To begin with, let's get real for a moment – companies are trespassers on Twitter. Twitter was not imagined as a place where a plumbing firm from Des Moines, Iowa can push their services. It was not launched so that a tour operator from Perth, Australia can attract new customers.
Thanks to the fact that a ridiculous number of people use Twitter every day and the fact that Twitter has to make money somehow, this social network both attracts and actively seeks out corporate entities, businesses that will use it to promote their products and services.
Because of its original idea of connecting people and enriching their lives, it is the responsibility of every commercial enterprise to treat Twitter with care. It does not matter if you are a gigantic corporation which employs thousands of people or a tiny 3-person local business – you have no right to be lame on Twitter.
That's common decency.
Big Players Going Beyond Lame:
Big companies pay huge amounts of money to social media teams which, as it turns out, often do not do their jobs very well.
When you work in the beauty industry which is often admonished for flirting (and more than flirting) with racism in one way or another, you simply cannot make mistakes on epic levels and Total Beauty did exactly that during the 2016 Oscars when they tweeted the following:
There is really no need to analyze this epic social media faux pas, right?
I just wanted to show that sometimes a big company will easily do something much worse than simply being lame.
MTV Australia did the same during the Golden Globes. Earlier this year, Red Lobster did something much less appalling, but which was still universally panned as one of the lamest responses a company had to what was effectively a priceless celebrity endorsement. Instead of nailing it and putting Beyoncé's mention of working for them, they tried a simple product flog and failed epically. You can read about it here.
Kenneth Cole, a designer who usually supports and promotes some very progressive organizations and values posted a particularly insensitive and thus extremely lame tweet in 2011 when the people of Egypt were trying to get rid of an autocratic regime.
In someone's mind, this sure sounded like a great twist on a historic event, but it came off as simply insensitive and insulting even. And that is lame. People whose lives are in danger because they are trying to topple an undemocratic regime should not be used to flog anyone's latest spring collection.
Kmart did something similar following the Sandy Hook shootings.
They did the right thing by expressing their grief for the victims. That being said, they completely failed when they slapped on a hashtag promoting their products at the end of the tweet.
It is insensitive and it is super lame.
An Entire Industry Being Lame
In May 2016, James Monroe wrote a great article on SerpMedia about how the vast majority of travel industry companies failed to use Twitter to their own advantage when Cynthia Johnson, a huge name in digital marketing, complained about how Expedia failed her as a service provider.
You can read the whole story here, but here are some highlights of the lameness
Cynthia complained on Twitter, explaining her ordeal. Expedia responded with a generic statement. Other travel companies failed to get involved on their own. Despite the fact that random people engaged in the Twitter conversation mention them, one company after another failed to actually figure out what was happening or do any kind of research.
They just sent out template messages inviting Cynthia to take advantage of their superior services or something lame like that. A ton of them didn't even thank for the mentions.
There is nothing lamer than treating your (potential) customers like statistics somewhere where you are supposed to make people see your company as an organization that is not just numbers and charts.
What you Can do
As a business owner or someone who takes care of someone's corporate Twitter account, you need to remember a few things in order to avoid coming across as lame, insulting or even worse.
1. Consider the Moment
Not every event is an opportunity. Sure, there are joyous times when no one will mind if you come up with a particularly witty way to tie in your product or service with the celebrations. However, there are also weighty, serious and often tragic events where the only Twitter activity on your behalf should be sending prayers and perhaps sharing a link to a charity that you contribute to and that is somehow connected to what is happening.
Do not equate your excited customers with Kurdish rebels fighting the ISIS or anything like that. This shows an incredible lack of tact.
2. Do Not Be Ignorant
Learn about things. These days, it is easier than ever before to acquire at least a modicum of knowledge about a subject at hand. Failing to do that, you risk coming across uninformed and often crass. The infamous American Apparel Challenger Tragedy case should be warning enough. If there was someone even half-educated working for their social media team at the time, they would have avoided this faux pas.
3. Be Human
I am not saying there is anything wrong with using social media tools such as SocialPilot, on the contrary. These tools can be of humongous help to companies who wish to become more relevant and successful on social media, Twitter included. However, when getting into a conversation with your customers and potential customers, the human touch is a must.
Until AI technology becomes a reality, we will not be able to leave it to our social media tools to actually converse with real life people. And I don't mean AI as in what passes under AI these days. We all know how that worked out for Microsoft.
4. Learn From the Best
Some companies do social media well. One thing to remember is that it does not matter what they actually do or what you think about the industry they are involved in. Take PornHub, for example. Despite the fact they operate in a less-than-savory industry, they know how to do social media the right way as a company. Moreover, they also do their content marketing well and they are constantly coming up with new ways to reinvent their online presence.
If you need more examples of a great corporate use of Twitter, check out this great post on the HubSpot blog.
5. Go Easy on the Pop Culture
You have probably noticed that half of all the content on the internet these days follow a simple pattern that could be represented by a formula that would go something like this:
X (where x is a number) +
Y (where y is a popular movie or a TV show) +
can teach us/we can learn +
Z (where z is a concept such as digital marketing or making your own jam or anything else, really)
To illustrate this point, I typed "What game of thrones can teach us about" in Google and this is what I got:
That's just the first page. It goes on. Here are some highlights from pages 2, 3 and 4.
And it's not just Game of Thrones that gets this lame treatment. Think of any popular TV show in the last couple of years or any superhero movie that we are being pummeled with lately and you will get the same results.
People think this will attract shares and clicks and to some extent, it will. This, however, does not make such topics and such content not lame.
Of course, such content will be shared incessantly on Twitter, complete with meme pics and clumsy Photoshop efforts that are supposed to make a pool cleaning company regurgitating GoT seem super cool.
If you are really bent on using social media, don't go so obviously mainstream. Show the world that you have a mind of your own.
6. Don't Be Racist
I really cannot believe I am writing this, but after MTV Australia and Total Beauty, I feel I have to – don't be racist. If you are not sure if you are being racist, you probably are.
To complete the circle, I would once again like to remind you that as a corporate entity, you are an imposter on Twitter. The reality is such that the people have grown accustomed to companies being present on Twitter and some of them are doing it well.
The others are not. They fail at every corner and more often than not, these fails are only lame which hurts no one but them.
All it takes is a bit of education, a thought process that lasts more than 6 seconds and perhaps a second opinion before you post something on Twitter.