How to Fail At Social Media By Not Really Trying

7 Lessons from 2011 Suxorz-The Worst of Social Media

While social media continues to be at the top of marketers’ list, it doesn’t always yield the results they expect. Some of these outcomes cause problems marketers never saw coming. As a result, they don’t know what to do and take longer to respond than social media participants expect.

At last night’s Suxorz as part of Social Media Week 2012, Henry Copeland of BlogAds moderated a panel of six top social media digerati incliuding David Berkowitz of 360i, Twanna A. Hines, author, Brian Morrissey of Digiday, and BL Ochman of What’s Next Blog to determine the worst social media moves of 2011.

Among these worst-in-class social media executions are seven important marketing lessons.

  • Don’t tell customers they’re not needed. Nikon says cameras take photos not people. Generally, it’s not good marketing practice to tell customers they don’t matter because it pisses them off.  Even worse, Nikon deleted comments on their Facebook page.
  • Don’t think through implications of your campaign. Since stories are important to making your brand memorable, it’s no surprise McDonalds tried to gather customer input with their #McDstories Twitter campaign. This was a case of not paying attention to what customers really thought of their food because the hashtag was used to tell the hamburger giant how bad it is!
  • Don’t put anything on social media you wouldn’t want your mother to see. In Former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s case this was made worse by  his unfortunate name. Despite privacy settings, it’s safer to assume that anything you say or share on social media has the potential to be made public. (Here’s my commentary on the Weiner scandal.)
  • Don’t employ social media conventions properly. When it comes to hashtags, marketer beware, because they can come back to haunt you. Two brands tried riding on the coattails of Twitter hashtag popularity for the wrong reason. Kenneth Cole used #Cairo to promote his spring collection in the midst of the Egyptian revolution last spring and Entemanns piggybacked on the Casey Anthony’s #notguilty decision.
  • Don’t understand the social media platform you’re using. Know the rules of the social media game before you jump into the fray. This should be a no brainer but it wasn’t for Woody Harrelson. He went on Reddit’s AMA (aka Ask Me Anything) to promote his movie Rampart. But he didn’t understand that he had to answer questions about anything, not just the movie so he avoided questions. People called it the crappiest AMA and ramparts became a meme.
  • Don’t mess with bloggers. When you reach out to bloggers as influencers, you’re letting them know you think they’re important. Therefore, make sure you’ve done your homework. At a minimum, get their names right and skip the foul language. Regardless of size, bloggers have a platform to talk to followers. Two good examples of this were Ragu which emailed dad-blogger a marketing video making fun of them and Conagra did a bait and switch on food bloggers by talking about gourmet food but serving frozen pizza. No matter how often it happens, marketers and PR professionals keep making this mistake.
  • Don’t assume you’re safe because you’re not on social media. On social media what you don’t know can hurt you! One of Governor Rick Perry’s television ads for his faith-based run for the presidency was turned into a spoof comparing his clothes to those used in Brokeback Mountain.

If you don’t want your social media marketing to be an example of how not to do social media, take the time to understand the social media platform you’re planning to use, test it out, and learn the accepted conventions. If you have a problem with your campaign, come clean as soon as possible to get it behind you so people will forget about it. The longer you wait, the more you fuel the social media frenzy. Remember two hours is a long time on social media.

What did you think was the worst social media screw up of 2011 and why do you feel that way?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/epiclectic/3029407462/

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  • http://brunogebarski.wordpress.com/ Bruno Pierre Gebarski

    Heidi I usual, your content is outstanding and I rush to read and learn from your expertise all the way from Hamburg Germany! I have a rough time expressing companies with names as a European since for many years we have not had this freedom but you can believe this permeates lots of European Companies especially here in Germany! Pounds foolish on traditional marketing but NO BODY gives a damn phone call back when there is a customer complain! Painful! We should establish a branch of your business here on this side of the pond!!!  

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Bruno–Thank you for adding your European insights to the conversation. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

    • HeidiCohen

      Bruno–Thank you for adding your European insights to the conversation. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Olivia

    Quantas is another example of social media fail, they clearly didn’t think about the consequences of their campaign – surely after the strikes and cancelled flights running a tell us you dream inflight experience is only going to encourage negative feedback!

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Olivia–Good suggestion, It was one of the examples presented at the Suxorz. For my reporting of the event, please check SmartBrief for Social Media (Here’s the link http://smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2012/02/16/live-from-social-media-week-suxorz-the-worst-social-media-screw-ups-of-2011/) Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

    • HeidiCohen

      Olivia–Good suggestion, It was one of the examples presented at the Suxorz. For my reporting of the event, please check SmartBrief for Social Media (Here’s the link http://smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2012/02/16/live-from-social-media-week-suxorz-the-worst-social-media-screw-ups-of-2011/) Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.designbusinessengineering.com Lindy Asimus

    Suspect you meant #Cairo – another limitation of hashtags they must be consistent to work.  Good point on not understanding the platform but often there is a lack of understanding of the whole online environment and the whole backstory of how to engage and how to be civil. The social environment (Spammers aside and we ignore those as they are like fleas on a dog and deserve no consideration) is a strangely generous one.  And it is mercurial and will not be controlled.

    • HeidiCohen

      Lindy–Thanks for the typo catch! Unfortunately, spellcheckers don’t catch everything. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Pamela Johnston-Harris

    Also, stop spamming Twitter chats with your own content. There’s a marketer who does nothing but post her own links to things like #blogchat every week. She just looks desperate for traffic.

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Pamela – I agree that Twitter chats shouldn’t be used strictly to broadcast links to your own content. But I do think it’s acceptable to add appropriate information, yours and third party, where it answers questions and provides value to the conversation. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

    • HeidiCohen

      Pamela – I agree that Twitter chats shouldn’t be used strictly to broadcast links to your own content. But I do think it’s acceptable to add appropriate information, yours and third party, where it answers questions and provides value to the conversation. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://In-The-Flow.com Jim Campbell

    Very good Heidi, like always.