Inspiration doesn’t just come from success stories. It also comes from blunders. This #InspireWeek, we focus on some valuable lessons learned from serious goof-ups committed by brands on social media.

“If handled carefully, social media is the greatest gift to businesses. Otherwise it is like handing a burning stick to a monkey,” said a wise man once.

Thanks to social media, people know Oreo is funny, Delta Airlines is caring, and Nestlé, is well Nestlé.

Thanks to social media, people can identify with their banks, favorite eateries, credit card companies and other big and small businesses. People like to know that the businesses they are associated with care about the same issues, feel the same way about their tragedies, and are celebrating their favorite occasions with them.

2727 Kmart Twitter However, a social media screw-up can also prove to be fatal. As we see in the case of K Mart here. K Mart received a lot of flak for promoting their offer while tweeting to pay respect after the Newton shootings.

Social Media is not just a platform for promotion. So let’s quickly go through some of the slip ups we can avoid to make social media platforms a blunder-free zone for your business.

  1. Not Being Social Enough

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The point of using social media is simple – to be social. By definition social means “relating to society or its organization.” So if your posts are only ranting about your products, employees, ranks, awards, PRs, self-generated content, positive feedback, basically me, me and me, you are coming across as a self-obsessed brand which quickly translates into boring. People want to hear about everything from your take on the latest Grammy awards, rising prices, President Obama’s speech to your response on wars, earthquakes and terrorist acts, basically everything that makes you look human.

  1. Not Having a Strategy

Do you have a social media strategy? Social media strategy encompasses choosing the right channels, giving out the right content mix, narrowing down target audience, selecting success metrics, having a properly laid out content plan (where do you draw a line on political opinions), so on and so forth.

Most companies embark on social media platforms without having a plan. This mistake can cost you big as you might be spending too much time on too many channels without actually having anything to show for.

2727 Social Media Strategy

Your content might be too serious, too funny, too salesy or too boring. Your messages might be targeted to an audience in the wrong age group and they might find you either advanced or outdated. Also your social media marketers will not have a ‘Do and Don’t List’ forcing them to use their experience and opinion as your company’s opinion, which can hurt your image. Too many companies had to face wrath of customers because their marketers blatantly expressed their private opinions on company accounts.

  1. Being a Sitting Duck

2727 Sitting Duck

So you simply tweet or update your status once a day and think you will get the world talking? Social media marketing doesn’t involve sitting pretty behind a laptop and coming up with funny oneliners and socially-relevant updates. It also means stepping out of your comfort zone and reaching out to people in the real world.

Southampton FC, the English Premier League soccer team, placed 500 limited-edition soccer balls around the town for a scavenger hunt. Each ball had the hashtag #EarnYourStripes and fans had to take a selfie with the ball to stand a chance to win the new home kit. This simple outdoor exercise was done to promote their new home kit online using the oldest game in the world, thus combining the best of both worlds. Step out and do something different if you want to be heard above the noise.

  1. Getting into the Cross-Channel V/s Multi-Channel War

Mercedes-Benz chose Facebook and Instagram to boost awareness about GLA, its new compact SUV. They teamed up with photographers and asked them to create whimsical and engaging photographs of lifestyle and hobby items on a special mat. The photographs showed everything neatly organized and asked people, “What would you pack in your GLA?”

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The success of the campaign speaks a lot about using two or more platforms together. However, there is a second side to the story too. Many small businesses rush to create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo, LinkedIn, Google+ and what not, spending their time, budget and energy only to realize that haven’t been building a sound relationship on any of these platforms. It’s better to start with one or two platforms, slowly building your presence on others.

  1. What the ####?



We hope you are getting the drift here. Using hashtags comes with a lot of advantages but using too many of them can be annoying. Use only relevant hashtags and make it a point to not use more than 2 hashtags per tweet / post.

  1. Losing Your Cool

A hotel in New York fined wedding guests $500 for any negative social media reviews. Nestle once aggressively claimed that they set rules for what goes and what not on their Facebook page. A chef in Pigalle restaurant asked its customer to “go **** yourself” after the customer posted a negative review of their pumpkin pie.

All these incidences could have been averted and in fact used to turn the offended customers into loyal patrons by dealing with situation positively. Losing your cool on social media is the worst mistake of them all.

Not Paying Enough Attention

If you had paid attention, you would have known we skipped a point in there. Not paying enough attention to what your customers have to say, ignoring current affairs, being insensitive during calamities, neglecting to proofread are all examples of bad social media etiquette. Research a lot about relevant news and read every word carefully before sending it out to the world.

Social media faux pax can translate into fatal death of your business while smart, sensitive and careful social media planning can help you build an everlasting relationship with your customer. We all love to read about social media blunders but shudder at the thought of making one. So stay smart and make sure you avoid these blunders at any cost.

Over to You

Do you know of any social media blunders and would like to share with the world. Then share your story with hashtag #SocialBlunder or #InspireWeek on our Facebook page. We’d love to continue this conversation there!


Pete Peranzo

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