If you’re like many Americans, you’ve been engrossed in the 2012 Olympic Games happening in London. While the games provide an entertaining opportunity to cheer for your favorite athletes, they also offer lessons for small-business owners about the right and wrong way to use social media.
Since the games began, social media has taken center stage and sometimes, not for the right reasons. Athletes have been kicked off teams for posting offensive tweets. Twitter wars have broken out between athletes and attendees have started online riots over unused VIP seats that weren’t filled.
So what can you learn from these Olympic social-media debacles? BizBytes has compiled a list of four of them below
1. Think before you tweet.
The incident: A triple jumper from Greece and a soccer player from Switzerland were booted from their respective teams for sending offensive tweets.
The lesson: “The lesson here is to think before you tweet,” said Dick Raman, CEO of BrandReact, a Miami-based firm that counsels corporations about their use of social media. “Because social media is instant, people sometimes don’t realize that things written in the heat of the moment have a lasting effect even in the Twitterverse.”
Raman recommends carefully planning your social-media updates and to run them by several people in your company prior to posting.
“Remember that your tweets are a reflection of your brand,” Raman said. “And whether it’s you or your employees who are maintaining your corporate social-media accounts, it’s important that everyone think twice and then think again prior to posting.”
2. When customers vent, listen fast and address the problem even faster.
The incident: People who weren’t able to get tickets to the Olympics were upset when a large number of seats at major events went unused. They took to Twitter to voice their frustration, forcing Olympic organizers to address the issue publicly.
The lesson: “Whether you are a large or small business, if you are in the social-media space, you will have to address issues from customers,” said Jeff Zelaya, an executive at Vocus Media and public speaker who trains companies on the proper use of social media. “Businesses need to remember that social media is all about transparency, so you can’t really hide anything. If you find yourself facing an angry mob of tweeps who are upset over something your brand did, the first thing you need to do is publicly address it and let them know that you are addressing the problem.”
Olympic organizers publicly addressed the empty-seat issue by distributing tickets to students and the military.
“Olympic organizers did a great job in solving this problem,” Zelaya said. “They responded directly on Twitter to the people who were upset and distributed tickets to people who could not get them previously.”
3. Don’t trash your colleagues or competitors.
The incident: U.S.. women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo launched a Twitter war trashing Olympic commentator and former U.S. soccer player Brandi Chastain, criticizing her for several comments she made during a match.
The lesson: “Brandi Chastain is a former Olympian and colleague of Hope Solo,” Raman said. “Taking to Twitter to trash her wasn’t appropriate. The same thing applies for small businesses. Instead of trashing your colleagues and competitors, use that opportunity to talk about the strengths of your company and what makes you different.”
4. You control your use of social media to promote your brand.
The incident: Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm failed to win a gold medal and blamed the loss on social media, citing that she didn’t perform as well as she should have because she believed the hype on social media that had her pegged to win gold.
The lesson: “Brands have to remember that they control their presence on social media,” Zelaya said. “When something goes wrong, don’t blame it on social media. Instead, use it to talk about the problem in a transparent way and let others know how you intend to address it.”
For more social-media lessons from the Olympics, visit www.bizbytes101.com.