By now, companies large and small understand that social media is a great way to promote brands and build customer relationships. This knowledge does not come without a learning curve. Several large corporations have made social media blunders that have caused them to come into the online news spotlight, as well as to be discussed—not entirely in positive ways—by their customers. Here are six examples of the wrong way to do social media marketing, highlighting mistakes made by large companies:
IBM audited its Twitter identities and discovered that more than one hundred existed. They eliminated the majority of them and only retained a few. Lesson to be learned: only maintain the social media accounts you can manage and update regularly for the greatest interaction with customers and potential clients.
Although it might be tempting to jump on every new social media network that comes along, if your social media team is unable to keep up with all the accounts, they will not be effective. In essence, they will take up empty space and serve no purpose to the marketing efforts.
Google announced the release of Gmail on April Fools’ Day, after building a tradition of playing elaborate April Fools’ Day jokes in previous years. As a result, the launch lost the excitement it had hoped to build as people scrambled around trying to figure out if it was a real launch or not. Lesson to be learned: companies on social media should have a sense of humor but they should also make sure the messages they send via social media are clear.
Google executives are to be applauded for having a sense of humor when so many other companies are stiff and display no interesting personality. However, the announcement of a new product should never have fallen on the same day as their jokes did.
Chapstick placed a Facebook ad that generated a high level of negative feedback from customers. The picture of a young woman bent over the back of a couch, supposedly looking for her lost Chapstick was emblazoned with the statement, “Be heard at Facebook.com/Chapstick”. Critical comments flooded onto the page. The way Chapstick chose to first address the issue was by deleting negative comments posted by customers. After more consideration, Chapstick issued an apology to fans that seemed insincere and created more discord because rather than accepting responsibility; Chapstick placed the blame on Facebook.
Lesson to be learned: Admit to mistakes humbly and humanely, without shifting blame to systems and networks. Customers already feel that trying to engage companies online is unsuccessful and undesirable because they feel as if they are virtually speaking into a hole. A contrite company that issues a genuine and human apology will gain respect.
Walmart launched a Facebook campaign but did not allow customers to post feedback to the page or offer comments. Because there was no dialogue between Walmart and its customers, Walmart endured criticism in virtually every other venue available online. Lesson to be learned: social media should be an ongoing conversation between the company and the public.
Once the dialogue is cut off, the company is then engaging in a one-sided campaign that is all about their products and brand and not at all about the customer and what customers think.
McDonald’s decided to use the specialized Twitter hashtag #mcdstories to promote its brand on Twitter. The idea backfired for McDonald’s because customers decided to use the hashtag to let the Twitter world know about all their horror stories while dealing with the restaurant. Lesson to be learned: social media without a plan is destined for failure in one way or another. McDonald’s should have anticipated the direction the conversation could have gone and stalled it or kept it focused.
Chrysler had a Twitter mishap when an employee used the corporate account to complain about the drivers in the city and the rant was complete with obscene language. Lesson to be learned: take ownership of your company’s social media accounts and be aware of who is responsible for the accounts and making the posts. Managing social media does take more time and sometimes more money, but knowing the source of all public communication is safer for the company in the long run.