Thanksgiving Weekend is, of course, a time to reflect on everything we are grateful for. An extended weekend for most, you likely reveled in the spirit of family and friends, delectable dishes and desserts, and an overwhelming amount of football.
As I returned to the weekly grind on Monday, sleep deprived yet eager to get back in the swing of things, I looked back on what was a much-needed, long holiday weekend. While the Three F’s—family, food and football—reign supreme, I am thankful for much more.
Several blogs across the web detailed the dozens of social media gaffes committed over the course of the year, some far more prominent than others, but all of them were similarly foolish. While most of these mistakes are certainly avoidable, it is evident that the slightest social media miscue can be detrimental for professionals and businesses alike.
Those of us who have eluded these critical errors should give thanks (we also deserve a bit of praise for our common sense). Nonetheless, some were not as lucky. Several renowned brands stirred up quite the commotion via Facebook and Twitter thanks to an offensive tweet or contentious status update.
Here is a quick rundown of five of the most careless and indictable social media blunders I am thankful for not committing this past year.
1. Sending a disparaging Tweet from company account
In the first of three campaign debates between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, Twitter was humming with comments that either badgered or supported one of the candidates. Twitter announced that the debate drew more traffic on the social platform than any political event in history.
KitchenAid—well, at least the person responsible for managing the account—wishes it did not voice its “opinion” on the matter. After Obama mentioned his deceased grandmother, KitchenAid sent out this offensive remark to its then-24,000 followers, albeit accidentally, garnering a wave of outrage for the tweet:
As HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes points out, “sadly, this kind of account mix-up happens all the time.” I have written aplenty about mistakes like these in the past, some handled better than others. Although they are glaring examples of what not to do, the quick-fire nature that Twitter promotes makes it very easy to commit this social media mishap.
Just imagine engaging in a delicate debate using Tweetdeck or your mobile device. We all know how common it is to send out a tweet from the wrong account. I often tweet work-related material from my personal Twitter account on accident—certainly not a fireable offense, but it happens.
There are plenty of means to prevent this from happening to your business, whether it’s utilizing a qualified social media marketing specialist or using a service that screens all tweets or status updates before publishing. Thankfully for KitchenAid, its brand manager quickly and efficiently apologized for the tweet and took full responsibility for the mistake.
2. “Newsjacking” to promote products or services
Many brands went the extra mile earlier this month to lend a helping hand in wake of Hurricane Sandy. Conversely, though, some brands—including the very ones going the extra mile—sought profits instead.
There are many instances of brands trying to “newsjack” the storm. According to David Meerman Scott, newsjacking is “the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”
As Meerman suggests, there are ways to appropriately capitalize on a major news story if it’s in good taste. But as several brands have shown, there’s a fine line between what’s suitable for business and plain poor judgment. American Apparel, for instance, became the poster child for insensitive marketing after it sent out the following email:
Courtesy of Mashable
A barrage of tweets ensued, most of which cited American Apparel’s insensitivity and called for customers to “boycott” the clothing retailer. As shown in the image above, not only did the sale target those in the areas hit the hardest by the storm, but also asked customers to enter “SandySale” upon checkout. Business Insider wrote about the handful of brands that took a similar newsjacking approach during the storm.
Hurricane Sandy claimed 253 lives, caused an estimated $65 billion in damage and resulted in millions without power for days after the storm hit.
Fellow retailer Gap issued a similar Tweet and sale, but quickly apologized and donated $1 million to The American Red Cross. To think a prominent brand could be so clueless during a deadly storm is a head-scratcher to say the least.
Sears, meanwhile, made a borderline move when it offered supplies such as generators and household items, for those affected by the storm. Such newsjacking can be a risky practice, so it’s best to put yourself in not only your customers’ shoes, but of those who have been affected by the newsworthy event.
3. Tweet related to sensitive current event
Often brands will try to parlay a bucking trend on Twitter into sales or attention. In the case of online fashion retailer Celeb Boutique, the move could not have gone any worse. The United Kingdom based online store sent out the following Tweet in response to the hashtag #Aurora, which at the time was trending worldwide due to the unspeakable mass shooting at a premiere showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo.
Celeb Boutique deleted the tweet and responded, saying that its social media team is based outside of the United States, and thus was unaware of the shooting. It offered an apology on its website as well, according to Post Advertising. However, a simple click of the mouse could have avoided this problem altogether.
Brands like this deserve all of the negative backlash they get for posting something so carelessly.
Quite frankly, there isn’t a brand out there that is actively pursuing a bad rap (duh, right?). Despite the negligence involved in the other examples listed in this post, each merely lacked common sense. Progressive Insurance, meanwhile, went great lengths to destroy its own reputation.
Back in August, Matt Fisher wrote a blog detailing the tragic death of his sister and how Progressive allegedly not only failed to pay the correct amount to the victim’s family, but defended her killer in court “in order to not pay [her] policy.”
Courtesy of Brand Channel
Now, this is certainly a terrible situation, and aside from how Progressive responded to its detractors on Twitter, the insurance giant handled this circumstance quite miserably—both publicly and behind closed doors. Progressive later agreed to an undisclosed settlement with the family, and offered an automated response to those voicing their displeasure to the company via Twitter.
“This is a tragic case, and our sympathies go out to Mr. Fisher and his family for the pain they’ve had to endure,” the tweet read. “We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations.”
Courtesy of CNN
Automated responses won’t win your company many points when it comes to customer service. Progressive clearly mishandled the situation, proving they were completely out of touch with the power of social networking in the process.
5. Hijacked Promoted Trend
Promoted Trends will always be vulnerable for attack. It’s a means for savvy Twitter users to take what was supposed to spark a positive discussion about a brand, product or individual, and instead spin the hashtag into the exact opposite of what it was intended to accomplish.
Twitter users hijacked the Republican National Committee’s tweet, #AreYouBetterOff, one of a handful of Promoted Trends to backfire during the presidential campaign. While strong political beliefs can easily derail these misguided Twitter campaigns, Promoted Trends by consumer brands are just as susceptible to similar treatment.
Look no further than America’s favorite fast-food chain, McDonald’s. Coming in at No. 1 on Mashable’s 11 Biggest Social Media Disasters of 2012, McDonald’s Promoted Trend #McDStories spurred an outpouring of distaste for the restaurant.
It takes a bit of bravery and determination to successfully pull off a Promoted Trend. McDonald’s later admitted that the campaign “did not go as planned,” but the damage was done. While brands must have a grasp on their targeted audience at all times, it is equally important for them to identify their critics. Providing fuel for a fire that will ultimately burn your brand’s image is a serious no-no.
Clearly, brands are still adjusting to the power of social media, so it would be wise for your business to take note. It is important that your company establishes a strict social media policy, which includes a thorough explanation of how to handle a sensitive situation if it arises—or how to avoid an embarrassing issue altogether.
(View the original post at Mainstreethost’s Search Marketing Blog)