Unlocking Real Value Blog

The Potential Pitfalls of Social Media

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a very big fan of social media. The caveat, however, is that it must be social media done right. Last night, I witnessed social media gone bad, and it has lessons for everyone.

I was sitting with a friend who happens to be a fan of the Amtrak page on Facebook.┬áThe folks at Amtrak decided to try and be funny in an attempt to connect with their followers. They posted something like “How many Amtrak employees does it take to change a light bulb on a train?” I didn’t really understand the post actually – I think it was a combination at an attempt at humor and again trying to “bond” with their followers.

Well, it failed miserably. For everything good about Amtrak – and it can be a very convenient way to travel on the East Coast – lets just say that they have on-going customer service and service reliability issues. Not something to be made light of if you are one of the many who has been stuck on a train or at Penn Station!

My friend and I sat there amazed at the speed with which the scathing comments came pouring in from followers and “fans” of Amtrak. Perhaps the most memorable was one that answered the above question with something to the affect of “one to hold the bulb and a whole lot to turn the train,” an obviously reference to Amtrak’s lack of efficiency.

It was kind of scary to see the swift and negative reaction to this botched attempt at humor. Someone may – or should – have very well lost his or her job after that one.

The lesson here is that you must always know your audience in social media – because your reputation can be enhanced or ruined so quickly. Before posting anything to a blog, or LinkedIn, or Facebook or Twitter – ask yourself if the message is in keeping with your brand and if there are potential readers/fans/followers that you are going to offend (or even potentially offend). If you have any doubts – don’t press the button!

It takes a long time to develop an on-line reputation and reap the benefits of social media – and the effort is well worth it. But it only takes a nano-second to alienate those that had previously supported you. Think before you post!

One Response to “The Potential Pitfalls of Social Media”

  1. Brian H. says:

    Very astute observation, Mr Klausner. Amtrak could have used your forethought.

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