Social media for a business can be tricky and is by no means an exact science.  And though there’s no list of sure-fire best practices, there are certainly monster no-no’s.

The Democratic National Committee recently made a serious social media blunder asking Twitter, of all places, what it wanted the future of the party to look like.  The timing of the tweet (just eight days after the inauguration of President Donald Trump) and the content of the question baffled followers of the account and made for some interesting, not exactly tasteful, responses.

Your products and services probably won’t spark outrage in and of themselves.  Nonetheless, here are three tips to avoid a social media disaster and to keep you from looking equally foolish:

Have Your Own Vision and Implement Through Social Media

A major political party can’t compete for control of a nation one month and then ask social media users what its future should look like.  Sure, the committee likely has a vision for its future and just wanted to spark conversation.  But daring to tweet this question to thousands of users is just bad.  As Erik Sherman said in his article on inc.com:

“Never ask a question in a courtroom for which you don’t already have the answer. Surprises can be nasty.  So can answers to a tweet.”

Use your social media accounts to promote your vision.  If you do a good job creating positive conversation around your brand and products, the conversations, feedback, and, likely, revenue will follow.

Word Your Questions Carefully

Let’s give the DNC the benefit of the doubt and assume its tweet wasn’t a plea for help.  However, if you know social media, you know it’s not kind.  The DNC’s following at the time was enthralled in political issues a week into the Trump presidency.  In the minds of these followers, there were much more pressing issues at hand than the branding of the party.

Anticipate the responses you would expect from the environment you’re in: social media does not always operate under the same norms as the “real world.”  Fail to craft a question intelligently or promote productive feedback and you risk severe social fallout.

When In Doubt, Ask Someone Who Knows

This particular DNC Twitter account has a few hundred tweets and has been online for less than a year.  For many there is a long learning curve for maximizing social.  So perhaps the folks running this account are in over their heads.  If you find yourself overwhelmed when running your own accounts, seek help!  There are people out there that know how to get the most out of social media.

You may not have the time to become a social media expert.  And your social accounts require constant care.  So don’t shy away from spending to save yourself time now and earn more profit in the long run.  Focus on what you do best, hire someone else to do what you can’t do well or don’t want to do.

An effective social media presence not only attracts new business, but allows for feedback that can make your business more profitable.  But social isn’t easy.  Followings are fickle and trends can change on a dime.  But with the right vision, content, care, and advice, your social presence will make you money instead of the butt of a joke (here’s lookin’ at you, DNC).