Social media, for too many brands, it might feel more like anti-social media. It’s no secret that the rush of consumers and advertisers to Facebook and Twitter has made it ever easier for the masses to be heard—and for brands to mess up.
The minefield of customer commentary has been a part of the conversation since the dawn of social media, and the various high-profile brand blowups over the years have been well-documented. Considering that so many marketers have learned the hard way that consumers have a voice—and they’re going to use it—one might think that brands would have gotten savvy by now. And yet, a surprising number seem to have still missed the memo: Tread lightly—you’re just a visitor here. With a growing number of advertisers still learning the lesson the hard way, it has become clear that none of them is absolutely safe.
Many social media firestorms have ignited around a company’s failure on the service front. Take blogger Jeff Jarvis’ “Dell Hell,” a series of online rants about his crappy laptop, or Canadian musician Dave Carroll’s 2009 YouTube hit “United [Airlines] Breaks Guitars.” Still other dustups have involved lame brained or even outright offensive marketing messages. And as some unfortunate marketers have found, once an offending message gets out, it’s next to impossible to quickly clear the air. Yet the brand’s response, as timely and as clear as it might have been, failed to quiet many critics. Navigating one’s way to safety from a social media tsunami is even more challenging when a marketer gets entangled in controversy through no fault of its own.
Even a seemingly innocuous attempt to capitalize on social media’s influence can blow up in a marketer’s face. In January, McDonald’s saw #McDStories, a hashtag meant to showcase farmers who grow its produce, get hijacked by Twitter users posting less-than-appetizing messages about their experiences at the fast food chain. McDonald’s tried again in March, attempting to generate buzz around its St. Patrick’s Day-themed, green-colored milkshake. What resulted was as much mockery as meme.
The opportunities for advertisers to make mistakes—or to simply appear tone deaf—have multiplied as they juggle the ever-complex media mix, pushing out more messages through more channels at a faster pace.
Despite the stumbles, some advertisers are doing it right. Jones mentions Domino’s, which in 2009 began a brand revitalization that addressed both its own social media crisis (erupting after a viral video of two employees making unwelcome additions to its food surfaced) and the broad perception that the chain’s pizza crusts tasted like cardboard. In a tactic worthy of the Marketing Hall of Fame, Domino’s launched a campaign that bluntly acknowledged its poor reputation and publicized its mission to improve. And in keeping with its new transparent tack, the brand last year ran customer reviews from Twitter—both the good and the bad—on a billboard in Times Square.
Britton cites Nike. Despite having been saddled with negative stories about working conditions in its factories, the brand has managed to build up an army of loyal customers to protect it.“When some of [Nike’s] workplace actions get called into question, these people rush to the defense of the brand and make sure both sides of the story are being heard,” he says. “If both sides of the story are being heard, it becomes less of a firestorm and more of a healthy, active dialogue.”
In other words, your brand needs to be active on social media to reach a huge chunk of your potential fan base. However, if you make one little error, you could be hurting your brand’s reputation. And if you make following mistake your brand may be a hit in social media but may not convert well the same in business.
- Hashtag High jacking
There’s no doubt that you’ve used a hashtag here and there, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Research has proven that images that include hashtags receive more likes than those without. However, you have to use hashtags with caution, especially when it comes to users hijacking your account. For example, there is the classic McDonald’s “fail” when the fast food chain asked customers to share their#McDStories, which resulted in people telling horror stories instead of heartwarming childhood memories.
The easiest way to avoid this is by clearly defining your hashtag so that it will reach the right audience. Using generic keywords and hashtags can lead to the hashtag getting hijacked.
- Paying for Fake Fans and Likes
While you may have to pay for ads to reach some of your audience, offering to pay money to boost your fan count and Likes is a horrible tactic that should be avoided. They add very little to your community since they won’t be as engaged as real fans of your brand. Real fans are more willing to spread brand awareness as well as become brand advocates. It may seem like a great idea to boost the number of fans or retweets by purchasing them, but it can ultimately be detrimental to your brand.
- Using Every Platform for the Sake of Using Them All
It’s not a bad idea to be on multiple social media platforms, but you don’t have to be on every single social network. For example, a law firm should have a LinkedIn and Facebook account, but does it need a Pinterest or Snapchat account? No. Do a little research and discover where your audience can be reached and stick mainly with those platforms. If you need some assistance, you can review this helpful article from HubSpot.
- Spamming Your Followers
Sharing content or statuses on a frequent basis is an absolute must, but you don’t want to overdo it. Eventually, followers will get tired of you flooding their social media accounts. So how often should you post to Facebook, Twitter, etc.? It’s going to vary based on your following size, the network’s own algorithms, and how active your followers are.