How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: What Not to Do as a Brand on Social Media

Ignite Social Media’s President Jim Tobin is fond of comparing social media to a cocktail party. But what happens when your brand’s party is a ghost town? Before you run off to frantically search for the latest tricks to add new followers to your fan base, you might want to make sure that you’re not actively driving people away. Here are a few “party killers” to avoid in order to cultivate a healthy and engaged community for your brand: 

Having a One-Way Conversation

No one wants to hang out with a party host who does nothing but talk about themselves. Take a look back at what you posted last week – did you talk about your brand or did you lay the groundwork for your fans to talk about it? Did you include open-ended questions or call-to-action prompts? A good party host is someone who initiates conversation, and then steps back to allow other party-goers to add in their own contribution to the exchange. If you find that your messaging leaves no space for dialogue, you’re missing the point of social media.

Jeep Facebook Post

A call-to-action is a great way to galvanize your fan base into creating organic stories about your brand. Full disclosure: Jeep® is a client of Ignite Social Media.


blah blahDo you remember how adults would sound in the old Peanuts cartoons? I’d like to imagine the same thing happens with brands who post too much. The actual content of the conversation may be valuable, but the sheer volume causes it to devolve into noise. For Facebook, a good general rule of thumb is to aim for a cadence of one post daily. Periodically alter the post timing, and eventually you’ll find which times match with the peak interaction periods for your fan base. Less content means more time can be spent on improving the quality of your messaging, and you’re less likely to cause your fan base to want to hide your posts or un-follow your account.

Losing Your Cool Over Criticism

Here’s a situation: One of the guests at your party just insulted the hors d’oeuvres. Do you: A) Loudly and vocally insult them in front of your other guests, B) Throw them into the street and act like nothing happened or C) Find some other way to make your guest comfortable? I’m having a field day with this analogy, but the answer should be obvious. Brands get into trouble on social media when they take criticism personally and either attack the commenter or try to sweep the whole thing under the rug. Social media is about interaction, and that means brands have to be willing to accept the bad with the good. In fact, a win for your brand would be to transform a customer complaint into a positive interaction. Check out some examples below:

This is everything you should not do when someone criticizes your brand.

Amy's Baking Company

A timely and personal response to criticism can often diffuse an angry customer.

Delta Tweet

Letting the Trolls Take Over

Lashing out at commenters and aggressively hiding any hint of negativity from your pages is a bad idea. However, giving up control of your community altogether is an equally poor choice. There’s a difference between staying cool when a party guest criticizes your drapes and allowing your drunk Uncle Rico to go streaking through your living room. Ultimately, you are the host of the party, and this means you’re in charge of maintaining an atmosphere that’s comfortable for your guests.

So how do you stay in control of your community? Begin by establishing a set of house rules for what will get you thrown out of the party. Some great examples include attacking other party guests, peddling products/services that aren’t related to your brand, and using language that would make a sailor blush. After establishing the rules, enforce them. A warning may be enough to stop most rule-breakers on your page, but repeat offenders may need to be banned from the community. In the long run, throwing out the occasional rowdy party-goer may save your whole event from going down in flames.

Does this look familiar? Kick spammers out of your community or your real fans may leave.


Ignoring Your Neighborhood

If you just moved to Boston, throwing a Yankees-themed party may not be the best way to meet your neighbors. In the same vein, brands should take time to learn about the characteristics of different social networks before they accidentally commit a faux pas. A great example? Don’t refer to a Google Plus “+1” as a “Like.” Many people switched to Google Plus to get away from the Facebook crowd, and they resent it when brands do not respect the differences between the networks.

Party On

At the end of the day, a successful party hinges on creating positive exchanges between host and guest, and between the guests themselves. Keeping the party rolling requires encouraging positive dialogue, maintaining a level head, and thoughtfully establishing a shindig which fits within the norms of the larger community. If you can check off all of these boxes, your brand may soon be the talk of the town.

Know of any other social media “worst practices” that brands should avoid? Leave us a comment!

Ignite Social Media