9th Feb 2016

Social media fails that make you super face palm

Social media management and online marketing are the new black. Anyone who is anyone in the selling arena knows that they need to go big and go digital. Most purchasing decisions start on the internet so it makes sense to work hard at a social media presence to try and woo your audience. With all that’s at stake you’d think that companies would fight like a lion to protect their brand on social media … erm no! Mistakes will happen, but should they when it’s so easy to avoid? Here are some spectacular social media fails that put you in danger of bruising your forehead from the dramatic face palms.

A Tweet for all the Giraffes in Ghana

In June 2014 The World Cup was pretty much everywhere so you can’t really blame brands for wanting to leverage the success. One that should have been at the top of their game as they service pretty much the whole world was Delta Airlines. They were lucky in that they got one of the most talked about, retweeted tweets of the competition, but for all the wrong reasons. It was the game between USA and Ghana, it was hectic – USA scores, then Ghana, then the USA scores again – Delta celebrate with a tweet featuring  two pictures to depict the conflicting countries. Capitol Hill for America, and a Giraffe in silhouette for Ghana. Except for one thing… There are no giraffes in Ghana.

To make matters worse, when they issued an apology they said, “We’re sorry for our choice of photo in our precious tweet. Best of luck to all teams.” Precious? Your precious tweet? I really hope you meant ‘previous’ Delta…

What we can learn

These two gaffes were completely avoidable with a little fact checking and proof reading – you know, basic marketing stuff. If they had created a database of photos for the teams (and let’s face it. They had a year to prep) and used a spell checker, or someone who knows how to use a spell checker, there wouldn’t have been the PR nightmare.

People in LG Glass Houses …

Last September Apple released its new iPhone 6 and wowed the world with the fact it could bend if it was in the pocket of a tight pair of hipster pants. LG, who already had a flexible phone with the Gflex lost no time in taking a jab at the news. “Our phones don’t bend, they’re naturally curved #bendgate,” they taunted. Things would have been perfect … if they hadn’t sent the social media out on an iPhone.

No doubt blaming a third party for the oversight would have been an explanation, but either way, the hypocrisy is not something you can talk yourself out of easily and people can take a long time to forget.

What we can learn

If you’re in technology, mocking technology, it’s wise to check all your bases before you post anything.

Name the day … no, don’t – seriously

There are so many national days stuffed into the calendar that every day could celebrate some aspect of nose hair at least three times over. Dedicating a day to nose hair for your social media once in a while may actually be a good idea, but one thing that isn’t … is hijacking a day named after a figure or tragic event – of any kind. Take Martin Luther King Jnr day last year. The day is dedicated to the civil rights cause so it’s not really a day to impress people with your witty remarks and self-promotion. Go ahead, mention equality, tolerance and love for all men in general, but not, like many brands including PETA, comparing the issue to your product and how awesome it is at making the world a better place.

Build a Bear also fell into this trap on 9/11. They genuinely thought that their 9/11 themed Bear would pay tribute to a tragedy, but also knew it would be shamelessly promoting their stores. It was deleted quickly but that was too late, the damage was done.

What we can learn

As tempting as it may be, you never, ever need to trivialize tragedy to be liked by people. These are the kinds of things that your audiences are very sensitive too. You just can’t make it work so don’t try. You’ll just dig yourself in deeper as you try to get out.

Dignity, Always Dignity …

JK Rowling is still a pretty influential character the world over so her decision to donate a large amount of money to a Scottish anti-independence campaign, so when she decided to donate, feelings ran high. One Charity, called Dignity who does work for education in Africa, posted a tweet which lay undiscovered for a while. It was not restrained in language and was out to offend.

The charity reports that it was hacked, but that is a hard pill for the public to swallow as it seems like a digital marketer’s version of, ‘the dog ate my homework’.

What we can learn

As soon as you open up any social media account for a business, stick to a strict security plan. Something as simple as regularly changing passwords will help – especially if you have an employee leave. Hackers are a part of everyday life on the internet, so be vigilant. But as a general rule, don’t use them as an excuse. If you said it, do what it takes to apologize, if you didn’t and you really were hacked, gain some evidence or put the example into perspective before you use it as a defense. In a digital age – people are skeptical.

Don’t ask for trouble

One huge social media fail of 2014 was the Bill Cosby Meme campaign. Whether it was dreamt up by his marketing team, bad timing or it was something he thought up himself, it was an unmitigated disaster. Bill Cosby released several photos of himself to the public and invited fans to make memes of them and repost. This can be an economical marketing campaign. Some great ideas come from fans. And some downright awful ones too.

Two weeks later allegations arose from his private life, and the memes flowed steadily in. We’re not really sure how many of them were useable for his marketing department… or his defense attorney.

What we can learn

Audience participation is the point of social media and this seemed like a fool proof idea, but with any engagement you have to be ready for criticism. It will come even if you have the private life of a saint. Maybe his PR team were blindsided, but you have to be rock solid in your integrity and look into your crystal ball to head off any potential problems for a campaign like this – or at least get them to email them to you so you can vet the entries.

Beware of voices from the grave

Apple must have a team of social media managers so you can expect the best, but this social media fail was a bit of a surprise.

With the release of the iPhone 6, Apple pre-negotiated the comedienne Joan Rivers to advertise the device on her Facebook and Instagram accounts. Smart marketing – yes, if she hadn’t died two weeks before the release. Spooky voices beyond the grave seemed to endorse Apples new phone, or maybe it’s the device of choice in Heaven. Once again they were removed pretty quickly, but not before quite a few people had screenshotted them to poke fun at Apples expense.

What we can learn

Scheduling is one way efficient way to handle your social media accounts. You can take on more and produce more relevant content, but it’s not a, ‘set it, forget it’ mentality. Good practice involves regularly reviewing the material to check it is still relevant to avoid any problem like this. You’ll be amazed how quickly current events turn round and can throw a whole new meaning on the posts you have lined up.

Being super vigilant about your social media is the only way to limit the amount of social media fails, and you can only limit them. Failures will come. Investing time into protecting your brand should be a high priority. Your online presence is your new shop window and you have a world full of shoppers, protect it and put a little planning aside for handling the (limited) failures that come.