Broadcasters Behaving Badly on Social Media

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say it at work; don’t say it on social media. Easy enough, right? Not so much. We’ve seen time and time again, broadcasters behaving badly on social media. So, what’s the big deal? As journalists or representatives of large corporations, often personal opinions are not appropriate nor are they welcome, yet some broadcasters have bucked authority and sent out tweets landing them in hot water. The nature of social media makes this easy, but it doesn’t make it right.

hueymorganIn 2012, Huey Morgan, a radio host for the BBC, went on a not-so-nice Twitter rant against one of his colleagues. Fortunately, Morgan realized rather quickly (the next day) that his actions were not appropriate and soon apologized to his colleague. This probably helped quell the controversy, but it still happened. Management did talk with Morgan, but if I were head of the radio station, I would have suspended him. Mainly, to prove a point. Despite tweeting the inappropriate comments from his personal account, Morgan is a public figure and represents the BBC Radio division. Not only were his comments inappropriate, they were aimed at one of the company’s other talents. Talk about bad public relations. A company must be seen as a united front. In fighting, played out on Twitter, looks bad on many levels.

I don’t think a public figure can have total freedom on social media. They are hired as representatives of companies/organizations and therefore they have to  uphold the standards of that company, even in their free time. One of my friends is a local news anchor in Roanoke, Va., and she often jokes that she is never “off the clock.” Even when she’s not working, she is a representative of the station, and people see her as such. If she’s having a bad day, and someone approaches her at the super market to complain about how her hair looks or a recent story, she has to be nice and respectful. She is a public figure 24/7. I think many broadcasters forget this. It’s the job they signed up for and they need to handle all the things that come along with it – good of bad.

ChrisPackhamSocial media also poses challenges for broadcasters who believe strongly in certain causes. For instance, in 2013 BBC contributor Chris Packham was reprimanded after expressing his personal beliefs against the killing of badgers. The BBC claimed that Packham had violated their editorial guidelines, by expressing his personal views on the matter. They were right. It can be hard to manage an employee’s desire to use social media to speak freely, especially about causes they feel strongly about. That’s why, guidelines need to be set in place and made clear to all employees. Packham issued a statement regarding the controversial comments and stated he would no longer report on the issue. I think this is probably the best thing to do. Separating work assignments from personal beliefs is sometimes the easiest way to avoid impartial reporting. There shouldn’t be a conflict of interest, and the public shouldn’t question the impartiality of a story.

jimmy_kimmel_kanye_west_feudCelebrities are a whole other beast on social media. Clearly different from broadcasters, they don’t have to remain impartial (unless they work for a broadcasting company as a contributor). However, when they air their grievances on social media, it tends to come off as whining rather than being passionate. One example, Kayne West’s rant toward Jimmy Kimmel. Can I just say: no one feels bad for you Kayne! Being a public figure means you get made fun of my comedians. Suck it up. Use your social media presence to help a cause you believe in.

Bottom line: don’t say something on Twitter you wouldn’t say at work, or you wouldn’t say to your mom. That’s my rule of thumb. It can come back to bite you in a professional setting or it could jeopardize your reputation with the public. Think before you tweet people!



Social Media Accuracy

There is a lot of noise on social media and it can be hard for users to differentiate between fact and fiction. It can be equally as hard for organizations, more specifically news organizations, to navigate in the ever-changing and fast-paced world of social media.

I worked in a newsroom between 2006 and 2011, when social media was at first seen as the “enemy” and then slowly transformed into a “resource.” It used to be that news organizations wanted to be “first” on the air or in print. That could have taken a number of hours. Now it’s a number of minutes or even seconds. So, how can organizations still be “first” while aiming for accuracy? Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution.

Verify_Social_Media_Profiles_TwitterBadgeOrganizations still need to verify information and “think” before they post or tweet information. Just as with traditional media, organizations need to look at the source of the information. Many social networks, including Twitter and Facebook, have “verified” accounts, indicated with blue check marks. This can help organizations vet the source, depending on the type of information. But as we’ve seen in the past, a random person can break a news story.

Does the Osama Bin Laden raid ring a bell? That first broke on social media from a man inadvertently tweeting from a home nearby. We didn’t learn about it from a “verified source” until hours later. I think it’s important for news organizations to chime in on situations like this, but not post unconfirmed information. Maybe tweeting something like: “We are working to confirm this…” or “We don’t have all the facts yet, but are expecting an official statement on (insert topic) in the next few hours.”

I remember during the aftermath of the Newtown School Shooting Tragedy, a lot of false information was being spread on social media. Many news organizations reported the wrong name, on social media and in traditional media (on air). When releasing names during such a serious situation, news organizations need to use the traditional forms of confirmation, because the damage can be done so quickly on social media.

When information is published incorrectly, I think organizations need to acknowledge it, but then remove it. Some people may think this is unethical, but I see it as trying not to spread even more false information. This way, if the organization acknowledges it (on the specific post), those who have liked it, commented on it, or followed it can be made aware, and then it can be removed so no one else reads it as the truth.

I do think audiences are more forgiving in the social media world, mainly because of the fast pace. What appears in someone’s newsfeed one minute, is gone the next. In a breaking news situation, it is important to keep people aware of what is fact and what may have been a mistake. Owning up to a mistake will go a long way with users, but I think preventing those mistakes to begin with will go even further.


Social Media Behavior

SocialMediaBehaviorSocial media is integrated into most of our daily lives, so it’s no surprise that it not only impacts how we behave in person, but also online. We are products of our environments, right? So, if a social network is one of our primary environments, we’re destined to be influenced by it. Each social network has developed its own culture, with loyal users who interact and behave certain ways. It’s hard to say there are “normal” behaviors on social networks, but there are certainly trends brands need to be aware of and moderate.

For instance, on Facebook many users are looking to strengthen pre-existing relationships that were established outside of the social network. Of course, this isn’t 100% true, but when even looking at my own personal Facebook connections, I already know all of my “friends.” I’m not friends with any strangers. The same is true of brands. Brand pages that I “like” are brands that I am familiar with–that I have a pre-existing relationship with.

I cannot say the same for Twitter and I don’t think I’m alone. Twitter lends itself to much more broad reaching relationships. Yes, we can follow people we have pre-existing relationships with, but we can also follow celebrities, industry influencers, or complete strangers easily. I think a lot of this has to do with the use of hashtags. While Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even Google+ utilize hashtags, Twitter rules supreme. If a live event utilizes a hashtag in real time, Twitter users may grow their followers depending on what they tweet and if it attracts a broader audience. This is not as easily accomplished on other social networks.

I think user behavior on social media also has a lot to do with the primary focus on the platform. For instance, platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are visually based. These may be more appealing to those of us who enjoy creating and sharing visuals. While Twitter and Facebook may be more for real-time updates and news events. Also, LinkedIn is a great example of where our professional and “social” worlds collide. I’m sure most users who create content on LinkedIn, tend to have different behaviors on other social platforms. Using myself as an example again, many of my LinkedIn updatCubes - 379 - INFLUENCEes have to do with work projects or industry news. I very rarely post this same content on Facebook. It’s just not the same audience, and not the same connections for me. Now, if I have a business page on Facebook I would post that same content, because I would assume anyone who “liked” my page cared about healthcare marketing or social media.

Just like in the real world, behaviors on social media change from platform to platform or situation to situation. After establishing connections (either pre-existing or new), users are influenced by those around them. I think most of us have a larger impact on our social connections than we think. We are all influencers in one form or fashion, and we need to behave accordingly.



Managing Relationships on Social Media

reputationmanagementReputations can be a hard thing to manage, whether it’s personally or for a brand.

This week, we learned about an incident involving British Airways. When I initially heard about the promoted tweet sent out by @HVSVN about British Airways, I thought, “Wow, this guy is really mad!” Then, I thought what a great way to make yourself heard. I would have never thought of complaining about a business or brand and then paying to promote that tweet so more people would see it. But I guess if I was that mad at a company I would consider it now! This is the risk all brands take when entering the social media world. It’s great to learn about customers and listen to them, but with the good comes the bad.

British Airways did respond to this follower, but not until several hours later. As a brand, it stated that it wasn’t available during the time of his tweet, but would look into it. I think the airline could have handled this better. Besides not manning its social media handles 24/7, it could have initially apologized and tried to sympathize with the customer right off the bat. I would have tweeted something along these lines:

“We are sorry for your unpleasant experience and would like to make it right. Pls send us a DM with more info and we’ll contact you directly.”

Is that groveling? Sort of, but I think in this instance it’s necessary. The follower blasted the brand across an entire social media channel (and across the internet) and British Airways needed everyone else to not only see that they cared, but that they were addressing the issue head-on. It’s a shame this did not happen.

This week, we also learned about the “follow up.” This is something new to me, which I have not considered before. How genius! After this incident happened for British Airways, the brand should have followed up with this customer a week or so later, and in a public way. Maybe this could have included some sort of compensation. I would suggest a free flight or something that the customer would personally enjoy. This would help the brand seem more “human” and go a long way with other customers. They should have tried to make him a “fan” again, and let everyone else know they were doing so. Now, whether that would be realistic or not is unknown, but they could at least try. Sometimes a brand’s biggest “complainer” can become the best ally, especially in a social space.

Has your brand ever “followed up” with a fan a week or later after a complaint? If so, what did the follow-up include and did the fan seem appeased?

Starbucks Brews Strong Relationships on Social Media

StarbucksSignStarbucks is a brand many have admired for years, both in traditional advertising and online. As one of the early adopters of social media, Starbucks continues to push the envelope on cultivating and managing relationships in social settings. The coffee giant has always been able to translate its offline brand strategies online. In a sense, its created a network of “online baristas” to serve customers online instead of necessarily in one of its locations.

Starbucks mission is ” to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” The personal and “local” feel of a company that is so large translates well on social media. People look at their local Starbucks franchise as a local coffee shop, and that’s mainly due to the brand’s voice in advertising, as well as, on social media. Beyond its mission, Starbucks boosts several values: honesty, sincerity, and connecting with customers on a human level. All of these values obviously translate well in a social online setting where people are looking to not only trust brands, but also connect with them.

With over 36 million “likes” on its Facebook page, Starbucks has cultivated a strong online community. It actually doesn’t take the “traditional” business social media strategy of posting several times a day, rather lets fans drive the page’s content. That being said, when the brand does create content, it is very casual and similar to what their fans post, i.e. images of drinks, inspirational quotes, charitable causes, etc.

As you can imagine in the beverage and food industry, the brand gets its fair share of comments, questions, and feedback on a daily basis. While it may not be posting its own content everyday, all day, it does respond to fans in a timely fashion. All of the posts I’ve seen have received responses within 24 hours. A reputation that probably sits well with fans and critics alike. Below are a few screenshots of how they’ve responded to both positive and negative feedback on Facebook. You’ll see their casual, yet personal responses to each fan.Starbucks_PositiveCommentStarbucks_NegativeComment


Starbucks acknowledges each comment/post, even if it’s just someone wanting to thank their husband for a coffee drink. The brand is clearly listening on social media and interacting with fans who just mention the brand. It’s a clear commitment to the social world we live in. When it comes to complaints and negative feedback, the brand directs everyone to its customer service email. It’s great that Starbucks has something like this set up (since the amount of issues they receive is enormous), but I will say it does get repetitive that they have almost the same canned response for each comment (also see Twitter screenshots below). I would suggest they create a variety of responses, that all lead back to the customer service email, but don’t all sound the same.

The one thing that really stood out to me with their brand voice, was the company’s ability to harness and encourage ideas from fans. Starbucks often directs people to its My Starbucks Ideas website to submit ideas for improving products, sharing customer experiences, and cultivating community involvement.


On Twitter, Starbucks maintains its brand voice when responding to followers. Its voice is fun and casual, while still being attentive and responsive. It’s clear the brand cares about it’s fans/customers and wants to react in a positive way to all interactions. Below are a few conversations between the brand and its Twitter followers.

Starbucks_AppProblemComment Starbucks_NegativeComment2 Starbucks_PositiveComment2

Any brand can learn about social media engagement from Starbucks. It’s not just pushing out promotional messaging or ignoring questions, compliments, and complaints. It’s addressing them all, while keeping that “human spirit” of the brand. A consistent brand voice is so important for social media, and cultivating that voice to be one your fans/followers can relate to is even more important.

I look forward to seeing what the “online baristas” serve up on social media in the future!


Building Social Media Relationships? Keep it Real.

brandvoiceHow do you build better social media relationships? Keep it real. Or in different terms, remember to always remain human. Create content in the way in which you would say it to a friend or colleague. Find a tone that fits your brand, but also fits your audience.

Many brands struggle with this because they don’t want to be seen as unprofessional, but being conversational doesn’t equate to unprofessional. Brands need to relate to their audience. So, the first step is knowing your audience. Are you listening to them? Do you know what content they are sharing? Do you know how to respond to their questions or concerns? You need to be able to say “yes” to these questions in order to create content followers will find valuable and engaging.

At my organization, Carilion Clinic, finding a brand voice on social media has been a journey. As a healthcare organization, like many in the U.S., our overall focus has shifted away from promoting clinical services and physicians to being seen as a resource for health and wellness information. Due to healthcare reform, we are in a place where we want to keep people healthy and out of the hospital, by helping them manage chronic health conditions. If these types of conditions (diabetes, heart failure, COPD) are not addressed early on, they will end up costing us more down the road and lessen a patient’s quality of life. Both of those things are not what we want. This shift to a health and wellness focus has actually helped us find a brand voice on social media.

Beyond Facebook and Twitter, social platforms like Pinterest have enabled us to better create content our audience (significantly female) will want to use and share. We’ve created boards for Healthy Foods, Child Safety, Adolescent & Student Health, among others. This type of content isn’t just about promoting our services or providers, although they are sometimes highlighted, it’s more about raising awareness of health conditions, consumer recalls, safety tips, easy recipes, etc. — all things a female audience may relate to.

On Facebook and Twitter, health and wellness tips (posts and videos), links, and infographics far outperform our posts highlighting new physicians or community events. Due to this, we have decreased those promotional posts and increased health information content. I think developing our brand voice over the last few months has been easier for our social media team because our organization’s overall brand voice is clearer.

Companies that have a clear vision/mission will make it easier for that voice to coincide with social media strategy, which ultimately builds relationships and trust amongst followers. If you “keep it real” on social media, followers will see your brand as a real person and want to connect with you. Keep it social. Keep it real.

Social Media: Trust No One or Everyone?

socialmediafriendsHow many Facebook friends do you have? How many Twitter followers do you have? When I think about my respective numbers: 804 and 334, do I trust each and every one of them? No. Do they all trust me? Probably, not. Social media makes it so easy for us to connect with people from all of the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are developing stronger relationships with these people.

In a traditional way of thinking, trust is something that is earned over time and through multiple personal interactions. On social media, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. A person can be following someone’s updates for awhile before ever actually engaging with that person. You could be earning someone’s trust and not even know it. For me, when it comes to Facebook or Twitter, I look to follow people who post valuable content in my opinion. That could mean a number of different things: something I find humorous, something I can relate to, something I can use on a school assignment, something I can share with a co-worker, etc. Nothing can earn trust more on social media than valuable content.

One of the great things about social media is you don’t actual have to know someone personally to gain their trust. In a 2012 study, 51% of Millennials (age 18-34) say they trust user-generated content and anonymous reviews over recommendations from friends or family. Word-of-mouth recommendations take on a whole new meaning on social media.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 10.49.20 PMSomeone specifically that I “trust” on social media is Kim Garst. Not only does Kim post interesting information concerning social media trends and platforms, she also posts motivational content and keeps her online presence very “human.” (see screenshots). While I’ve never met Kim in person (I hope I can someday), I trust her because I find her content helpful, valuable, motivational. If she endorsed a certain company, platform, or person I would trust her opinion because she has proven herself to me as a trustworthy resource on social media.

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Another thing to consider when discussing social media and trust is engagement. Social media is a two-way communication tool. If users engage with brands or individuals, we want a response — even if it’s just a “like” or a “retweet.” That small acknowledgement can go a long way with users.

I’m by no means a social media “guru” or “expert” but I feel like I’m laying the groundwork for when someday I could be a trusted resource for others. The benefit I think I bring from my trust is “retweets” and “shares” and mentions in my blog. While a whole lot of people may not be following me yet, I’m hoping to build on that credibility by mentioning other credible sources, and in turn their content is reaching a broader audience. Sharing each other’s content and engaging with one another is what social media is all about. The more we do those things the more trust we will be able to create.

How do you measure trust on social media? Is a “like” or a “retweet” enough for you or do you need a deeper level of engagement?

Has a brand or individual been able to regain your trust through social media after losing it?