As long as there is social media, there will be self-inflicted controversies from brands.
Many years after it became a thing (who can forget Kenneth Cole’s 2011 Tweet likening the democratic protests in Egypt to clamor over a new product line?), social media fails continue unabated in 2014. So much so that Gawker has a handy living article where they will document every social media misstep (and how long it takes the brand to delete and/or apologize for the offending content). Best Buy just happened to be the most recent. Someone will replace them shortly.
Of course, brands cannot help themselves. DiGiorno Pizza was chastised when it, through ignorance, latched onto a domestic violence awareness hashtag to promote its pizza. After a short time in the wildness, the brand is back slowly pushing the envelope with inanity.
“It’s not you, it’s SMEE” – fun way several people bailed on dates to eat pizza and watch #PeterPanLive tonight, probably
— DiGiorno Pizza (@DiGiornoPizza) December 5, 2014
It was rumored that it took an average of 22 people to approve a Mitt Romney Tweet. While Romney managed to make it through a campaign without causing a self-inflected Twitter controversy, the reality is that companies do not have that manpower. And the tweets that stem from such peer review aren’t that great anyway.
I won’t just represent one party, I’ll represent one nation. I’ll try to show the best of America, at a time when only our best will do.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) November 2, 2012
The famous “intern in charge of social media” is no more, but it’s still apparent that whatever structures companies have in place are not working. Or they’re not enough.
And we’ll leave aside the famous claim that all publicity is good publicity. I’ll believe that when I see actual data to back that up. I wager that every company that has messed on social media would take its mistake back if it could.
If we cannot count on the human teams to effectively use social media in a way that does not cause harm to themselves, their constituents and their brands, we must reluctantly look to technology. Here are some proposals for content management systems to help protect brands from themselves.
A native hashtag explanation system – Part of defending companies from their worst habits is to understand what you cannot change. Brands will always want to associate with trending topics. But they cannot be trusted to check to which the topic really relates. A social media management platform that has a native filtering system (whether handled through a team of editors or algorithmically) to exclude charged hashtags will help brands avoid the most common mistake.
A default and tamper-proof posting delay – While most platforms have a save function or a way to manage permissions, it tends to be rarely used and is almost never the default. Service providers should make the most stringent policies the standard and force a brand to understand the consequences of disabling this security.
Advances in pattern recognition – Most platforms are a caveat emptor proposition. They merely enable the posts, and don’t do anything to protect brands from tweeting out something wrong or controversial. Social media services need to better equip brands with a review process – to take the fallible human out of the equation – and block posting if the system picks up anything that could be misconstrued. Today, this is obviously far away from a reality where all posts could be parsed, but tomorrow’s systems have to start somewhere.
Better threat detection – In a perfect world, responsible parties would stay on the social network where they just posted in order to monitor responses. While many brands have no one to blame but themselves for terrible Tweets, it is rare but possible that something could be misconstrued. In either event, you will want to know if the public is abhorred or disappointed by your post. Since we’re looking for technology to cover all bases, platforms should have a strong alarm system that identifies high volume, immediate responses. This may very well mean that your post will be the next one to hit Gawker. In many cases, the inaction is worse than the original post, so it’s better to know sooner than later if you need to assemble a crisis response.
There are undoubtedly more requirements to build a fool-proof CMS, but this is a good start.
If you are a company working on any of these structural elements, reach out to us to let us know. If you want to argue many brands are doing stupid social media posts on purpose, we’d love to hear about it too.