We’ve seen plenty of examples in the past few years of how social media can be a powerful platform for brands to build relationships with their customers. Just look at General Electric’s ‘6 Second Science Fair’, the Always #LikeAGirl campaign or the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for some great examples.
But when social campaigns go wrong, the fallout can be spectacular. Here’s a look at six common social media blunders that could be killing your digital marketing strategy:
Getting your staff to contribute to your social media content is great for building an inclusive culture and showing employees that you care about their contribution to your organisation. However, it pays to think carefully about who you hand over the keys to. Junior staff members might lack the necessary experience or judgement and end up sharing something that damages your brand. Alternatively, they might accidentally post something intended for their personal accounts to your brand page — like McDonald’s tweet about Donald Trump’s tiny hands earlier this year. Or, if you’re really unlucky, you could end up like British entertainment retailer HMV, with a staff member live-tweeting your mass retrenchment from the official brand page. Ouch.
Negative customer feedback is something every brandhas to deal with at some point. And, with social media being the public forum that it is, customers have more of a voice than ever. Dealing with this can be tricky — you don’t want to let complaints go unanswered, but choosing your words carefully is vital if you don’t want to end up with your foot in your mouth. More often than not, trying to justify your mistakes or explain your intentions will result in you digging an even deeper hole than you’re already in. For example, Applebee’s meltdown over a photo one of their servers took of a cheque with an offensive message written on it, or Kmart’s attempt to deal with backlash on Twitter.
Here’s a free golden rule for posting stuff on the internet: if you’re not 100% sure of what you’re saying, don’t say it. Many brands have found out the hard way that anything you post online immediately becomes subject to unbelievable levels of scrutiny. There are countless examples of brands getting this wrong, but some of the more cringe-worthy include American Apparel mistaking a photo of the Challenger shuttle crash for fireworks and using it in their 4th of July campaign, the countless brands who missed the subtext of ‘Netflix and Chill’ (Some NSFW language), or DiGiorno’s Pizza unwittingly promoting their meals with a hashtag about domestic violence.
Being relevant to customers is a constant challenge for many brands, and getting it right does a lot to drive engagement and equity. But, like the rest of the points in this list, getting it wrong can be disastrous. Remember the backlash to Kendall Jenner and Pepsi’s ‘protest’ ad? Not exactly how you want to be remembered. Or Gap using Hurricane Sandy to try and drive more sales from their online store? Pro tip: customers don’t like it when brands exploit serious events in order to get them to buy more stuff. Try and stay away from that.
We get it: trying not to offend anyone on the internet can be more difficult than avoiding Game of Thrones spoilers. Sure, there will always be people who go out of their way to take exception to anything at all — but that doesn’t mean you should go to the other extreme. Take Bic South Africa’s Women’s Day campaign as an example: the brand posted an image to their Twitter page with the copy, “Look like a girl. Act like a lady. Think like a man. Work like a boss”. It’s a pretty tone-deaf statement under any circumstances, but the fact that it was used as a Women’s Day campaign didn’t go down too well with customers.
No matter how hard you try to avoid getting egg on your face on social media, disasters happen. If you’re unlucky (or careless) enough to experience a social media disaster, there’s only one course of action to follow: apologize and move on. Often, the most damaging part of a social media blunder is the brand’s attempt to cover for their mistake and justify their actions. An apology is necessary, of course, but don’t try to explain why your offensive tweet is actually just being misunderstood, or how your account was hacked by a vengeful ex-employee with the intent of angering your followers. The internet isn’t known for being forgiving, but it also has an infamously short attention-span. Say you’re sorry, be graceful, and lay low until the dust settles. If you’re looking for advice on navigating the complex and often confusing landscape of social media and digital marketing, or if you’re trying to avoid some marketing nightmares of you own, download our guide to dealing with Marketing Horror Stories.