By Dino Kuckovic

August 9th, 2017

2017 has seen some of the world’s best-known brands fall foul of PR and marketing mishaps.

It seems no one is safe, no matter how attentive or well-intentioned, as online magazine National Jeweler recently discovered.

One of their articles was targeted by an individual seemingly bent on a personal vendetta against the featured designer. A snowballing case of Facebook bullying ensued with the magazine’s name dragged along with it.

Keen to learn from and share their experience, National Jeweler recently hosted a social media etiquette panel discussion at the JA New York Jewelry Trade Show and invited me along.

For those of you that weren’t there or didn’t follow @Falcon.io’s Insta-Story that day, you’re in luck. Here are the eight questions put to the panel, along with key points from our discussion and some of my own thoughts.

social media etiquette

Q1. What are the most important rules to conducting oneself online, whether you’re a jewelry store, a manufacturer or a designer?
Brands are all figures of public trust and everyone within must demonstrate exemplary conduct. Online misconduct reflects poorly on the entire brand and let’s face it, we are all an extension of the brands we work for, 24/7.

The values to uphold online are simple:

A) Be nice: The first rule of etiquette is to play nice. Rocket science, right? Not really, but recent events seem to be disagreeing with us. Never flame or rant in a public forum. Show respect for the opinions of others, even if you disagree, and refrain from name-calling. You never know what may wind up being forwarded, whether it was intentional or an accidental slip on the reply button. Think about how you would feel if someone said whatever you just typed about you. If you find it the least bit disturbing, delete it.

B) Before you click post: think about the message being communicated and who could potentially view it today and for years to come. It is always a good idea to reread anything you type before clicking enter. If you have time, step away for a few minutes and come back to it with fresh eyes. If not, at least check your spelling, grammar and tone-of-voice.

Q2: How can brands with a history adapt to social media without adopting an inauthentic voice?
It can be particularly hard for established brands with a steeped heritage to open up the channels of digital communication. A primary reason is a fear of breaking with traditions; along with the perception that social tactics such as user generated content will quickly slip out the brand’s control.

However, heritage brands don’t need to be stuck in the past. In client conversations, I find that history and heritage-themed content seems to attract more engagement and commentary than other forms due to the added value that heritage imbues the brand with.

Adapting the brand to social media takes a shift in mindset that must be supported by the executive teams. It is paramount that brand traditions and values are upheld and, in fact, these are highly useful as touch-points to anchor your social content and conversations.

Throwback Thursday – #TBT – is one popular trend to be leveraged here. Its success showcases how people simply love nostalgia. Long-established brands have a storied history perfect for this standout type of content. It’s an easy and unforced way to demonstrate authenticity and depth. In the jewelry business, none have done this better than Dior with their Montblanc Princess Kelly collection.

Q3: Is it okay to vent online? And if so, how do you do it without causing controversy or getting yourself into trouble?
No. Online venting usually does not work out in your favor. Offloading your frustrations online may seem “safer” than confronting people face-to-face, but this sense of anonymity often leads to ill-advised rudeness or provocation. It also tends to be done in haste without being properly thought through.

In fact, venting usually achieves the opposite of making you feel better. If anything, the blowback will leave you even angrier.

Q4: What are the rules for employees venting online with private accounts?
People need to understand that even when they are outside of business hours, they are still a representative of their brand. While there aren’t necessarily ‘rules’ for posting on private accounts, there are ‘unspoken’ best practices–and plain common sense.

On social media, the trail back to your employer is a short one. If the topic or discussion touches at all upon your professional life and you feel your blood boiling…don’t. Just don’t.

Q5: Is there a way to draw a line between giving away too much information and being real and personable as part of a brand?
That depends on the network. Oversharing might be acceptable on some but deemed crossing the line on others. For example:

Acceptable on Twitter: This is where brands can convey their personality. Oversharing on this channel is somewhat acceptable since most tweets get buried in follower timelines. But caution is advised. Brands must also consider the optimal time to post for their audience.

Not advised on LinkedIn: This is the ‘professional’ channel. Personal stories are becoming more prevalent, but are still not as popular as company posts. Companies can certainly add some brand and employee flavor to their posts, but should look to the other channels to project their human side.

Encouraged on Instagram: This is the rising star where oversharing is not just acceptable, but often encouraged. Instagram stories are a great way for brands to showcase some personality. You don’t need to worry about losing followers or disrupting your followers’ feeds as Instagram gives license for a bit of frivolity.

Q6: If there are political and social issues important to a company, is there a way they can share that information responsibly?
In general, I’m inclined to say no, brands should not use political messaging, it’s too risky. If you do decide to take the plunge, however, avoid issues that have nothing to do with your brand or audience. And make sure to do your research so that nobody can call you out on a mistake or PR stunt. Speak from the heart or the strength of your message will suffer.

All in all, think carefully about whether you feel strongly enough about this issue to jeopardize your brand reputation in an effort to promote those beliefs.

You are no doubt aware of Pepsi’s spectacular Kendall Jenner fail. They attempted to invoke the political climate only to earn a place in marketing misfire lore. However, around the same time, Heineken launched their own socially-charged ‘World’s Apart’ campaign that hit the mark.

Why did Heineken succeed where Pepsi failed? The difference has everything to do with voice. Heineken featured everyday, relatable people discussing social and political issues. The product didn’t dominate the campaign because the people did. Instead of speaking for consumers, Heineken offered a platform for consumers to speak for themselves. The campaign worked because it is obvious that this is what Heineken as a company believes in.

Q7: Are there instances when it’s okay to get involved if a company finds a comment or post offensive?
All you can really do is assess the situation and ask yourself: does this really concern me? Is making a statement going to add value to my company or tarnish it? And if I do make a statement, am I on the right side of history?

These are all important questions that need to be taken into consideration before joining any political or social conversation through the brand voice. But ultimately it will still be something of a leap of faith. If you make it, I recommend you prepare for the best and worst potential outcomes.

Q8: When is an apology necessary and how do you go about doing it online?
If it comes to it, apologies need to be honest and to the point. A sincere apology that acknowledges and owns your mistake can go a long way in mitigating the damage. A good rule of thumb is to ask your legal team to help draft the apology and then sprinkle in the human touch.

For some, a dedicated customer service account on Twitter might be the way to go. Consumers love Twitter because it’s immediate and their responses normally get a quick turnaround, which is important for avoiding a crisis. However, customer service issues can’t be resolved in 140 characters. Remember to direct your audience to the right resources for more context and know when to take the discussion off Twitter.

Video can also be a powerful platform to make an apology from. It shows the audience that there are people behind the issue working to make things right. People make mistakes, and good people fix them; anyone can relate to this message so make sure to remember that when building a crisis management strategy.

As soon as you’ve calmed down your audience, let the press know how well you’ve done. Turn the crisis story into a story about how great your brand is at apologizing and making things right. Writing a blog post the press can link to and draw quotes from goes a long way.

The bottom line is the bigger the mess-up, the grander the apologetic gesture needs to be. A good apology can make your audience forgive, if not even forget the mistake in the first place. It’s possible that you can create an even closer bond with your audience by allowing them to see the imperfect side of your brand.

Dino is a Falcon.io Customer Experience Manager in our New York Office. The National Jeweler Social Etiquette panel was moderated by Associate Editor Ashley Davis, with speakers Matthew Perosi of jWAG, Joy R. Butler, author of The Cyber Citizen’s Guide Through the Legal Jungle, and Levi Higgs of David Webb.

How to Handle a Social Media Crisis.

How to implement a plan to avoid a crisis.

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