Failed Social Media Campaigns !!!

Examples of failed social media campaigns in India.


Ad-vani’s Political Campaign:


Indian politician Lalchand Kishan Advani, tried to position himself in lines of Obama as a ‘change agent’. He spent huge money for his genuinely pathetic ad campaigns. He literally targeted all the Indian sites with his aggressive Adwords. Perhaps, while promoting himself insanely he forgot that ‘Advani is not a new product on the market’ which needs crazy branding!


Instead of connecting to the people online in a non-intrusive manner or mobilizing the bloggers to write about him, he preferred spamming the sites of the whole wide India. His blog also didn’t seem to appeal to the audience much and he failed both in the elections, and on social media.

At one point there were only his ads on every site we browsed. The first and foremost reason it failed – We hate Ads.


How one should calculate ROI of Social Media Campaign?

Return on investment (ROI) is a commonly used business metric that is used to check the efficiency of a business initiative. Like any other operations and marketing campaigns it can be applied to Social Media campaigns too. It basically calculates the profitability of an investment or effort compared with its original cost.

The method is –

ROI = (Gains from Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment

Cost of Investment encompasses every penny that directly or indirectly goes into the business initiative. Thus for social media it will be consultant’s fee, costs associated for buying accounts on internet, costs of software and tools, costs involved in shipping goods purchased because of social media, any other cost involved in fulfilling a transaction which happened because of social media campaign.

Gains are direct or indirect monetary returns which happened only because of social media marketing campaign.

It should be noted that any cost or any profit which could have occurred even if the social media campaign in discussion did not happen, should not be considered for computing ROI.

It is usually feasible and easier to break the cost and returns in a specific time frame by averaging out over that period. For example, it will be easier to study expenses and revenue under various heads per month by calculating average values over a month. Month in this example is a feasible time frame for which data is directly available and it’s more or less repeatable. Other time frames like quarters, year can be considered if that is feasible.

Sometimes the returns or benefits are not tangible nor direct i.e. their monetary benefits are long term and cannot be computed directly. It is best to decide some baseline to translate these benefits to sales or other monetary gain over the long term. Then these monetary gains can be averaged on a feasible time frame as discussed above. Some examples of the intangible benefits are –

Increased traffic to website
Increase in number of online conversations having positive connotation to your product
Increased references to your company vs. your competitor
Increased number of people bookmarking your website
Increased number of people posting to your blog, Facebook wall or Twitter

For calculating the returns, the key is to find out the total transactions (indirect too) which contribute. And what are the monetary number associated with them. By simply multiplying the number of transactions with monetary values give the total return.

Costs are fairly simple to calculate if we follow the strict rule of isolating all the costs involved which are happening because campaign is in place.

Thus, once cost and returns are clear ROI can be computed using the formula mentioned above.

Some Examples of Failed Social Media Campaigns in India

Advani Election Campaign, 2009

L. K. Advani launched an aggressive ad words campaign targeting every Indian site. His ad were there on almost every second site one visited. Even if it projected BJP and Advani as the political fixtures using contemporary technologies to communicate with the masses, the campaign was largely advertisement campaign. Reasons why it failed to gain traction –

No interactive media – It was simply a branding campaign about a party and person who have been in forefront of Indian politics since ages. Social Media campaigns typically thrive on appeal, uniqueness, involvement it offers to the audience. In the absence of all these creative features it was simply a dud.

Dettol India Online Contest 2012

Dettol India launched a campaign specifically targeting the confident Indian male. The challenge was named “End of the Day Confidence Challenge”. It was a Facebook contest, where in the brand asked the men that if they are still confident by end of the day. Anyone who think that he was confident after 5 PM could post his picture or video. People would “Like” the picture or video and highest liked feature stood a chance of winning Adidas gift voucher worth INR 5,000.

The contest sounded interesting and promising but did not prove to be one. Some of the reason for failure were –

1) No product involvement – The gift vouchers belonged were of Adidas. It could have been more promotional to give Dettol gift vouchers.

2) Unclear message – Just posting a message of how you felt after 5 PM did not show any significance of any Dettol product.

3) Screening by online users – No one was sure of what were the mechanism to deal with bogus “Likes”. People knew this and criticised for the short sightedness.
4) Violation of Facebook guidelines – The Facebook page showed two options – to enter the contest and another to view the entries. Once a person would have posted his picture of video it was posted on his behalf on his Facebook timeline. This was clearly against the Facebook guideline of use. This also invited rebuke from online users.
Ford Figo Online Contest 2012

On the occasion of completing two years in India Ford Figo launched campaign celebrating its 2nd birthday during entire March of 2012. The celebration in the form of a contest called “B’Day 2 Remember” could be seen on Figo’s website as well as social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Contest page showed some interesting videos in the form of invite and asked you to join. To join the contest one had to –

1) Invite 5 more friends and spread the word about birthday party.

2) Tweet invitation to increase your chances of winning.

3) Fill up a form with a birthday message.

The basic idea of the campaign was quick, simple and “inviting” but it failed to generate traction. Reason being –

Screening by the users. The app flouted the Facebook guidelines and did not ask for permission before posting it to user timelines. Also there was no clear information about how the contest was going to be judged. This could not escape the notice of users and slowly campaign lost its credibility.

Yet another example of alertness of social media users!!

Some examples of failed social media campaigns in India.

Social media campaigns can easily backfire if they cannot sustain screening from users. The marketers and online engagement teams within firms must be very careful in what they write or post while engaging with users online and also how they intend to engage the users. If there’s even a very small chance of the user feeling cheated or offended with the content of a post, it is better to not go ahead with it since you never know how strongly it may backfire on you. Below are some examples of Social media campaigns from India that have failed:

  1. Microsoft India XBOX: Although, the ad shown below could appeal to some users, saying you will have no interest in the Xbox 360 isn’t the smartest message they could put out. Need to be more careful with the content                                                                                                                                       .xbox-360-india-fail microsoft
  1. Flipkart Big Billion Day: Flipkart’s credibility was murdered on Social media forums when it’s Big Billion day execution could not live up to the expectations it had set through its online as well as offline campaign. The company was criticized heavily across various social media platforms for broken website, discounts on inflated prices and poor delivery. In run-up to the sale day, Flipkart had run aggressive social media campaign and the consumers felt cheated when it could not live-upto the hype it had created. The campaign was also dubbed as a publicity stunt at the cost of the consumer.
  2. Ford Figo India: Ford came under heavy criticism and issued a subsequent apology over an advertising campaign which depicts celebrities bound, gagged and stuffed into the boot of an Indian-made Ford Figo. The drawings attempt to exploit the Figo’s spacious cargo area with the punch line: ‘Leave your worries behind with the Figo’s extra-large boot’. One drawing features Paris Hilton with reality television counterparts Khloe, Kourtney and Kim Kardashian, who are tied up and bound while they squeeze into the back of the car. In a second drawing, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi poses with three scantily clad women who are similarly bound and tied.                                                                                    offensive-ford-ad-1_1024-620x349 offensive-ford-ad-2_729-620x349
  1. Politician Lal Krishna Advani: Senior politician Lal Krishna Advani’s social media campaign irritated the users to say the least. As one blogger put it:

“We saw Advani becoming Ad -Vani with his aggressive adwords campaign targeting every Indian site. At one point there were only his ads on every site we browsed.  The first and foremost reason it failed – We hate Ads.”

The campaign was an attempt to bring in the conventional in-your-face advertising on social media.

  1. MTV India: Putting-up erroneous content in your customer-engagement posts can be embarrassing for you – the users will make sure you feel embarrassed. MTV India wished John Lennon a happy birthday and a joyous year ahead!!!                                                                                                                            MTV-india-john-lennon
  1. Star Sports India: Using the official engagement accounts – twitter, facebook etc and ensuring that only responsible folks have access to it is of utmost importance as Start Sports India found out when an offensive tweet (a hindi abusive word) in Nov 2013 was retweeted 104 times in a very short period of time before it was deleted. Even after deleting such posts/tweets, they continue to remain on the internet for ever and keep denting your brand image.

Social Media – Unsuccessful Campaigns In India

Social Media Campaigns are talk of the town in the current business environment and everyone wishes to be on the band wagon as soon as possible. Firms ask for ROI and are not ready to compromise on their social media presence. Though the excitement and willingness to reach the customer in real time is understandable, lack of a basic understanding of issues at times leads to unsuccessful campaigns. Firms then are puzzled over the failure, as every weapon in the Armour had been tried to get the users talking positive about the brand.

Let’s glance through some of the failed social media campaigns in India for better comprehension of the issue. These Campaigns tried hard but couldn’t capture the user’s mindshare.

  1. Lal Krishan Advani’s Social Media Campaign :


We saw Advani becoming Ad -Vani with his aggressive ad words campaign targeting every Indian site. At one point there were only his ads on every site we browsed.  The first and foremost reason it failed – We hate Ads

This is what one of the bloggers had to say after watching several irritating ads depicting Mr. Advani as the change agent. Obviously it didn’t serve the purpose. Indian Lok Sabha elections were around the corner, and Mr. Advani felt the need to be on social media to promote his brand.

Reasons for Failure:

  • Instead of trying to engage users online, to write more about him, sharing his views on current affairs and interacting with users, his Social Media Team decided to develop innumerable ads and linked these ads and videos to different sites.
  • As and when the user would access these sites, he would either see an unwanted ad or a video and would end up spoiling his online experience. Therefore, instead of creating a positive buzz around him, these undesirable online activities ended up harming his brand and did no value addition to his image. Though his party won the election, the win had nothing to do with his online campaign.
  • Instead of trying to engage with users, he ended up forcing ads and videos on them, which were brutally discarded by the users
  1. No takers for Congress ‘Main Nahin Hum’ (‘we’ not ‘I’): This time the Congress party decided to present a tough competition to Mr. Advani and launched its own social media campaign. The Campaign tried highlighting Congress philosophy for the elections and ads/videos etc. were posted on almost all the major online platforms –Facebook, you tube, twitter etc. Things however didn’t work out and there were hardly any takers for the campaign


Reasons for failure:


  • The Campaign had to no clear message to engage users, which was unlike its rival BJP. Users who saw the ads/videos had no idea as to what to make out of this campaign.
  • The party members were not prompt in replying to comments made online and many a times comments and questions went unanswered
  • Party didn’t try to engage young users and focused only on the poor. Forgetting the fact that, it was the young generation using social media and not the poor. Campaign had an audience-message mismatch
  • The Campaign tagline wasn’t catchy enough. It had a low recall value
  • The tagline used was a part of the competitor’s election speech and hence many users found it funny that Congress couldn’t even conceptualize a new tagline


  1. Maruti Suzuki ‘Young Driver’ Contest:

Maruti Suzuki Launched the Young Driver Contest online, looking for the best young driver out there. The initiative was successful, but social media couldn’t contribute much in the success and most of it –as company sources analysed- was due to conventional marketing only.  The company couldn’t generate enough buzz and leads from Social Media


Reasons for failure:


  • Regular search on the internet didn’t throw up much information about its online presence. The Buzz on social media was missing.
  • Written content on internet didn’t have mention of the opinion leaders. For instance, car experts or magazines
  • A dedicated application would have been better
  • There were no efforts from the company’s end to engage users online


This sets the stage for certain do’s and Don’ts’s in social media:

  • Keep revising your campaign strategy based on user feedback. Don’t wait for all the negative comments to pile up for taking action.
  • Engage with users and don’t force content on them.
  • Don’t oversell yourself. Social Media is not about you, but the users. Talk about a topic related to your product/service and then gradually move on to talking about your product.
  • Be ethical. Users do understand the intricacies of the content being updated online. Don’t lay a claim on something which doesn’t belong to you
  • Less is more. Keep it short and sweet
  • Have a back-up plan, in case it doesn’t work out as intended
  • Create a buzz and involve influencers


Though it has become a necessity to be on social media, you should be careful while drafting your social media campaign strategy. Considerable difference exists between conventional and Social Media Marketing, which requires understanding of certain basic social marketing principles and their appropriate application. What has worked in conventional set up might be completely uncalled for in Social Media. Firms and Individuals need to imbibe this concept to capitalize on the Social Media Advantage.

Social Media Campaigns – Calculating the ROI

‘’The ROI of Social Media is that Your business will still exist in 5 years’’ –

(Erik Qualman)

Increasing cost pressures coupled with intense competition for customer wallet share have put further pressure on marketing budgets. A recession or a slowdown brings down the hammer on marketing budgets and it is the first one to come on the radar for rigorous monitoring. Assumption being that such a practice leads to a more justifiable use of the scare resource and a firm therefore tries to extract the maximum out of every dollar spent. This is a regular story with conventional media and same applies for its counterpart social media as well. There is always this debate as to how to calculate the returns of investment for social media and hence justify the spending.

You may consider sales figures in conventional –assuming that the campaign has had the incremental sales effect- to calculate ROI, but how do you go about doing the same for social media, considering the campaign could be running parallel to a conventional campaign and hence the chances of incremental sales attribution could be really difficult. How to consider the likes, the followers or the comments made, hits on your website etc. are some of the pertinent questions which demand attention to arrive at a conclusion.

Is the ROI Calculation Method Really Different for the two?

In reality however the method is no different from the conventional media ROI calculation; cost and revenue hold the fort for social media as well.  The difference being in terms of the primary revenue driver for social media compared to a conventional one and the cost/revenue items considered. Social media is primarily engagement driven and works towards increasing your revenue. A campaign may not turn out to be a successful one, if you are not able to gather the required amount of engagement, which in turn would lead to lower revenue. In social media you increase the ROI by improving the revenue and not by reducing the cost. You may get lower prices for social media initiatives compared to the conventional one, but that shouldn’t be the decision criterion. You are better off sticking to conventional media if costs are the pain point.

It’s really about the Thought Process:

Social Media requires an engagement driven thought process and not a cost reduction one. You might end up damaging your brand’s reputation or spending exorbitantly high, if low costs are a primary driver for you and not engagement. Apart from the revenue driver aspect, the cost/revenue items change for Social Media ROI calculation and rest of the process remains the same. For instance, if you take number of ‘customers who visited the showroom’ as a factor to calculate revenue in conventional media, you would have its parallel as ‘average number of Facebook interactions’ in social media. Following example to illustrate the point further:

                  ROI Calculation – Social V/S Conventional Media
    Conventional Media               Social Media
    Costs (In Rs)            Costs (In Rs)
Salary of the Marketing Team 125000 Salary of the Social Media Marketing Team (Monthly, in Rs) 20000 125000
Ad Cost on TV-prime TV 300000 Cost of Shipping 500 120000
Print Ad cost 60000 Cost of Packaging per 5 tablets 300 14400
Point of Purchase Material Cost 70000 storage Cost per tablet and other costs 100 24000
Total Cost 555000 Total Cost 283400
   Revenue Items    Revenue Items
No. of New Inquiries 1000 Hits on the website 4000
No of leads converted 200 Average Percentage of Facebook interactions (of total website hits) 50% 2000
Price of the Tablet 4000 average percentage of repeat visitors of the above 30% 600
Total Revenue 800000 average percentage of visitors who bought the product online (only repeat visitors, first time visitors didn’t purchase) 40% 240
ROI Calculation =(Revenue-Cost)/Investment 44% Tablet Price 4000
Total Revenue 960000
ROI Calculation =(Revenue-Cost)/Investment 239%

As is clearly evident, the calculation method is very similar and the items considered are in fact a parallel to conventional media. The real difference is in terms of the engagement, which is being depicted by the percentage of visitors who visited the website after having the interaction at Facebook. It’s significant to note that the revenue is a direct function of this value. Revenues risk plunging if interactions move south and hence the engagement levels go down.

A Six Point framework to help you demystify the ROI calculation for social media:

  1. Set Targets:  The first obviously is target setting. What is that you wish to measure? Your revenue and costs figures would finally be a product of the targets set. Targets should be set in line with the concept of user engagement. Measure engagement, which is the factor driving revenue. Monitor metrics such as Number of clicks on the Facebook page, No. of comments made, tweets, re tweets on the topic, how many users accessed website using link provided on Facebook etc.
  1. Track Conversions: Second step would be to track the metrics set. Online tools like Google analytics come in handy while tracking these metrics. Regular monitoring of these conversions allows changes in the overall campaign strategy if at all you feel the need to do so. ‘Website Traffic’ is an example of a metric.
  1. Assign Monetary Value to each metric: You could either use historical data for a similar campaign run in the past or use a guesstimate. For instance, average cost per click, average percentage of repeat visitors who bought the product online etc.
  1. Measure Benefits by Channel: how many visitors and from which channel- Facebook/Twitter etc. – is the key question here. This would be useful if you are having a multi-channel strategy. For instance, data from you tube, twitter, Facebook etc.
  1. Determine Total Costs: You add up all the total costs. This is very similar to the conventional media method. Only the items differ
  1. Analyze results and Improve: You may feel the need to redesign websites, links, posts etc. to generate more traffic on the site or attract more comments. You would get this insight post data analysis

ROI calculation in Social Media then is a matter of understanding the similarity rather than the difference. The only difference is in terms of the primary ROI driver in both the cases. For conventional media, it is awareness and then action. For social media, it is engagement and then action. Social Media revenue is primarily engagement driven and work by improving the return part of the equation rather than the cost. Firms and Managers need to understand this basic aspect and need to include this understanding while making ROI calculations for the same. As firms allot bigger portion of their marketing budge to social media, more and more mangers and firms could face this issue and a little effort towards understanding the workings might be the difference between a failed and a successful social media campaign.


In my earlier posts, I have been talking about social media trends, different social media campaigns, some of the best and worst social media campaigns of India, but never discussed how these brands measure the success of social media campaigns. Of course there would be some ways, in which companies define their social media campaign strategies, goals and ROI.

There are hundreds of different ways to measure social media, which makes it kind of difficult to wrap your mind around. To help with that, social media metrics can be broken down into three different categories.

  • Quantitative Metrics: These are the metrics that are data-intensive and number-oriented. You can really get overloaded with different metrics here, so the trick is to pick the key metrics that most influence your business and not get bogged down with the rest. Those metrics might include unique visits, page views, followers, demographics, frequency, bounce rate, length of visit or just about any other metric that’s specifically data-oriented.
  • Qualitative Metrics: These are the metrics that have an emotional component to them. For example, if 75% of the people who mention your product online call it “cheap” and only 25% call it “inexpensive,” that’s a qualitative metric that has an impact on your business. There are several companies that provide in-depth analysis of the qualitative metrics online. Some of these include RapLeaf, Nielsen and Adobe Online Marketing Suite.
  • ROI Metrics: In the world of social media, all roads should lead to ROI. After all, during business hours, social media isn’t just about being social, is it? We’re doing it to make money. And if you track what percentage of people you converted from a prospect to a customer on your e-commerce site, or how many people you converted from a prospect to a client on your B2B website, then you’ll be able to measure the success of your social media campaign on an ROI basis.

In any marketing campaign, first thing any business head or CFO asks from the marketing department is ROI. Let’s look at some of the ways ROI of social media campaigns is calculated.


The first step involves setting social media goals that complement existing business and departmental goals. If you have set a specific number of leads you’re trying to attain this quarter, set the number of leads you want to specifically be driven by social media. For example – If one of your goals is to increase landing page conversion by 10%, ensure that you’re tracking the conversion rate of people who land on the page through social channels. If your goal is to increase unique page visits, make sure you have necessary tracking codes installed in each of your site pages.

To demonstrate social media’s value, you need to measure social media ROI as it relates to your broader business goals.

Key examples of social media metrics to track include:

  • Reach
  • Site traffic
  • Leads generated
  • Sign-ups and conversions


Once you’ve established your social media goals, you’ll need to identify and implement the tools and processes required to measure the ROI on your social media. This may involve adding tracking codes to URLs, building custom landing pages, and more.

There are a variety of social media analytics tools which service to track the diverse metrics you are after. Here are some to consider:

Google Analytics: Track website traffic, on-site conversions, and sign-ups originating from social media campaigns.

Hootsuite Analytics: Hootsuite offers a variety of analytics tools to help you track your reach, conversions and more. A few noteworthy examples are:

  • uberVU via Hootsuite will help you identify your share of voice within your industry on social media, your reach, sentiment around your brand and much more.
  • Custom URL parameters allows you to track which social networks and social messaging did or did not drive traffic to your site, blog or landing page.
  • Hootsuite Analytics Reports offer quick snapshots of your reach through metrics like follower growth, total daily URL click-through and per-post stats for Facebook, Twitter and more.


Using the analysis, historical data, goals defined, and engagement level, actual conversions can be calculated by different analysis. In case of non revenue generated conversions, a monetary value can be assigned to each of the conversion. Hence, this is the most important step, as each conversion and goal has to be assigned a monetary value to calculate the return / revenue from the social media campaign.

Now use the return calculated from the above step to calculate ROI from the formula –

ROI = 100 * [ ( Revenue – Cost ) / Total Investment ]

Now, using the above formula, you can access the actual ROI of the social media campaign.