Social media going wrong and what we can learn

Social media going wrong and what we can learn

I can sense the eyerolls already – “another one of those social media fail posts”. Well, I’m going to try and do this one with a bit of a difference. See, there are loads of those “10 epic social media fails from big brands” posts, but a large of majority of them miss out a key part of the process – which is what you – or we collectively, as marketers – can learn from these mis-steps.

I think we’ve all been there as marketers. Either you hone and perfect an idea over several months, only to release it out into the world and find that no one gets it, or you send a quick tweet, message or email on a slow Wednesday afternoon without really thinking about it. It’s so easy to do, and can go wrong so quickly. So, the first lesson in this post comes without an example – before you do anything in marketing, whether that’s social media, an email, a brochure – check it. Proofread, get a colleague to sense check it, test with a focus group if you can. Because once it’s out there, it’s out there.

So, with that important step burned into your brain, let’s have a look at some of the examples of where the brand in question would have benefitted from repeating the “check it” mantra a few times.


British Airways’ GDPR gaffe

UK flag carrier British Airways were called out by Twitter user Mustafa Al-Bassam after asking for several complaining customers to share their booking reference, passport number, billing address and postcode among other personal details over Twitter. Oops.

This is baffling on a number of levels. Why would a piece of data protection legislation encourage you to share personal data on a public platform? Putting that aside, if we give Our Kelly the benefit of the doubt and assume she meant via direct message, which is a private medium, it still doesn’t look great. She does mention this to another customer, with the addendum of “my bad” – a phrase which should never, ever be used on a corporate Twitter account. Not to mention the fact that Twitter direct messages aren’t encrypted, which calls into question whether customers should share personal information via that medium under GDPR anyway.

..To be fair to Kelly, there were other employees using this line too. Sorry Kelly.


What we can learn from this

Regardless of your business, don’t just let whoever run wild on social media without making sure they understand about the importance of the clarity of their message. What our poor BA employees should’ve done is asked the customers in question to direct message them first (sometimes this requires the user to follow the account, so you should ask this first if necessary) – and then she could’ve asked for their details. Make sure whoever is operating on your social media account is very clear on a process like this, or at least knows who to go to and ask should they need assistance with a problem. And for goodness sake, make sure they know not to respond to a mistake with “my bad”.


Walkers user-generated content upset

You might remember this one. As part of a competition primarily on Twitter, Walkers asked users to share their selfies for the chance to win tickets to the Champions League final. The picture was then automatically (I assume, and hope) inserted into a personalised video featuring everyone’s favourite man from Leicester – Gary Lineker. Well, you can guess what happened next. Mischievous Twitter users had Gary posing with serial killers, and other distasteful subjects. While you have to call into question the motivation of the individuals who chose to send those images, it does teach us a valuable lesson about automated and user-generated content – handle with extreme care.


What we can learn from this

Be very, very careful about opening your account/network up to any sort of user/audience-generated content. Never forget that the internet is strange place full of people with not always innocent intentions. The last thing you want is your brand associated with a distasteful image, or something offensive. Does your idea have the potential to backfire? Any potential at all, and my advice would be just don’t do it, or make sure you have a very strong and watertight process for monitoring and filtering any content which is generated. If it feels like too much of a risk, do something else. Post a picture of a cat. You can’t go wrong.


McDonald’s scheduling snafu

This is a doozy, and for me, it’s pretty unforgivable. Using a scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Buffer is a common way for most businesses to make the management of their social media a little bit easier. You can load up a whole schedule of activity in advance, and get on with other things knowing your networks will stay updated. This is why I don’t quite understand how the McDonald’s Twitter account managed to do this one. I can only imagine there was a spreadsheet somewhere which was copied and pasted from, or a placeholder message somebody was supposed to update. Remarkably, this Tweet is still in place – either they’ve got a good sense of humour and thought they’d leave it up there “for the bants”, or it wasn’t a mistake at all – just an attempt to go viral. I’ll take my tin foil hat off now.

Either way, it made Maccie’s look a bit silly, and everyone got a good laugh out of it. Other than taking a tip from Wendy’s about how to have a bit of fun with your competitors on Twitter, there is a more serious lesson to be learned here.

What we can learn from this

Just because you’ve scheduled something in advance doesn’t mean everything is OK. Especially if you’re scheduling it way in advance when you might not be around to check it. Or let’s face it, even if you are around, chances are you hit “schedule” on a bunch of posts on a Friday afternoon a month ago and never thought about them again. Managing multiple accounts can be fiddly, but precision is required if you’re going to put consistent content of a good quality. Enlist the help of colleagues to sense check and proofread activity. Consider setting up alerts from your scheduling platform to notify you when something’s posted – sure, you’ll get a load of annoying emails, but you’ll be able to keep tabs on what’s going out and when, and quickly be able to jump on it if something does slip through the cracks of your proofreading process.


Need a helping hand?

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