The first day of school for my daughter turned into a bit of a media circus–a social media circus that is. As an article writer who covers social media marketing on a regular basis, I feel I would be remiss not to use this incident as an opportunity to share the sometimes negative power of social media.
East Paulding Middle School in Dallas, Georgia posted a sign on the front lawn that stated, “Welcome back students we are glad you are hear.” Yes, that was a misused homophone. To be honest, I did not notice the sign when I dropped my daughter at school at 8:00 am. (I know, and I am a writer—for shame that I am not a card-carrying member of the grammar police.) By noon, I had seen the sign posted on Facebook at least four or five times. By 2:00 pm, a friend from California had heard about it. By 5:00 pm, it was a meme. A few days later, it was mentioned on Good Morning America.
Ten years ago, this would have never been the same level of event—and it is all due to social media. That same viral marketing power that allows you to connect with your audience in a positive way can very easily come back and give you negative publicity. The most interesting thing about it is that your business or organization can become “social media famous” (or infamous) even if you do not Tweet, Facebook or Instagram personally.
It is vital that a company has a plan in place in case they face a social media crisis. It could be a simple issue like a misworded sign, or it could be something much more severe, but you truly never know what social media will grab onto and create a viral campaign out of, potentially disrupting your day-to-day business. The school’s Facebook page was flooded with comments about the unprofessionalism of the sign—even though it was taken down a few hours after the school day began and well before many of the comments were made.
Luckily, for my daughter’s school at least, their social media infamy was short lived. Our Facebook feeds are all once again filled with lions, Kardashians and flags. However, I know I will not forget the lesson I learned about the actual power of social media during this back to school season.
Tracy S. is a freelance marketing writer who loves playing pool, petting cats, sipping iced coffee and she cannot wait for fall.