The last few years have seen some epic fails as brands have struggled or tried too hard to nail social media marketing. Especially memorable was an early attempt by Chevrolet to tap into the zeitgeist for crowdsourcing by inviting the online community to create ads for the Tahoe marque. Anti-SUV campaigners quickly made themselves known in what became a car-crash of an online campaign.
Fast-forward six years, and McDonald’s launches its McStories promotion using Twitter this January. Unfortunately, it didn’t pay heed to how many Maccy D haters there are out here. The campaign became memorable for just how much vitriol people could pack into 140 characters or less.
What both brands forgot was that the greatest perks of social media – a real-time channel where everyone makes their opinions known – also present the greatest challenge for brands.
You’d think brands would learn from the mistakes of others over time, yet just last week Coca-Cola Australia launched a Facebook word-association campaign that quickly descended into potentially brand-damaging schoolboy humour.
The question these tales of failure begs is why do marketers fail to learn from the visible mistakes previously made by others? Fortunately for the smaller, wiser companies there seems to be a pattern to the repeated mishaps, from which we can learn some valuable lessons:
Marketing, PR and corporate communications have to learn to work together with social media functions. Too many companies have paid the price of keeping departments in separate silos, which is when messaging can go dangerously off-target.
Allocate the necessary resources and experienced, skilled people to ensure that social media communications are properly managed. When the chain of command is lost, social media niggles can spiral out of control into epic fails.
Take new social media platforms seriously. If everybody is talking about them, the chances are that they will grow in relevance and influence. Has a day gone by this month when you haven’t heard somebody, somewhere talking about Pinterest? Watch this space, we say.
Take complaints made on social media channels seriously. If you don’t respect your customers and express your concerns quickly, complaints can gain serious momentum and become overwhelming.
Remember that inviting participation via crowdsourcing opens paths of communication along which anything can happen. McDonald’s, Chevrolet and Coca-Cola all learnt the hard way….