Nothing can boost your business—or tank your brand reputation—quite like social media. The right post, video, or hashtag can make your brand go viral in a matter of days. But a poorly-timed tweet, misunderstood joke, or insensitive post can put a bad taste in your customers’ mouths they won’t soon forget.

Before you hit that post, send, or share button, make sure you’re not about to commit a major brand faux paux! Watch out for these 3 cringe-worthy, why’d-you-have-to-go-there social media mistakes:

     1. Using a hashtag that belongs to another community or cause

We’re not talking about borrowing widely used hashtags like #summer or #motivationmondays! That kind of hashtag is a great way to get your posts in front of your ideal audience. But some hashtags already carry significant meaning, and shouldn’t be used for brand promotion.

For example, back in 2014, DiGiorno made a major social media blunder when it used the hashtag #WhyIStayed to advertise its bake-at-home pizzas. At the time, that trending hashtag was being used by victims of domestic violence to share their survival stories and raise awareness. The company faced major backlash for the post—one that could have been easily avoided with just a little research!

Before you use a hashtag, no matter how unique you think it may be, always look it up first. Check out the most recent and the most popular posts that use the hashtag, and make sure you understand the context first. If all looks good, post away!

     2. Using serious matters for brand promotion

Back in 2012, Gap made a misstep when the company used Hurricane Sandy as an opportunity to promote the convenience of online shopping. In the midst of a tragedy, many social media users saw the tweet as insensitive—and were quick to call out the company. In this example, using a national event for self-promotion drew more negative attention than good brand awareness.

When in doubt, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What’s my intention with posting about this event or cause?
  • Will my post help? Will it raise awareness, further a cause, or make someone smile?
  • Does this post positively portray my brand, our products or services, my customers, and the community?

If you’re still unsure, get a second opinion!

     3. The right picture is worth a thousand words!

Social media users are savvy! Delta Airlines learned that the hard way when they posted a beautiful photo of a giraffe set against a brilliant purple sunset, intended to represent the country of Ghana. But there was one little problem with this post…. Giraffes don’t live in Ghana! And in no time, the post went viral—for all the wrong reasons.

That’s not the only social media blunder of this type. Companies post stock images of the wrong cities, use the wrong flag emojis, and confuse famous landmarks all the time! And while these (easily avoidable!) mistakes may be more humorous than harmful, they distract from your brand’s messaging.

If you’re using stock photography, take a moment to do a quick Google search before you post. Or better yet, showcase your creativity with original content that’s as unique as your brand.

At MediaSpark we know the do’s and don’ts of social media

Our fully-integrated digital strategies and data-backed approach get your brand noticed—for all the right reasons. Don’t do social on your own. Let’s Chat!