Some brands just seem to ‘get’ social media more than others. Understanding the motivation for people to follow, Link to and engage with your brand is at the core of this. There has to be something unique about the experience. Perhaps Liking a brand’s Facebook page is the only way to receive a certain discount, or to read exclusive content. Maybe people visit a brand’s social media page because it’s the best way to get a problem resolved, or to leave feedback.
But sometimes brands don’t do this. Sometimes brands get things wrong.
Avoidable mistakes often come in the form of poor planning or execution. People don’t want brands to be on social media just for the sake of it. It’s annoying to tweet a brand for help and receive no reply. It makes the brand look rude, unresponsive and as if it doesn’t know the first thing about social media. It’s not enough for a brand to have a social media profile: someone has to use it to initiate a dialogue.
Then there are the brands who want to make a social media statement. The ones that want to be the cool kids. The ones that want to make us laugh or to shock us. The trouble is it takes an awful lot of skill (and a good dose of common sense and luck) to entertain some while not offending and alienating others.
On the side which is harder to avoid, you have the mistakes created by human error. Remember, the brand doesn’t Tweet or post a Facebook update. People do. And people make mistakes. But there are preventative measures brands can take to lessen the likelihood of these mistakes happening. And if they do happen, there are also ways that brands can remedy the problem before it becomes a crisis.
1. Kenneth Cole #Cairo
The year has seen some brands excel on social media, and others hit the rocks. Our notable social media #fails of 2011 would have to start with the Kenneth Cole #Cairo debacle back in February, where the designer decided to post a promotional tweet about his spring collection – on the back of the burgeoning Egyptian revolution. Predictably, the reaction was not to instantly run out and buy jeans. Around an hour and a half later (an eternity in social media time) a new tweet was up on the account apologising for any offense. A fake Twitter account was set up @KennethColePR which mocked the brand by highlighting how it could have exploited other major events.
March served up two choice slices of #fail pie. Firstly, Chrysler said that its Twitter account had been hacked when an obscene and insulting tweet appeared on the brand’s account. However it was soon revealed that someone from the brand’s social media agency (now ex-agency) posted the update by mistake, thinking it was from his personal account.
3. Go Daddy
March was also the month when Bob Parsons, the CEO of Internet hosting company, Go Daddy posted videos of himself killing an elephant and a leopard. The result? Thousands of customers headed to rival hosting providers, and the CEO being names the “Scummiest CEO of the Year” by PETA. Far from apologising for his actions, Parsons decided to preach to the outraged audience instead. Let’s just say it didn’t go down very well…
May brought Weinergate into the world. While no one could accuse Congressman Weiner of being a big brand, he did have a political brand and reputation to protect – and he failed. The Congressman tried to direct message a photo of his crotch to a 21 year old female follower. Unfortunately for him he got it wrong and all of his Twitter followers received the sleazy shot. After claiming that his account had been hacked he eventually had to issue a Mea culpa, but only resigned after a few weeks of media, and social media, frenzy.
In July we returned to the land of crass hashtag usage by brands. Donut firm Entenmann (or, should I say their social media agency) used the #notguilty hashtag to promote its fried goodies – at the same time it was being used to tweet news about the Casey Anthony verdict. It seems the agency was randomly pulling trending hashtags to use with tweets.
September and CBSNews.com discovered exactly what it was like to be damaged by association when the host of a social media web show it had been hosting called What’s Trending mistakenly reported that Steve Jobs had died. The story quickly made its way around the internet and started to be attributed to CBSNews.com, rather than the show. The mistake, reportedly made by a junior staffer at the show, resulted in CBSNews severing all ties with the programme.
Sauce makers Ragu decided September was the month to annoy the daddy bloggers of the world when it used its Twitter account to churn out spam tweets directing them to view a video of mommy bloggers insulting their culinary skills. What appears to have been an attempt to start a debate turned into a social media firestorm directed at the brand.
9. Ashton Kutcher
In November, the one and only Ashton Kutcher had to hand over the reins of his 8 million follower strong Twitter account to the media agency he founded. He wisely decided not to handle it himself any more after he criticised the firing of a popular college football coach, only to be told – through a barrage of tweets – that it was all tied up in an investigation into sexual assaults against children. (It’s surprising that this doesn’t happen more often. A simple mistake, combined with a huge audience can do substantial damage to reputation, which is why it’s probably a good idea for celebrities like Ashton to delegate social media management to a team rather than deal with it themselves.)
Finally, how can a list of social media fails be complete without Qantas? The loveable airline, which stranded thousands of passengers in October due to strike action, broke off contract negotiations with employees in November and then a day later launched a Twitter competition where people could win free flights by sharing their #QantasLuxury experiences. This prompted Tweeters to hijack the hashtag for their own amusing takes on the Qantas experience …
… and spawning this glorious Downfall YouTube parody. Enjoy.
What can brands learn from these examples?
- Don’t exploit controversial situations to promote the brand – even if you, your mother and your employees think it’s funny, others won’t.
- Don’t abdicate responsibility for your social media accounts. When you hand the daily management of these profiles to a third party, you must ensure that they are operating to your guidelines and expressing the values of your brand. Remember that if things go wrong, it’s your brand reputation at stake – not theirs.
- Do check that your social media team – or your outsourced team – have the proper procedures in place. What password security systems do they use? How do they handle switching between accounts?
- Don’t post anything to anyone via social media that would reflect poorly on the brand if it was retweeted or shared online. Try the ‘would you want your Mum to read this?’ test.
- Don’t jump on the Twitter trend bandwagon to get more attention for your brand. At best it cheapens the brand and makes it look like it needs to piggyback a hashtag for attention.
- Do your research before you tweet. Don’t opine before you are fully informed.
- Do make sure that your social media and marketing efforts reflect what’s going on in the business as a whole. Be aware of any potential hot topics and be ready to remedy any disquiet.
Got any faves to add to the list? Leave us a comment. Just to balance it out, and give credit where it’s due, tomorrow we’re planning to bring you our list of top 5 social media successes.