My Favorite Social Media Mistake and What I Learned from It (Part 2)

What do Toy Story 2, Superman 2, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, and Shrek 2 all have in common…besides being totally awesome sequels to popular films?

Answer: All of these sequels have happy endings.

So, why is this particular detail important? It’s relevant because I want my readers to know upfront that the sequel I’m writing–to my inaugural favorite social media mistake post–has much more in common with the dark conclusions of The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, and The Sixth Sense. Obviously, we can debate whether these films truly end happily, but we can agree that it’s hard to feel “good” as the credits roll (case in point: Luke’s dad, Darth Vader, chops off his hand at the end of Empire; by the time Aliens ends, Ripley’s entire crew, save for Newt, a “sliced and diced” robot, and a busted up Corporal Hicks have all perished; and Dr. Crowe, Bruce Willis’ character in The Sixth Sense, realizes he’s actually been dead THE WHOLE MOVIE). 

While my “story” doesn’t have any “daddy issues” or cute little tikes who can “hear dead people,” it does have all the elements of a good movie…drama, suspense, and resolution (albeit it’s a denouement–and yes, this is the one word I remember from high school French–that left a cold taste in my mouth). Fortunately, though, I did learn a few things from my second social media mistake and in this post I’ll share what happened and what I learned from it.

My White Whale

I had been an admirer of it for a long time. Each day, I would log on and see scantily clad models, athletes in action, photos of food from around the globe, and at least fifty photos of “One Direction” crooner Harry Styles.

Yes, the object of my affection was Instagram.

Before coming to the Harvard Business School (HBS), I had never used Instagram in a professional capacity. This was the case, at least for a while, even after I started working at HBS. Three months ago, this all changed. As part of a new photo project, I was asked to launch our Instagram feed and start populating it with photos. We chose a hashtag for the pics (#HBSMakingADifference) and I got to work. The process wasn’t particularly easy since I had to load the photos onto Instagram from my laptop; the images were taken with a handheld camera during a series of events. But I was able to find software (i.e., Gramblr) that enabled me to do this. Things were proceeding as planned (i.e., the photos were loading successfully) until I noticed something peculiar.

The hashtag wasn’t functioning properly.

That is, when I clicked on #HBSMakingADifference none of the photos appeared. After freaking out for a few minutes (okay, it was more like an hour) I went to work trying to solve the problem. Over the next three weeks, I…

-Uninstalled/reinstalled Gramblr and tried reloading photos: Strike 1!

-Uninstalled/reinstalled Instagram on my Android and tried reposting photos: Strike 2!

-Contacted our central communications office to see if they could help: Strike 3!

-Sent seven (!) “help” messages to Instagram: Strike, um, 4?

-Sent four “help” messages to Facebook: Strike…well, I think you get the idea.

All told, I spent several hours trying to solve this problem, hoping to avoid the inevitable: my having to reload EVERY photo I had posted previously.

Realizing I was out of viable options, I went onto Instagram, created a new account, and posted one of my photos with the #HBSMakingADifference hashtag as a test. Fortunately, the hashtag worked so I immediately began reposting the photos onto the new page. Once all the images were uploaded, I deleted the original Instagram account I had set up.

Since this post is about a social media mistake (and I use the term “mistake” VERY loosely since I could argue that I was victim of a technical glitch more than anything else) I made and what I learned from it here are some things I took away from the experience.

1. ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, make sure your Instagram hashtags are functioning properly at the beginning of your project. It’s never fun to put a lot of time into a social media initiative only to realize you have to start over from scratch.

2. Sometimes the best plan of attack is right in front of you. I knew early on that I would probably have to start over. At most, I should have contacted Instagram and Facebook twice each and then moved on to solving the hashtag problem myself. Putting my problem in the hands of other “people” wasn’t the right strategy.

3. Don’t be afraid to “pivot.” In business vernacular, a “pivot” is when a company changes direction when a particular approach isn’t working. I knew that I needed to pivot, but my pride wouldn’t let me. I was so hung up on the hours I had invested in my project, that I was unwilling to see any other way out. In social media, you always need to be objective and concentrate on solving the problem at hand and moving onto the next item on your list. In this case, I failed. Big time.

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS. 

Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.

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