Social media has grown so fast over the last few years that any report published regarding social media stats would need to be updated daily to reflect the growth accurately. As of the publication of this article, there are over 456,000 Tweets sent every minute, 46,740 images posted on Instagram and 4,146,600 YouTube videos are watched. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults report that they are active on Facebook, and nearly three-quarters of those users access Facebook on a daily basis.
In addition, 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others and ad spend on social media is on pace to outgrow TV ad spend for the first time.
Social Media has redefined how we interact with others. It’s remarkably easy to join specific and trending conversations through hashtags, share photos and links of interest across geographic boundaries, and praise or critique a new product or service, all with astounding speed.
For brands, it is essential to be active on various social media platforms. Often, social media is the first place where a conversation relating to a brand starts. The inherently public arena of platforms like Twitter is an indispensable place to monitor discussion surrounding a business, gauge sentiment, and communicate directly with your target audience.
While the public nature of brands on social media has many advantages, when Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook go wrong for businesses, it’s usually a full-blown train wreck that’s hard to look away from.
Most social media fails from businesses are entirely avoidable. The examples below provide valuable lessons on how to avoid a social media brand breakdown.
Snapchat Domestic Abuse Ad
Shortly after the Grammy’s in 2009, audiences were baffled why Rihanna, one of the most popular performers of the year, was not in attendance. When photos of Rihanna’s badly beaten face soon circulated on social media, the surprising absence was clear. Rihanna was a victim of domestic violence. With over 10 million domestic violence victims in the US each year alone, Snapchat’s decision to post such a highly offensive ad was possibly one of the most head-scratching decisions in recent advertising.
Not only was this ad damaging to Snapchat’s reputation, but it also directly affected their bottom line. After Rihanna posted her response to the offensive post, even with multiple apologies from Snapchat, the damage had been done. The ad eventually ended up costing the company over $800,000,000 in lost revenue.
Lesson: Domestic violence is never something to joke around about. Even if the creator of this ad somehow had no knowledge of Rihanna’s very public domestic violence ordeal, it would still be baffling since the ad seems highly offensive to any domestic violence victims. What was the approval process here?
Waltonchain Free Contest Controversy
On February 8th, 2018, blockchain company Waltonchain announced a free to enter twitter contest where 564.96 Walton Coins would be split amongst the winners of the promotion. According to their Medium post, all you needed to do to enter was:
Social Media Contests are a great way to expand to new audiences, keep your current audience engaged, and bolster your brand. When done correctly, Twitter contests can be an important part of any brand’s social media arsenal. When done wrong, they can undermine your brand’s reputation with your audience and damage trust.
So what’s going on here? From the tweet above, it would be a high percentage guess that Waltonchain thought it was logged into another account when they quote RT’d a presumed reaction as one of the contest winners.
Lesson: A few things here. This may be obvious, but companies should never let employees enter contests intended for their customers. While employees may be a company’s best brand ambassadors, the connection is too easily made from employees to collusion, when company employees win contests open to the general public. If a brand wants to be democratic with the contests they run, another idea is to run separate internal contests for employees only, not open to the general public.
On the posting side of things, one of the most common and easily avoidable social media mistakes is juggling posting between corporate and personal accounts. It’s not a question of if but when you post something to the wrong account by mistake if you are posting between accounts. A good rule of thumb in order to avoid this is to select on your browser not to remember the password for both your corporate and personal social media accounts. This will force whoever is logging on to know which account they are logging into for each session.
Any form of automated replies is a huge risk because when sending programmed responses, you don’t know the context in which you are responding or posting. Take for example this email from LinkedIn to social media influencer Simone Giertz, reminding her that she was in the news… because she had a brain tumor.
While Simone seemed to take the email in stride, the cringe-worthy message was then posted across to Simone’s 295,000 Twitter followers.
In 2014 Puma ran the #ForeverFaster campaign which encouraged followers to use the hashtag in exchange for their usernames being printed on digital cards signed by brand ambassadors Cesc Fàbregas, Radamel Falcao, and Usain Bolt. From there the automated system was fooled into posting numerous inappropriate messages, including the one below from German soccer player Marco Reus with the message, “Cocaine, Couldn’t do it without you.”
The New England Patriots also found themselves in hot water running a similar campaign where they accidentally tweeted out a racial slur. To celebrate the Patriots’ success as the first NFL team to reach 1M Twitter followers, they encouraged followers to retweet a post from the team, after which they would be rewarded with a custom digital jersey with the fan’s username on the back. If this seems like a bad idea, yes, it definitely was a very bad idea. After the Patriots tweeted out a custom jersey with “I hate *****” the campaign was quickly halted.
The reply, however, was up for nearly an hour and received over 1,500 before the Patriots issued this apology.
Also in 2014 in the midst of Occupy Wall Street Protests in front of Bank of America, one of the protesters tweeted at Bank of America, “Just got chased away by
#NYPD 4 ‘obstructing sidewalk’.” What followed was this exchange where Bank of America seems to offer the activist help with his account after being chased from the premises.
It doesn’t end there. BoFA goes on to offer @OccupyLA account assistance, along with a copy-paste reply to others who most likely mentioned or @’d Bank of America. While it was presumed that bots were replying, Bank of America claimed otherwise. Perhaps it’s even more disheartening if humans were behind these replies to issues much larger than account problems.
Lesson: Automated emails and social media responses give brands the opportunity to respond to customers around the clock and in theory keep their audiences engaged when personalized communication is not scalable or available. On public social media platforms like Twitter, these responses rarely end well. It’s an easy decision to stay away from automated responses on social media.
McDonald’s Tweets Out Placeholder
On November 23rd, 2017, McDonald’s accidentally posted this placeholder tweet to its 150K+ followers.
If it wasn’t embarrassing enough posting a careless scheduled tweet in need of editing, McDonald’s rival Wendy’s chimed in with one of the more biting responses from any brand on Twitter.
Ouch… McDonald’s, however, quickly and effectively responded to the situation with a clever reply to their original tweet referencing McCafe. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade… or in this case a bad tweet into a plug for McCafe.
While McDonald’s posting a placeholder tweet can be an embarrassing moment for a brand, the worst scheduled tweets seem to come on the heels of tragedy. Take for example American Rifleman (an NRA affiliated journal) who tweeted the post below shortly after the Aurora, Colorado cinema mass-shootings in 2012.
Lesson: It’s important as a Social Media Manager to be aware of current events and be ready to hit the pause button whenever posts can be interpreted as insensitive or tone-deaf. The conversation online is continuous, and when posts are scheduled for the future, there is no way of knowing what the context of the conversations will be. There will always be the risk of scheduled posts intersecting with current events in a negative way, the best way to avoid a scheduled post faux pas is to be aware of the context of your posts in an unpredictable world.
Nike Gets Busted By Grammar Police
While the internet is most likely the least grammatically correct place on the internet, there is still the responsibility of brands to get it right in regards to grammar and spelling. In fact, poor spelling and grammar is the most disliked quality of a brand on social media according to a report from Disruptive Communications. If it’s true that people don’t typically mind writing mistakes in informal emails or social media posts from our peers, when it comes to brands, consumers still expect well-written formal communication. Correct spelling and grammar is a reflection of the professionalism of the brand. Incorrect spelling and grammar on social media can damage the trust and reputation of a business.
Oof. Nike ended up with an unscheduled date with the grammar police from the above tweet.
Lesson: Using a program like Grammarly or another free spell-check tool is never a bad idea, especially when responding publically. Correct spelling and grammar are essential for any brand’s professional image and while mistakes happen, they can generally be avoided by taking a moment to read back over your message before posting. Remember, while informal communication is accepted and practical with friends or peers, good spelling and grammar is a reflection of the professionalism of a brand.
ESPN Analyst Tweets Out Porn Link
Posting links on social media can be tricky in a few ways. Most importantly, make sure the correct link is being posted with the accompanying text. Having a tab open to double-check links is never a bad idea. Posting the wrong link can be a deeply humiliating experience. Just ask ESPN Analyst Gerry Hamilton, who accidentally tweeted out a pornography link to accompany a football prospect post.
To add insult to injury, Pornhub’s social media caught wind of the snafu and replied to the post.
Lesson: Many of the mistakes made on social media are made from not developing good habits which can help avoid easy mistakes. Link testing falls under this category. Every time, without exception, test links that are accompanying social media posts in another tab. Once it is certain that the correct link is being used, be sure that the image preview and text are complementary to your post.
Tinder Twitter Tirade
Arguing online is a bad look. Especially from brands and businesses where a level of professionalism is expected. Reputations are easily damaged in heated exchanges that are best avoided. Businesses should always take the high-road when addressing criticism online, even if it is unfair or nonfactual.
When publishing powerhouse Vanity Fair questioned the moral compass of dating app Tinder in 2015, Tinder responded aggressively and poorly to the author of the article.
While it can be frustrating to get negative press, reviews, or inaccurate accusations online, the high-road is always the smart play when it comes to arguing on social media. Address concerns and critiques with understanding and sympathy for why the negative post was written. If it is a dissatisfied customer, ask them to directly message them while showing them courtesy and respect. Here’s a great example from Wendy’s.
Lesson: Businesses are only as strong as their reputation. Arguing on social media undermines the professionalism that consumers expect from brands. This can not only increase negative sentiment but also affect a business’s bottom-line. Brands should always be professional, respectful, and understanding when dealing with negative comments on social media.
Status Labs is the premier digital reputation management firm, with offices in Austin, New York, Los Angeles, London, and São Paulo. For more information visit StatusLabs.com or sign up for a Free Consultation.