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Social media no-nos
TopLineFounder | February 26, 2012
Guest post by
Jon Norris, editor, Crunch (www.crunch.co.uk) @TeamCrunch
Social media magnifies everything we do as companies. If we launch a fantastic product, it will become popular through word of mouth. If we design an interesting or entertaining new advertising campaign, it will be widely shared for everyone to enjoy.
Good PR and marketing is given the chance to shine brighter than ever before, but unfortunately Joe Public likes nothing more than a healthy dose of schadenfreude. This means that no matter how popular your social media victories, any failures will be ten times as large.
Mixing business with pleasure
There is a storied and illustrious history of brand mis-tweets. The problems usually occur when the person in charge of a corporate Twitter account uses a social media management tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, and forgets to switch to their personal account before tweeting – resulting in a world-famous brand tweeting something personal and often entirely inappropriate.
This phenomenon has led to such memorable tweets as Chrysler’s “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive”, and Vodafone’s “is fed up of dirty homo’s and is going after beaver”.
The timeline of events for such an incident is almost always the same.
First, the offending tweet is sent. Almost immediately afterwards the tweet is retweeted and screenshotted en masse for posterity by amused or offended followers. Just as quickly the misplaced tweet is deleted as the employee or consultant realises their error.
Usually the company twitter account apologises for the “unauthorised tweet”, or claims they were “hacked”. Before long marketing industry sites begin to carry stories about the incident
Later the same day the company will release a statement decrying the “unauthorised access” to their Twitter account, and guilty employee is fired.
The sheer volume and high profiles of the brands guilty of such incidents behooves everyone in charge of a company social media account to act carefully when using a multi-account social media management tool. It will undoubtedly continue to happen, the most important thing is to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
The one silver lining of this type of social media mishap is they are forgotten almost as quickly as they occur, and unless the tweet is grossly offensive it will probably be remembered as an amusing anecdote.
The false prophet
Nothing can generate a social media hate-storm faster than an outwardly selfless gesture that has clearly been hijacked by a corporate marketing department. Microsoft perpetrated one such disaster shortly after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Their search engine, Bing, which is famously short on users and heavy on marketing budget, offered to donate $1 to the earthquake relief fund every time they were retweeted. Twitter users quickly saw through the marketing ruse and bombarded Bing with messages expressing their discontent.
After half a day of what could mildly be described as a “PR disaster”, Bing apologised and donated $100,000 to the relief fund.
The lesson here is that if you and your company want to donate to charity, do it as you would personally – in private, and without fanfare – and never, never use your charitable giving as a vehicle for your marketing.
Respect the medium
If you’re exceptionally lucky in your social media marketing, you will have a campaign that goes viral. This is the kind of marketing that dreams are made of – but make sure you’re ready for it or things could quickly turn sour.
Late last year online electronics retailer eBuyer announced a £1 sale on their website. For one day only, hundreds of items would be reduced to a £1 clearance price. To sweeten the deal punters were allowed early access to the sale if they “Liked” eBuyer’s Facebook page. The groundwork for this campaign was textbook – a compelling offer and a worthwhile reward if people engaged with the brand on Facebook.
Unfortunately around half an hour before the sale was due to start, things began to fall apart. eBuyer hadn’t made provisions for the popularity of the sale, and as the beginning of the sale approached their website slowed to a crawl, then disappeared entirely.
As all the early traffic had come through their Facebook page, where did unhappy customers voice their complaints? On eBuyer’s Facebook wall, of course.
For hours eBuyer’s wall was a torrent of abuse, lambasting their technical staff’s ineptitude. eBuyer only made the situation worse by deleting comments and plastering their wall with heavily-spun messages about how well their sale was going.
The lesson we can all learn from eBuyer is that social media has the potential to drive more customers than we could ever dream of our way – but you have to be prepared for the influx, and know how to appropriately deal with the rush.
Social marketing is still an evolving medium and people will always find new, entertaining and disastrous ways to damage their brands in the future. All we can do in the meantime is tread sensibly and learn from others’ mistakes.
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