The 10 Plagues of Social Media

Have You Protected Your Business From Social Media Evils?

10 social media plaguesIs your business prepared for modern social media plagues?

Not sure what I’m talking about?

Social media can seriously harm your marketing and business like the biblical story of Moses and the 10 plagues in ancient Egypt.

In a world where most teens and adults have a smartphone, anyone can record and communicate issues in real time with audiences that extend beyond their inner circle of friends and family.

As a result your business needs a social media plan that key employees can implement at a moment’s notice.

Beyond a possible PR crisis you risk the potential it catches fire on social media expanding the reach and impact of your once smaller issue.

Don’t think this is possible?

Ask United Airlines.

First they broke a custom guitar in 2008.  And the viral video by Don Carroll cost over $100,000 million.


Now they smashed a paying passengers while smartphone cameras were rolling. The passenger wound up in the hospital while the story spread beyond social media to become every PR professional’s worse nightmare.

While it’s too early to assess the damage to United Airlines and its brand, one thing is certain. Physically hurting passengers will cost a lot more than a custom guitar.

Looking back, how much would United Airlines have paid one or more passengers not to take that Chicago flight to avoid this social media plague???

Ask yourself if your employees would know what to do in a similar situation?

Who would be available that was empowered to make the appropriate decision?

To mitigate the social media evils, you prepare your business to react quickly and appropriately.

10 social media plagues

10 Social Media Plagues You Can Easily Avoid

Here are 10 social media plagues and actionable tips to overcome them. (On a related note, you may enjoy the 10 Commandments of Social Media.)

Social Media Plague 1: Don’t pay attention to what’s said on social media

Whether your business uses social media as part of it’s marketing or business activity, you need listening posts and social media monitoring tools to assess company, brand and competitor mentions. Then respond where appropriate.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Use social media listening tools to track mentions about your company, brand, products, executives and competitors in order to respond where appropriate.
  • Ensure that appropriate departments receive this information and respond when necessary. Provide guidelines for response actions.


Social Media Plague 2: Don’t have a social media plan

This plague occurs when a business has no social media focus. This happen when marketing and the rest of the business are testing social media to determine the best platforms, content and engagement.

As a result, their social media activities and interactions are all over the place. This social media content may be inconsistent in how and what it discusses. As a result, your social media audience doesn’t know what to expect.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Develop a social media plan aligned with your marketing and business plans. Outline the type of content and presentation for each social media platform.
  • Extend your brand guidelines to encompass social media use. Define your organization’s voice, language, people, video and audio.


Social Media Plague 3: Don’t provide sufficient social media guidelines or social media training.

Ensure your employees and others representing your business and brands understand what they can and can’t do when on social media.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Create a set of social media guidelines. Then distribute them across your organization and provide training so your staff knows how to handle situations on social media platforms. This is even more important if you encourage employees to share your content.


Social Media Plague 4: Only push promotional and corporate-speak content no one wants

Think social media is another one-way push channel for your marketing message distribution?

Read your content. Does it sound like a computer could have created it without human input? If so, you have a problem.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Leave anything remotely promotional off of social media. It’s a major no-no. Make sure your social media communications and interactions sound like a real person speaking, not a company. Don’t shill for your business or anyone else on social media.
  • Only share a marketing message or your own content once for every 9 other social media shares. Don’t underestimate the power of curating other people’s content on social media, especially images and photographs.


Social Media Plague 5: Your people aren’t available on social media when your prospects, customers, influencers and the public are 

Remember people go onto social media to stay in touch with their family and friends. They view your marketing messages as interference.

That said, there are customers who want to engage with your business on these platforms, either to find relevant shopping information or to get their questions answered.

After you create your social media presence, show up and participate. Otherwise, it’s like locking the doors to your digital business with a sign that reads “No one’s home.”

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Be present on social media at least during your business hours. Where possible be present across a variety of time zones. Don’t forget to post your “social media” hours.


Social Media Plague 6: Use too many social media platforms with a lack of focus to be effective on any one

There’s no magic number of social media platforms on which to engage. Businesses, like individuals, must decide where they want to focus their effort since resources are limited.

You need to use enough social media platforms to reach most of your target audience and influencers.

But you don’t want to be so limited that you’re in trouble if a platform disappears overnight.

I recommend:

  • Your blog as an owned social media entity
  • Facebook due to its reach and easy-to-target advertising
  • YouTube for its search functionality
  • LinkedIn for its professional reach to help with business connections

Don’t forget you must be able to coordinate your activities with your backend systems and processes. This includes customer service, sales and other frontend customer-facing services. 

Actionable Social Media Tips:

  • Set up and establish accounts for your business. Determine which are best for based on your offering, target market, content, and competitors.
  • Develop an editorial calendar around the topics of interest to your customers. Don’t underestimate the need to answer their questions to persuade them to use your business.


Social Media Plague 7: Don’t tailor content for multiple social media shares and promotions

Do you still think once and done when it comes to social media distribution of your content marketing?

Content Marketing Reuse Chart

Once and Done Content – Kapost Chart

Don’t worry you’re not alone.

But the reality is that you’re wasting scarce resources. Social media longevity is by its nature short-lived.

Think content repromotion.

To say top-of-mind, it’s critical to continue to promote your content on different social media platforms. Even better use a variety of different presentations so that your followers don’t think that you keep pushing the same message again and again.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Batch schedule your social media sharing. Don’t think a day or a week at a time. Even better have a spreadsheet where you keep track of key information and when you should share it on social media.


Social Media Plague 8: Keep social media siloed in the marketing department

To tap into the full power of social media, think beyond the marketing department. This is a major pivot in 2017 according to Facebook expert Mari Smith.

Integrate social media across your organization. Consider how each department can use it. Go beyond marketing, sales and customer service. Include other areas like human resources.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Create a cross-organization social media plan. This doesn’t mean just adding social media to existing plans but rather having the appropriate executives working together as a team to integrate social media.


Social Media Plague 9: Don’t provide sufficient budget and/or resources to support your social media plans

Yes—social media is no longer a free medium for distributing your marketing messages.

You need budget to support your content creation, social media advertising and influencer marketing as well as appropriate marketing tools, headcount and training.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Budget for employee and tool support on social media. This includes social media sharing and engagement across relevant areas of your business.


Social Media Plague 10: Face a PR Crisis Without a Plan

Natural disasters and other events beyond your organization’s control, combined with your customers’ and the public’s ability to immediately voice their displeasure and anger about your firm—whether based on real or perceived issues—means every business can be the target of a social media firestorm.

Even worse, this is most likely to happen when no one’s paying any attention or is available. Crises can occur at night, on the weekend or on a holiday. This was the case with the second United problem. 

Actionable Social Media Tips:

  • Have a crisis management plan in place that everyone knows about. Ensure that’s up-to-date and complete with the appropriate names and phone numbers. Use this real-time PR Communications Checklist.
  • Ensure the people involved know whom to contact. Don’t allow a problem grow unattended.


Social Media Plague Conclusion

Wide social media usage across the smartphone-owning population can translate to a potential PR crisis any time one of your followers or customers gets upset with your business.

To mitigate the impact of a crisis, you must have a social media strategy integrated with your marketing and business plans.

Know there’s always the possibility of miscalculating the unintended consequences of corporate actions. Further allocate sufficient budget and staff to ensure you’re available when and where your prospects, customers, followers and influencers are.

This includes being prepared to respond to any possible flare up to diffuse the issue and mitigate its impact on your business.

For most businesses, this means having a set of social media guidelines, employee training for responding to social media inquiries and managing communications across social media platforms, and a PR crisis plan to ensure that everyone knows what to do.

Ensure everyone knows who to contact and their backups in case of emergency. This means personal cellphone numbers.

The impact of a social media plague can be expensive and long ranging.

Stop the potential for social media damage.

Put preventative measures in place.

Wishing you and yours the best for the holidays whatever you celebrate.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published April 6, 2012. Updated April 11, 2017.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .


Tags , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The 10 Plagues of Social Media