Politicians’ Social Media Fails and what you can learn from them

Isabella Perales

Social media has become a key communications tool one that most people – including politicians – use every day and a fundamental part of any integrated communications strategy.

But sometimes this goes wrong. Here we look at some dos and don’ts inspired by politicians and some tips and tricks to help you make the most of the power and reach of social media to get your message out.

In 2014 former Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted the following:

In theory, there is nothing wrong with this tweet. It was clearly designed to show David Cameron at his most prime ministerial – discussing a serious issue with a major global power and demonstrating the strength of the special relationship with the US. However, it triggered a viral twitter trend that had the likes of Rob Delaney and Sir Patrick Stewart tweeting parody photos in response. As a result, the then Prime Minister’s tweet made national news and received attention for all the wrong reasons.

When engaging on social media, it is important to recognise that, audiences won’t necessarily share your enthusiasm and even though you had the best intentions, your post can easily be dragged into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. When posting, always think through what you are sharing, and how it could be interpreted – that way you could save yourself being the butt of a national twitter joke.

I’m sure you will remember this one: The Nelson Mandela Memorial Selfie…an image of which went viral on social media.

This photo initially gained attention because of Michelle Obama’s seeming reluctance to get involved, however, once people realised where and when it was taken people began to question how appropriate this behaviour was for three Heads of State.

Remember that social media is always ready and waiting, even when you don’t think anyone is watching. To be really successful, you need to understand the people you are trying to engage, but remember, even though you may have a certain group you want to target, everyone can see your posts and whilst something might boost your street cred with one particular audience, you have to be sure your actions or words aren’t misconstrued or offensive to another.

Twitter is full of people who aren’t quite sure what they are doing: tweeting the wrong people, publicly posting messages that were meant to be private and, if you’re Ed Balls, accidentally tweeting your own name.

Usually this tweet would have just been deleted or forgotten about, but a public figure like Ed Balls was not so lucky. However, in this case his simple blunder got people talking about him, his ability to laugh at himself and his ‘brand’ in a positive way, delivering simple and free publicity. ‘Ed Balls Day’ is now celebrated on an annual basis.

Sometimes these fails happen, it is how you deal with them that matters.

That being said, sometimes people aren’t as lucky, and their fails don’t go down so well…

US President Donald Trump previously attempted to ‘@’ his daughter, Ivanka, in a tweet, however, he managed to ‘@’ the wrong Ivanka and got a sternly worded response. Ivanka Majic took the opportunity to school Trump on the threats of Climate Change as well as taking more care on Twitter.

The rights and wrongs of Donald Trump’s Twitter engagement could form the basis of a whole thesis on this issue. But in this case, it is simply a matter of doing your research, knowing what you’re talking about and who you’re talking too.

When we’re advising our clients on the best way use social media, we have a few key ideas to keep you and your brand out of trouble whilst remaining engaged and relevant.

  • Always know the whole story before you publicly comment on news or a scandal
  • Own the content you’re posting or give credit to its owner if you don’t
  • Try not to use clickbait
  • Always have a clear and precise call to action

Follow these rules and you are more likely to keep a strong and supportive following, create the progress that you want to see and to keep your brand or organisation in the spotlight, but for all the right reasons.

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