Read the Room: Keeping Your Social Media Posts Appropriate

Every brand works hard to stay relevant and visible. Social media is an invaluable tool for both goals, provided that it’s used correctly. In addition to staying relevant, your brand must also work to stay appropriate.

What exactly does it mean to be appropriate on social media? On the surface, it simply refers to avoiding posting offensive or suggestive content under your brand’s name. But there’s far more to it than that. A post that would normally be fine can generate backlash if it’s poorly timed or comes across as out-of-touch. But how exactly can you “read the room” on social media? Try these proven strategies.

Current events, trends, and more may require you to reevaluate your current #socialmediamarketing strategy. Here are just a few ways you can “read the room” online and learn from your mistakes. #ITVibes Click To Tweet

Keep Up with Current Events

What’s currently going on in the world? How will it influence the way people view your social media posts or advertising in general? For a particularly cringe-worthy example, consider an incident during CNN’s coverage of the Grand Princess cruise ship in March 2020, where many people were isolated due to coronavirus cases on board. When the show cut to commercials, what was one of the first ads people saw? An ad for Norwegian Cruise Lines! The timing was unintentional but couldn’t have been more poorly placed. Fortunately, the ad has not aired since March 11.

There was nothing inherently offensive or wrong in the cruise commercial. However, with current events forcing people to stay home and an ongoing situation of people stuck in an infected cruise ship, effectively a coronavirus petri dish, the ad left a bad taste in viewers’ mouths. The same principle may apply to your advertising. Are some of your typical strategies in poor taste with the current pandemic? Consider also your long-term strategy once coronavirus is under control. How quickly will you be able to recognize a potentially problematic post?

Pro Tip: How quickly can you produce a new ad or social media post? If you have to remove a poorly timed or poorly received post, you should do your best to replace it with a good one as soon as possible.

Know What Your Hashtags Mean

Brands will sometimes incorporate trending hashtags into their posts to get more visibility. Once again, this isn’t a bad strategy (though it may mean the visibility is short-lived if the hashtag dies down). However, knowing the intent behind those hashtags is just as important as taking advantage of them. A particularly egregious example of the wrong way to use hashtags comes from an infamous post on DiGiorno Pizzas’ Twitter account in 2010. A prominent NFL player had just been exposed as a wife-beater, and as his wife came under fire for staying with him so long, Twitter flooded with stories from women who explained why leaving an abuser is so difficult. The hashtags commonly used were “#WhyIStayed” and “#WhyILeft”. DiGiorno decided to add their own input in the worst possible way by tweeting out, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.

The tweet was online for less than a minute before it was deleted and the company issued an apology, but the damage was done. A serious conversation about abuse had been interrupted by a company that hadn’t done the most basic research. Even 10 years later, googling #WhyIStayed brings up several stories of this gaffe on the first page. The lesson here is simple: before you use a hashtag, click on it and see how people are using it! Accidentally hijacking a serious hashtag will damage your online reputation for years to come.

Watch Your Audience’s Reaction

Your audience’s response is your best indicator of how you’re doing. Are your followers happy with your content? What sort of feedback are you getting? Obviously there will always be people who dislike you for no particular reason, but if reactions to your posts are consistently negative, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy. Monitor what your audience is saying and determine any future changes based on what they prefer to see.

Always Be on Trend

Obviously, not every trend lasts long enough for your advertising campaign to take advantage of it. Plenty of trends are also inappropriate for a brand to use. But by staying up to date on your online environment and learning to “read the room”, you can keep your social media marketing strategy both relevant and tactful.

Join the conversation to see how advertisers are handling their posts during the coronavirus epidemic.

Christina Belbas

Christina Belbas loves researching and writing on just about any topic, and has used her time in writing internships to hone her skills. With a Bachelor’s in creative writing and several published articles to her name, she has the experience to back up her education. She loves trying new recipes and petting cats in her spare time.