We’ve talked about some of the biggest social media success stories and some of the golden rules of implementing a social media strategy for an organisation. But what happens when companies go wrong with their social media marketing? In the virtual world, the impact can be unexpectedly widespread – which means that not only does the strategy fail to achieve its goal, but it can actually negatively affect the organisation’s reputation.
Let’s take a look at two big social media disasters, their impact on the companies in question, and the learnings that resulted:
McDonald’s. The fast-food chain launched a Twitter campaign, creating and promoting a hashtag with the goal of eliciting positive feedback from consumers. #McDStories was meant to start a McDonald’s conversation and get touching stories and good memories. Unfortunately for the company, critics of the chain hijacked the hashtag and began posting numerous negative experiences instead, including being served raw meat, eating stale food and horror stories from people who claimed to be former employees. McDonald’s pulled the campaign within hours so that the hashtag was no longer promoted, although Tweets continued to pour in for quite a while afterwards!
As the company discovered, once you put something out there in the world of social media, it cannot be controlled. Which is why it’s essential to do your due diligence before launching a strategy. McDonald’s failed to frame their conversation tightly enough, leaving their campaign vulnerable and open to wide interpretation. Additionally, they were apparently unaware of the perceptions of an entire section of consumers and failed to be adequately responsive towards them once the campaign began.
Chapstick. Like McDonald’s, the basic concept was interesting – it was the execution that was flawed. Chapstick posted an ad on Facebook, which was considered distasteful and offensive by some people, who posted their comments on the company’s Facebook page. Instead of responding, admins at Chapstick simply deleted these comments! Followers, realising that their posts were being removed, became angry and took their criticism to other platforms. The comments got harsher and people began to write enraged blogs. One of the major points of discussion was the fact that Chapstick’s policy of “censorship” went against what they claimed to stand for: “Be heard at Facebook.com/Chapstick.” The criticism gathered steam until it became an online furore. The company ultimately had to apologise – although most people felt it was a half-hearted attempt that sought to blame the consumers.
Main takeaway? Engagement with consumers who provide feedback is key to success, especially when they raise concerns. If Chapstick had acknowledged and responded to the comments, the molehill would not have become a mountain. Effective communication could have nipped the problem in the bud. A social media campaign minus timely and thoughtful consumer engagement is a disaster waiting to happen.