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Somewhere a Twitterstorm is brewing. A brand's marketing executive in a busy city centre office has made himself a coffee and has sat down ready to reach out to some potential new customers with the help of social media.
"Remember - engagement, engagement, engagement," he mutters to himself, as he logs in to his brand's Twitter profile, daydreaming of retweets galore.
Fast forward a couple of hours. That same marketing executive is aghast, rocking back and forth in his computer chair as he tries to halt the avalanche of angry replies to the Twitter account. He has unwillingly put his foot in it and his brand is paying for it. News of his gaffe is spreading like wildfire and sales are already starting to dip.
I'm always surprised how often scenarios like this occur. Essentially acting as the voice of a brand and delivering messages to thousands of people via Twitter or Facebook requires someone responsible with meticulous attention to detail. How do those charged with such a job fail to see the importance of checking what they're writing or thinking hard about whether a potential issue could arise from what they have posted?
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: A Basic Twitter Checklist for Businesses
I thought it would be a good idea, therefore, to create a checklist that people like our (former) brand marketing executive could refer to pre-tweet/post. I'm not naive - I know the people who need it most won't take any notice, and outstanding social media fails will continue to occur. BUT DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU.
In theory, there's really only one step that is needed in a checklist like this: use your common sense. But from some of the situations some people and brands have managed to get themselves into, it's safe to assume common sense goes out of the window when using social media.
So here's my basic Twitter checklist for businesses:
1) Is it worth it? - Is your tweet going to add value to your brand? Check over what you intend to tweet and decide whether it would actually be better not to say it in the first place.
2) Brand - Check your tweet is in line with your brand guidelines or brief, including voice, tone and consistency with previous tweets/opinions.
3) Account - You're logged into your personal account aren't you? You were *this* close to tweeting a C-word-laced, anti-Bieber rant to your company's 10,000 followers didn't you? (Actually, thinking about it...that would probably do more good than harm). Check you're logged in to the right account!
4) @ Replies - If you intend to reply to someone, make sure you are replying to the correct person. Also, check that you have actually included the @name in your tweet to ensure it goes to that one person, rather than all your followers (unless you want them to see your message too).
5) DM? - Avoid doing this at all costs. Make sure you are actually sending a direct message, rather than a tweet to all your followers. And remember, there may be a delete button, but lots of people will be able to see that tweet in an instant, and take a screenshot if needs be.
6) Potential backlash? - Here's a good piece of advice: don't offend people. Read your tweet back before you send it and ask yourself: "Could anyone be offended by this?". If the answer is yes, maybe it's not the best idea to send it. If you do post something you think could cause a reaction, be completely transparent as to your reasons for posting, including caveats, etc, that may appease sensitive followers.
7) Citation - If you are passing on information to your followers, make sure you credit the source of that information if possible. A simple "(via @Name)" should keep fellow Twitter users happy.
8) Links - This is especially important if you use URL-shortening tools to help keep your message within the 140 character limit. Check you have not accidentally included the wrong link in your tweet before you send.
9) Spelling and grammar - This is important. For reasons why poor spelling and grammar could damage your brand, take a look at this. It only takes a minute to check through your tweet and make sure. Any words you're not sure on, just look them up.
10) Read before you retweet - Sometimes people see a tweet or link to an article that they think would interest their followers and click 'Retweet' before you can say "don't you think you should read that article first?" Sometimes, however, the article contains comments/references to a competitor, or an opinion not in keeping with your brand. Read the article first, don't blindly share it based on its headline.