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Published November 1st 2016

Marketing Mistakes: 5 Common Social Media Fails to Avoid

Marketing can be difficult enough as it is. Learn from other brands marketing mistakes as we take you through 5 different types of social media fails.

Social media marketing. It’s difficult, right? I mean, you have to create consistently good content, find influencers to promote it, and not start shouting at your followers in ALL CAPS.

Over the past ten years, there have been quite a few marketing attempts that have ended up filed under social media fails. Some of them are simple mistakes, but some others you think “how did they not foresee this?”.

We’ve collected five common but avoidable social media mistakes that brands make, so next time you’re thinking about cashing in on a tragedy for marketing purposes, have a look at this checklist and see if that’s OK.

Social media fail 1: control access to accounts

Brand: HMV

In January of 2013, UK music retailer HMV went into administration after 92 years on the British high street. When the administrators were brought in, several store closures were announced, meaning a lot of redundancies.

HMV social media mistake

Social media fail 2: use the right account

Organization: US Justice Department

A similar error to the HMV one here. The US Justice Department retweeted a CNN story in which Donald Trump was forced to deny that his wife Melania Trump had plagiarized a speech originally attributed to First Lady Michelle Obama.

The reason behind this seems to be a staffer who was unaware they were logged into the official account rather than their personal one. This social media fail has happened to several brands, although ‘we used the wrong account’ seems to be turning into a stock excuse after embarrassing gaffs.

Social media mistake 3: never ask the internet anything

Brand: SeaWorld

It’s amazing how many brands don’t understand that asking the internet to participate in something only ever goes one way. There is a long history to illustrate this.

We live in the age of Boaty McBoatface, where the British public was asked to vote on a name for a £200m research vessel and decided it was a good chance for a joke.

#AskJPM was derailed by the 99%, asking questions ranging from “What’s your favorite type of whale?” to “Every time another person loses their home to an illegal foreclosure, does a bell ring?”. Still, at least JP Morgan took it well, tweeting “Tomorrow’s Q&A is canceled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.”

That’s more than could be said for SeaWorld, who threw a little hissy fit when Twitter started asking it awkward questions.

Bad publicity followed the release of the Blackfish documentary, so SeaWorld also decided to go for the ‘ask us a question’ strategy. #AskSeaWorld was inevitably hijacked by people angry at the treatment of Killer Whales at their parks.

Seaworld’s response was childish, to say the least, tweeting out a few Tweets labeling all these people ‘bots and trolls’.

Social media fail 4: don’t have a complete meltdown

Brand: Tinder

If something goes wrong, whether that is a complaint or some bad press, stay calm. Vanity Fair journalist Jo Sales authored a piece on how hookup culture, fueled by apps like Tinder, is affecting young Americans.

It wasn’t the biggest PR crisis any brand has ever faced. The problem came when Tinder fueled the fire by posting more than 30 tweets over the course of an evening. They read like someone trying really hard to make a point. It seems petty and childish. Perhaps similar content might have read OK in a statement, but the nature of Twitter makes it sound like someone in an argument saying “and another thing…”.

Social media mistake 5: don’t tie marketing to sensitive topics

Brand: Epicurious

Again, there are a few of this type of social media fail to choose from. While real-time and responsive marketing can sometimes create great ROI, you need to stop and think about the topic, and if it is suitable to attach marketing to.

In 2013, Epicurious appear to cash in on the tragedy of the Boston bombings. Offering help or condolences is fine, trying to sell something is never good. Frankly, it’s somewhat amazing that anyone makes this mistake, but it has happened quite a few times.

epicurious social media fail

Brands have to work hard to have their voice heard on social media. The fast nature of social media platforms can increase the pressure to strike the right tone quickly, but brands need to ensure checks are in place. One of the most common questions with any social media fail is: “How many people signed off on that idea?”.

Imagine the worst thing that can happen, because it probably will. And never ask the internet a question.

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