One of the most embarrassing things you can do on social media for your business is to mess up a post. For some of us, that might be a spelling or grammar mistake, for others, it may involve a humiliating auto-correct situation. For others still, it might mean giving away a company secret earlier than intended. Whatever it is that you’ve done or might do, you can ensure it doesn’t happen again with this handy social media post checklist.
Very little can be taken back on social media. A mistake in a post can be embarrassing or deeply troubling to your PR department. It can alienate customers or cause them to question your professionalism. Before hitting send, post, or tweet, run your potential post through this handy checklist.
- Proofread before sending to avoid silly mistakes. We all love spell check but it’s not always enough. Spell check doesn’t always catch homonyms (words that sound alike but are spelled differently) and depending on your settings, it may not catch a misspelled word if you have it in caps or it is capitalized. Don’t forget to double-check auto-correct issues, especially when sending from your phone. However, never blame autocorrect for your mistakes as it usually only corrects your words with frequently used ones.
- Be funny, not offensive. Humor is great but not if it alienates customers, vendors, or partners. You can lose lucrative relationships over something as simple as a tweet. You’d be surprised how few second chances are given on social media.
- Use sarcasm sparingly and obviously. Are you saying what you mean? What is your tone conveying? Is that the only way it could be interpreted? Sarcasm is very difficult to master in print or on social media. Just look at Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal where he <satirically> suggested eating children in order to solve the problems of famine and poverty in the early 1700s. Many believed his idea to be a serious proposal. It is much better to use the strong words you mean than to post something in jest. Meaning can be lost in social media unless you accompany it with some emotional clues like emojis.
- Check stats and claims. If you’re quoting a source make sure you haven’t transposed numbers or wrongly attributed a claim. Ensure you use a “not” if that’s what you mean. After all, there’s a big difference between 3 billion and .3 million as well as 83% of adults are on Facebook or 83% of adults aren’t on Facebook. There are also a lot of people on social media who enjoy correcting people.
- Check your quote. Quotes, especially image quotes, receive some of the biggest shares out there. However, before you attribute something to a famous person, check the sources. There are entire books written on this subject and some very famous quotes are often misattributed. For instance, Gandhi never said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” and George Washington never claimed, “I cannot tell a lie, even on the internet.”
- Test the link. Always check your link by copying it into another tab and double-checking that it works. When you’re copying and pasting, it’s easy to copy and paste the wrong one or leave off the last character so checking is always advisable.
- Double check the image. When you’re using an image from elsewhere, wherever possible give attribution through a tag. Not only is it the polite thing to do, but it can help your business. It will call attention to your post and the original content creator will be made aware of you. They may even share your post. Even if you decide not to tag the original content creator, watch for watermarks. If there is one or you’re reposting something that’s been shared by multiple sharers, go to the original site mentioned in the post before you share it. You don’t want to share content that one of your followers could follow back to the original poster only to find it’s an unsavory group.
- Use scheduling software. If you use scheduling software, you’re not going live immediately. We all know there’s something inexplicable about posting. Your post looks perfect until you hit the post button then magically all of the errors are visible. (At least that’s how it seems.) If you use a scheduler instead of going live immediately, you’re creating a buffer that will help you see mistakes before they’re in someone’s stream. Many schedulers also have spell-check features.
- Use with permission. If you’re posting to social media, always use attributes for quotes and materials. Give the content creator credit for saying/writing it in the first place. That’s common courtesy. However, this becomes much more important when your posting is posting to a blog and not merely a quote. If you’re using a cartoon, song lyrics, more than 10% of a printed work, or an image, and you’re publishing it on a business blog, you should seriously consider getting permission from the content owner. If your usage is for educational purposes, the rights holder may be more lenient. But if you stand to make money off of it, don’t be surprised to receive a cease and desist letter. Grammar rules have become less enforced with social media. Copyright law has not.
- Look at the published post. After you post your item, always double-check it again. Click on the links. Take another look at the spelling and grammar. Some social media platforms (like Facebook) allow you to edit your posts so you could save yourself some issues if you’re the one who catches it.
Finally, if after all of this checking something still escapes your attention and causes someone dismay, remedy the situation quickly. If it’s grammar thank them for their attention to detail and get it corrected. If it’s a public relations issue, consult the appropriate decision maker about how it should be handled. Remember, doing so quickly is your best course of action. That’s why so many businesses have a protocol in place on how to handle a social media faux pas. If you don’t, you should consider making those decisions ahead of needing them.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.
Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.