We’ve all witnessed it happen: A brand spends years building their Twitter following, increasing engagement, and building the trust and loyalty of their customers, and then…it happens! One tweet, one inappropriate photo or one irrational reply to a follower and suddenly the brand finds itself in the midst of a disaster. It is the fear of having this happen that leads many businesses from avoiding social media entirely. However, as long as you follow a few guidelines, you can help avoid any major branding disasters on Twitter.

Before I dive into three guidelines to follow in order to limit any risk of a branding disaster, let me spend a moment stating the obvious: THINK BEFORE YOU TWEET. This alone will help you avoid most branding disasters. That moment when you think and pause will help you catch most mistakes, such as spelling errors, but also help give you an extra thought to whether or not the tweet will help or hurt your brand. If the answer is not an absolute, “Yes, this tweet will help the brand,” then don’t send it.

You don’t need to fear branding disasters. If you follow these three guidelines, you’ll avoid them.

  1. Always remember your target audience:
    Your content should always appeal to your target audience.
    Use a brand voice that appeals to your audience.
    Tweet content that adds value to your target audience.
    Avoid any language or content that may turn your target audience off.
    Branding disaster example of failing to do this: A large national brand whose target audience is mostly conservative, middle class, families, age 35-60, ran a campaign comprised of videos with young people in their 20’s, speaking often in slang, and dressing in backwards hats, dressed way too casually, and looked generally disheveled.

The result: They spent a bunch of money, put a lot of time into their campaign, but ended up losing followers and upsetting their investors.

  1. Have a purpose behind everything you do:
    Don’t tweet randomly. Not all tweets will have direct calls to action, but they should all fit within your overall social media strategy. Tweet purposes can be (but aren’t limited to):
    Call to action and/or to direct followers to your website
    Add value to your target audience to increase brand loyalty and engagement.
    Initiate replies and engagement.
    Grow your targeted followers.
    Branding disaster example of failing to do this: An agency that manages other brands on social media, through their own agency account, began tweeting one night about politics. First. They failed to keep the first guideline in mind because they were tweeting liberal views and their customers were mostly conservative financial companies. Next, their posts did not have a purpose. They were random. What happened was that started a slippery slope to where the agency eventually got caught up and tweeted out something inappropriate.

The Result: Their largest client terminated their contract.

  1. Pay attention to the details:
    The details matter and poor attention to details will hurt your brand’s credibility.
    Spell everything correctly and use proper grammar.
    I know, it is twitter. However, failing to use proper spacing, punctuation, commas, etc. will cause your brand to lose credibility.
    Don’t over-abbreviate. Cutting out parts of words or eliminating vowels in an attempt to get your tweet to be under 140 characters is not wise.
    Check your links. Make sure you post the correct links.
    Branding disaster example of failing to do this: A professional public relations professional that made the majority of his income from one sports agency that contracted PR work to him to craft content for professional athletes was consistently not punctuating any of his tweets. He would start new sentences with lower case letters, and frequently use a lower case “i.”

The Result: The sports agency terminated the contract with this public relations consultant because they could not take the risk of having someone, who took such little care of his own content, crafting content for their clients. The PR consultant lost his credibility because he did not pay attention to the details.

These three guidelines may seem simple and common sense, however, most brands get lazy and neglect these guidelines. Neglecting these guidelines leads to bigger mistakes that cause branding disasters. When you keep these guidelines in mind and focus on the fundamentals, you’ll avoid major branding mistakes.

Bottom line: Think before you tweet!

*Note: All examples are from branding disasters in which I witnessed and personally know people involved. I have chosen not to include the names of companies or people involved because it would only bring more unneeded negative attention to these brands.