Day is for others. An easy way to get an overall understanding is reading up on the topic on Wikipedia. I find that Wikipedia typically shows a well-rounded view on big topics like these. This especially applies when talking to an international audience.

Now that you know these easy ways to avoid these marketing blunders, go forth and avoid them!

#SocialFresh Key Takeaways in 140 Characters

#SocialFresh is a perfect description of how I’m feeling right now. I just returned from sunny San Diego and the Social Fresh West conference. Every speaker was fantastic, and was obviously passionate about what they’re topic. I definitely left this morning feeling re-energized to hit the road running. If you’re looking for a conference in the future, this would be an excellent option to explore.

Here are some of my key takeaways, in tweet form. Not all of them were a perfect fit for a higher education scenario, but the idea is still there, and still applicable in some way or another.

There was a huge emphasis on images and visuals in the conference, but I think @PRSarahEvans said it best. Don’t ignore the image, it’s powerful, and not just on Facebook any more.

So in higher education we don’t necessarily have a C-suite in the traditional sense, but we do have administrators who should be interested in what is being done in communications, which includes social media. Every aspect of communications and marketing you do counts. Make sure others know that, too.

We have to treat students like people, because that’s what they are. As community managers and social media managers we have a large opportunity to make our universities real to our students. We get to tell them we care. Feel empowered to do just that. This is actually one of my favorite parts of my job, helping students when there are issues, encouraging them when needed, and celebrating with them throughout the process of earning a degree and starting a career.

When I think mobile, I always think of smartphones and then responsive and mobile websites. Both technologies. Those days are gone. Think about how your user interacts with your content in a mobile-environment, and you’ll start on the right path.

Again: visual, visual, visual. Audiences interact with images, and it’s the first thing that will draw a reader in, so don’t skimp, and use pretty images to tell the story.

A tale as old as time. You will never be successful if you’re always behind the eight ball. Set yourself up for success, whether it be committing to a social content calendar, using your editorial calendar more, or just organizing your thoughts. There’s no silver bullet, do what works for you.

A personal montra of mine, so I was happy to hear it said. Social media in some ways is your brand’s window to the world. Why would you just throw whatever content up you could find without thinking of how it represents your brand?

I think we all know this. But sometimes it’s just nice to hear that you’re not the only one whose marketing campaign gets stomped on every now and again.

I’ll admit, sometimes I’m the first person to jump to saying no to a request for social media. But I’m getting better at quickly reevaluating that initial thought, and finding a better solution: I don’t think that piece of content is appropriate for that social media channel, but it would be a great fit on this one. Work with the many different areas of the university to make the content and the communications work for you.

Lead your own conversations, don’t follow. The conversation is happening all around you, so make sure you steer it where you want it.

Another huge theme of #socialfresh was repurpose, and I love how Jason Miller from LinkedIn said this. Evergreen content isn’t old since it’s been posted for a bit, just pre-loved. So why don’t we repurpose that content and give it another round of love.

Floating at Sea: Carnival Triumph and Crisis Communications

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you know that the Carnival Triumph is currently floating about 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula after an engine fire left them without propulsion and running on emergency power.

Ok, now that you are up to speed, let’s look at their crisis communications at work.

This situation is easily one that Carnival could have attempted to sweep under the rug, it wouldn’t have worked, but they could have tried. Instead, they are not only being transparent about the situation, but they are actively talking about it. Color me impressed!

carnival web site
Carnival Triumph button and question and answer page

A ship floating at sea is a big problem when you’re a cruise line, but by actively talking about the situation, and the steps they are going through to ensure their guests and crews’ safety, they are sending a clear message to past and present customers. “You matter, and while the situation isn’t the vacation you planned, we’re not forgetting about you and we’ll fix this to the best of our ability.” What more can you ask for from a company?


Right on the homepage is a yellow button with the words, “Carnival Triumph,” which links to official information on the original incident, an update to the incident, and an information on upcoming voyages that are now canceled and compensation. Again, they’re not hiding this. It’s right at the top of the page. Since writing this, the page has been updated with a statement from their CEO.

Social Media

carnival facebook
Carnival statement on Facebook

I actually found out about the Carnival Triumph from social media, and it wasn’t someone saying, “Go look at how they’re messing up their social response.” I found out from the source, from Carnival on Facebook. I read the whole post, which is quite long, but it put out the facts and needed information. In fact, I didn’t feel the need to read about the situation from another news source. If you know me, you know this never happens. I always want to know more, and I love to Google. Carnival, however, told me enough information that I felt I knew the facts. They’ve continued to post on both Facebook and Twitter, and have only posted information about the Carnival Triumph since the situation started. In fact, they just updated further with new information about taking the ship to Mobile, Ala., instead of Progreso, Mexico, and why they are doing so.


Carnival Twitter feed
Carnival Twitter feed

There are some lessons for crisis communicators and social media managers to learn here. First, be as open and honest as you can. There are situations when all the facts just can’t be told, but being proactive and releasing information when it’s appropriate is definitely the way to go.

Second, social media can be your enemy or your friend. We’ve all seen tons of examples of what not to do in a crisis situation on social media. While Carnival is definitely getting its fair share of negative comments, there are also plenty of positive ones in there, too. By talking to their audiences, they aren’t being attacked for not saying anything, or for saying it all wrong.

Third, continue to update. One and done is not the way here. As the situation evolves, Carnival continues to let people know on all channels what the current status is.

Their only faux pas? It seems they’ve started copying and pasting their latest statement to some commenters on their Facebook wall. If they showed a little compassion here, and just let people know they understand, and are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of the guests and crew members onboard, it would probably be better received. That is, as long as they don’t start copying and pasting that, too.

What do you think of Carnival’s response to their floating at sea cruise ship? Good or bad? Is there something you think they could be doing better?


Retweet After Me: Week of April 11, 2012

Welcome back for this week’s Retweet After Me. These articles were all selected based on their ability to help you improve through small tips and services. They also all have numbers in the titles! Enjoy!

15 Twitter Analytics Tools for Measuring Your Online Presence by Madalin Tudose

For many of us Twitter has become a part of our lives. Thanks to Twitter, now it`s easy to connect with our friends and relatives and to share our thoughts and feelings with them and is obvious that these kind of networks are influencing the way we communicate and live. [ Read More ]

19 Tools for Pinterest Pros by Tia Fisher

As Pinterest growth skyrockets, so follows the number of tools available to help us manage our content, understand our metrics, and be better pinners. Below are just a few of the tools and services now available for use with Pinterest that are especially handy for brands, marketers, and Pinterest devotees. [ Read More ]

100 More Social Media Statistics for 2012 by Cara Pring

You may have had the honour of reading one of my previous literary masterpieces, 100 social media statistics for 2012 in January. It has taken me just one month to collate another 100 social media statistics from countless (reputable) websites and articles (some of which are listed at the bottom of this article). Actually there may not be exactly 100 statistics here, but I figured it was close enough. [ Read More ]

12 Incredibly Useful Digital Tools for PR by Mark Pack

What are the key social media tools that PR professionals need to go from bumbling amateur to results-driven superstar? [ Read More ]

Web Copywriting 101: 12 Tips for Creating Strong Content by Shanna Mallon

In today’s Web-focused world, the power of the Internet is key — one of the most important tools you have today for improving business, whether that means building your brand, attracting customers or increasing sales. And one of the best ways you harness that power comes down to this: your Web content. According to StartupNation, “it’s what you say and how you say it that makes the sale. Establishing credibility is key … The content on your site must be crisp and intelligent. What you say should grab a visitor’s attention, pique their interest and motivate them to action.” [ Read More ]