“Social media is a two-way street – you can’t just use Twitter and Facebook as megaphones to blast your message."

While there’s only a few weeks of 2014 left, let’s take a moment to look back at some of last year’s more high-profile digital mistakes so we definitely avoid them in the coming months.

Don’t bury your head in the sand 

One of the most important things to remember when dealing with social media is the importance of engaging with fans and followers.

When Carnival Cruise suffered an engine room fire during their journey (meaning passengers were without fresh food and functioning toilets for days), the company avoided dealing with angry comments on Facebook and Twitter, which prompted the trending hashtag ‘cruisefromhell’.

While they posted announcements on social media, they ignored anything negative. “Social media is a two-way street – you can’t just use Twitter and Facebook as megaphones to blast your message. You have to talk to people, especially when you are trying to clean up a mess,” says MyCorporation CEO Deborah Sweeney. 

Avoid tying your social media to tragic events 

Businesses should never try to profit from a tragedy. But this is exactly what Epicurious (a food website owned by publishing giant Conde Nast) did after the Boston Marathon bombings.

While their initial tweet of: “Boston our hearts are with you” could have been perceived as sensitive and sincere their follow up: “Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today” was the opposite. The company deleted the tweets and said sorry but it had already left a bitter taste in their followers’ mouths.

Don’t lose your temper on social media

Meltdowns are always ugly, especially when they’re on a public stage for the whole world to see. When US food establishment Amy’s Baking Company appeared on chef Gordon Ramsay’s television series Kitchen Nightmares they were portrayed as unapologetic for their poor business practices.

Viewers took to social media and blasted the business, but instead of replying honestly and diplomatically, the company embarked on a rant, promising they would sue all of the posters who “slandered” them. They then claimed they were hacked and later on attempted to sell T-shirts with quotes from the rant plastered across them. Cringeworthy.

SEO has changed dramatically 

“The face of SEO has changed, and time will tell if it’s for the better. Now it’s extremely difficult for a site to rank on the first page for moderately competitive keywords. The days of blasting the web with your backlinks in order to rank are long gone. In some ways this has levelled the playing field, but it means that webmasters must be extremely cautious with their SEO strategies,” advises digital marketing expert Anil Valvi.

He says high keyword density, a lack of diversity in anchor text, tags and titles and an “anything goes” approach saw many companies and brands lose out in Google rankings last year and “commit business suicide”.

“Keep your keyword density below 1% and write for your readers, not search engines,” he says. Building links too fast has always been a problem, but now it is even more crucial that you don’t – slow and steady will win the race in 2015. 

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