Social Media Madness

Up until a month ago, I used social media as a way of communicating with friends, seeing what my family are up to and generally as a source of entertainment. I was asking the typical questions like how many followers do I have on Instagram now? Why am I so threatened by the girl who liked my boyfriend’s profile picture?  And, why am I taking everything you say on my posts to heart?…I don’t even know who you are. 

Now that I have joined Salix as the new PR apprentice and control the social media in a business environment, it’s got me thinking very differently about it. Seeing social media in this new light has got me asking questions like are we completely reliant on social media? Do social media ‘mishaps’ have a good or bad impact? And, what would happen if I tweeted something controversial by mistake?

The boom in social media has contributed greatly to the PR industry. I have noticed that we are heavily reliant on it, but is this necessarily a bad thing? It’s a great way to increase awareness and connect with our audience. The social media sites are only getting more advanced, and increasing in number every day so why not use it to its full advantage?

We’ve been careful over the years and avoided classic social media ‘mishaps’, but others have been less fortunate. I thought I’d recap on a couple of these just to make sure everyone stays clear of them in future. That, and also because some of them are quite entertaining.

Back in January 2012 McDonald’s created the hashtag #McDStories so people could post their positive dining experiences on Twitter. This backfired when they started receiving responses like: “One time I walked into McDonald’s and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up. #McDStories” This is a classic case of a ‘bashtag’ – when a hashtag is used for critical and abusive comments. A few months back I would have found this social media ‘flop’ extremely entertaining. Now, I just feel for the poor apprentice whose heart sank when they realised their clever idea had backfired. Unfortunately they learnt the hard way that it’s vital to know your audience and the medium.

Another social media ‘blunder’ exploded last year when Margret Thatcher died. The hashtag #nowthatchersdead was created, and for those who can’t see where it all went wrong…refer to the tweets:

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These particular misfortunes created a massive buzz, and well, ultimately that is what we aim for in this industry. Over the years I have heard that ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity.’ However, working in PR has taught me otherwise. I suppose it might be true for exposure hungry celebs. But as my boss retold the BP oil spill disaster and the shocker that Tony Hayward had, it became clear that corporate reputations can easily take a bashing.

Last year I thought it would be a good idea to start a personal blog. One of my posts was about a fishing trip I went on, unfortunately it attracted some negative comments. People said ‘I was a disgusting person’ and couldn’t believe I would take part in something that harms animals like that. I was so disheartened and upset by this, but why do we take comments from complete strangers to heart? That particular post received five times more views than any other. Funny how people love a scandal. Of course I deleted it straight away. However, if this happened now I would have thrived off the attention in order to attract more views – check me out with my new PR skills.

A few months ago, for me, social media was a great way of communicating with friends and family but now it’s this amazing PR tool that increases awareness. And even though it causes unexpected consequences hopefully we can use our crisis management expertise to create a positive outcome. But then again, both professionally and personally, maybe we are too reliant on social media. Is social media making us less social? I will leave that up to you.