From enterprises to small business, the world has jumped on to the social media bandwagon for good. The way social media allows businesses to connect with their customers/prospects is unparalleled. But in their excitement in being seen everywhere(read across all social media channels ) at all times, trying to talk to all customers, businesses end up putting their foot in the mouth and in some cases have paid a heavy price for a few wrong words.
SMM Lessons 2013

Here are 6 such corporate social media blunders from 2012 (I’m sure the year saw a lot more) that go back to the premise of social networking that is social media is for dialogue in real time with and by real people and not for selling.

Lesson 1. Social Media is not About Selling – It’s about Reaching Out and Connecting

Using catastrophes (natural or otherwise) to promote your business is so NOT RIGHT. In times of crisis put aside business objectives and show empathy and concern across business units and social channels. Leverage the power of social media to showcase the human side of business – it will win your audiences trust faster and stronger.

American Apparel Disgraced Sandy

american apparel
American Apparel exploited #Sandy for their social promotion and generated public and media protest, which resulted in negative outcomes for the brand. It is evident that they did not think about their audience’ mindset and instead offered shopping deals with the coupon code SANDYSALE.

Lesson 2. Make a Proper Social Marketing Strategy

Just as good as it is, social media is equally dangerous. All social media activities should be thought through and planned – this not only helps achieve desired goals but helps avoid pitfalls too.

McDonald’s: #McDStories

McDonaldsMcDonald launched their Twitter campaign #McDStories in January, to get good responses on their great service and dining experiences from their fans. The company even paid for the promotion of the hashtag to increase awareness. Unfortunately, most of the tweeters used this tag to talk about their bad stories. Although, the campaign was pulled two hours later but the hashtag became so viral that it is still being used.

Lesson 3: Stay Empathetic While Leveraging Newsjacks

Newsjacking is ‘the practice of capitalising on the popularity of a news story to amplify sales and marketing success’. Companies are so focussed on riding on the popularity of some events, that they completely ignore the dark side of those events. Such tactics upset victims and general audience alike and brings lot of negative publicity for the brands.

Hubspot Blog

Original SandyDespite the fact that most people flinched in horror to see the destruction caused by Sandy, brands tried to make a profit from that situation as well, thinking it as astute marketing opportunity.

HubSpot posted a blog highlighting ‘Five Hurricane Sandy Newsjacks form Marketers’ that apparently seemed to celebrate brands trying to use the disaster as a way of driving sales. This blog was outrightly criticized and HubSpot took down the blog and apologized. Not only this, it also donated $5,000 to the Red Cross, which was probably taken out of the blogger’s wages.

Lesson 4. Proofread Your Marketing Content

Although marketing channels are usually informal, it is very important that all your marketing content, blogs, articles, posts and tweets are professional and politically correct, and without any errors in spelling and grammar.

Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream Story

Wilcoxson Facebook PageA century-old ice cream company in a small Montana (US) town came under “fire” after a social media failure when a customer asked on the Facebook page if the Wilcoxson Ice Cream contained pork in the gelatin used to make it:

“Hey saw ur cookies and cream has gelatin in it. Does it contain pork? I am a Muslim and love your ice cream and when I read it today I was shocked. I look forward to you writing me back. Thank you. If possible if it does have pork gelatin, please tell me what flavors do so I can avoid them. Thanks again.”

Wilcoxsons Ice Cream YelpThat was a very polite question, right? Here’s how CEO Matt Schaeffer from Wilcoxson Ice Cream responded:

“We don’t deliver outside of Montana, certainly not Pakistan.”
The exchange went viral and caused an online uproar, outraging a lot of people besides that one fan (who, as it turned out, lived in Wyoming). Negative Wilcoxson’s reviews poured into Yelp and Reddit, a boycott was organized and CEO Schaeffer was forced to take down the Wilcoxson’s Facebook page, which was clogged with angry comments.

Lesson 5. Do not Speak Ill About your Competitors, Customers …just anybody

Social networking is not meant for saying hurtful things about people or on sensitive subjects because unlike in the real world where few bad words spoken may be meant for selected ears and soon forgotten, words on social media spread across the globe and stay there for eternity.

Poor KitchenAid

Kitchen Aid TwitterKitchenAid had to do a serious damage control following an errant tweet sent out from the company’s Twitter account-
Kitchen Aid Twitter AccountThe company quickly deleted the message and issued an apology, but it had already been retweeted many times.

Lesson 6. Practice a Social Media Policy for Corporate Brands

It is critical for marketers to keep track of messages posted by their teams/ employees on social media especially where there words seem to coming from the corporate mouthpiece. A well defined social media policy is a big step in ensuring that there are no snafus of the kind experienced by Stubhub, and Kitchenaid.

Permanent Weekend for Stubhub Employee

StubHub Twitter AccountSomeone from StubHub posted a nasty tweet on StubHub’s corporate account, calling the ticket sales website a “stubsucking hell hole”. The tweet was up for about an hour before the company finally deleted it and issued an apology.

As you plan the social media policy for 2013, ensure that you don’t make the mistakes that some big names committed in 2012.

Photo credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via photopin cc