Social Media – Be Careful What You Post!

On-line faux pas can come back to haunt you.

Facebook logoLast night an old dental business friend called me in a somewhat distraught state. He advised that one of his Facebook posts had been picked up by the local press and printed in a recent news article, along with more information they’d dug up about him and his business. And not in a good way.

As background, the gentlemen concerned has recently taken to Facebook and started to use it to express his views on a variety of subjects, some of it fairly “robust” in nature. Whilst you might applaud him for standing by his principles, unfortunately his stance on some topics would not necessarily appeal to everyone. It is this which seems to have “undone” him somewhat.

The incident concerned relates to anti-social behaviour in a neighbourhood near to his home whereby “youths” were driving their cars in a rather carefree and seemingly inconsiderate fashion. This had become the subject of a Facebook post which had spread broadly across the area where he lives and further afield – such is the power of Facebook! He had picked up on the post and commented, not just to disparage the reckless driving activities, but also to comment rather flippantly, that the area where it was happening was now like the “Wild West” in his opinion.

What happened next?

Unfortunately for the gentlemen concerned, the local press picked up on his post and used it without his knowledge or consent in the local paper. As with many of these things, the thrust of his original comment appears to have been somewhat skewed and the newspaper article implied that he was denigrating the inhabitants of the local area just as much as the “boy racers”. This was all published together with personal references about him and his business. Not good!

And then the ‘phone calls started! Initially it was friends tipping him off to advise that he was on the front page but then the calls started to arrive from occupants in the nearby community, some of them quite threatening apparently. The poor guy is currently sat wondering about being accosted in the street as well as any potential collateral damage to his business. That and also considering challenging the local newspaper legally. Quite a mess and all precipitated by a simple Facebook post!

Lessons

What can dental practices learn from this salutary tale? Well, with social media becoming an increasingly important marketing channel and seemingly every coach and marketing company pushing it for all its worth, it’s extremely important to understand the pitfalls as well as the benefits.

There is a tendency to allocate a social media “champion” from within the dental team and then rely on them to push the message out via the usual channels, Facebook, Twitter and the like. Often there is only limited training done and also little overview, simply because the business managers and principals are too busy. Herein lies the risk, as even with the best of intentions, a poorly worded social media post can be completely misconstrued and backfire pretty catastrophically.

So it really is important to make sure that anyone posting to social media on your behalf is a) fully trained, b) media aware, c) business aware and d) consistent. They also need to be fully conversant with the GDC guidelines on the matter and understand that a businesses reputation can be trashed if they get it wrong!

Outsourcing

So what about outsourcing your social media to a third-party? You may think that this will cover your needs but actually it likely won’t help much at all. You see, marketing companies generally understand the risks but then “dumb-down” their posts to such a level that frankly they are boring and of little interest to anyone. Content of this nature may not damage you quickly, but it may damage your reputation simply through creeping tedium! From a business perspective, these types of campaigns typically don’t gain much traction and you should review very carefully before you jump in. Without doubt, a thorough campaign done professionally from the practice level, will always outstrip the generic content posted by third-party companies. But take care!

Summary

mistake signSocial media is becoming increasingly important in any worthwhile marketing campaign but the implementation, consistency and staff training is not to be taken lightly. As we’ve seen from our example, even apparently innocuous content can be misconstrued and lead to a lot of unnecessary problems. So by all means do it, but please provide the necessary resources and training to do it right.

If you would like to discuss the role of social media within your own digital marketing strategy, please call the Dental Media team on 01332 672548 for free advice.