Social Media Fails (again)

We’re all on social media all the time, and the social media platforms are stretching into new areas of our lives – Facebook now has an “at work” option called Workplace.  So how good are we at using it? Back in 2013 I looked at some Social Media fails (and one brilliant response), now I’m looking again. Are companies making the same sorts of mistakes? Have we got better at using social media?

Some of the same mistakes occurred.

Confuse private and public accounts

Justice Department tweet errorThis tweet came from the US Justice Department, clearly not something a US Justice Department employee should ever be saying, so what happened? The twitter app lets you switch easily between accounts, and many people use the app to access their personal and professional accounts. In this case the staffer’s access to the twitter account was revoked, the tweet deleted and an apology issued.

We’re still making this mistake. I advocated keeping accounts separate, or even using separate devices, but I think that this error has become so common that people understand the error and it doesn’t seem to result in lasting damage to the organisation. If this happens to you apologise, delete tweet and move on.

Misuse of  Sensitive Hashtag/Event

Cinnabon failed Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher died, and the internet mourned. Cinnabon tried to gate-crash the wake with this image, recycled from their May-the-fourth post. The geeks of the internet were not impressed, many pointing out that she was much more than Princess Leia, that she’d hated this hair style, and anyway it’s crass to use someone’s death to promote your product.

As a best practice do not comment on a celebrity death unless they had a direct tie with your company or organisation.  If there’s an emergency or an event where people are in danger only comment on the event in ways that are offering practical support.

Some Social Media Fails were more prominent in 2016.

Geography is Hard

Coca cola geography

Social media posts almost always have images now, and that opens up a whole new world of pain, as Coca Cola found out when they used a map of Russia in their Christmas promotion. They managed to annoy Russia by not including Crimea, and then Ukraine by adding it.

There are a surprising number of tricky borders around the world and a surprising number of sharp-eyed people ready to comment on it. You’re in a no-win situation, you’re bound to annoy someone so avoid maps of contested areas in your imagery if you can.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence got a bit hyped in 2016, if Microsoft’s experiment with “Tay Tweets” is anything to go by humans aren’t ready for it. In just 24 hours twitter taught Tay to be a racist bully.

Within days Microsoft ceased the experiment.

Social Media Amplifies Your Bad Decision

UN hires and then fires Wonder Woman

The UN has a whole organisation devoted to gender equality which states that “UN Women is the global champion for gender equality”. But the UN’s track record isn’t so convincing; just three of the 71 presidents of the UN General Assembly have been women, and all of the Secretaries General have been men.

So when they announced that the new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls was a fictional character, specifically Wonder Woman, it didn’t go well.  There were protests within the UN, negative feedback in the mainstream media, and across social media.

This is a case of a bad decision being amplified in social media, and it seemed to lead to a change at the UN.

Racism Isn’t a Joke

Racism isn't a joke

Maybe the people running the MTV Australia twitter account on the night of the Golden Globes thought the humour would work since America Ferrera and Eva Longoria were making fun of how Latina actresses are often mistaken for each other. But it’s one thing to make a joke about your own race/nationality and very different for a company to make a joke about someone else’s. Just don’t.

On the same theme; know whom you’re talking about. Total Beauty confused Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah and Whoopi confused

Fake News

Fake news reached a whole new level in 2016, and is set to reach new depths in 2017. There are thousands of US examples out there but I’m going to choose a less contentious example from the UK.

The Grim Reaper was busy in 2016, and with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds dying within days of each other we were primed for more bad news. So when Queen Elizabeth II stayed home from Church with a cold a fake BBC account reported that she had died and people fell for it.  The report was quickly debunked, leaving twitter embarrassed but relieved.

Which leads to a prediction for 2017; this will be the year we get smart about our news sources. Once I’m earning again I’ll be supporting one or two sources of good journalism.

So what’s changed?

I didn’t find examples of people jumping on trending hashtags any more, or of people sharing information that shouldn’t be made public, so we’ve got smarter. The errors now seem to be more in the area of content creation, social media managers need to understand how their promotional content might land in a global market.

We’ve got better, but the job has got tougher.

Social Media Screw Ups (and a Genius Response)

Bashtagging? Hashtag Highjacking? x-rated images? mixing accounts?

There are so many screw ups in social media I think this could be an expanding series. For now I’ve added 9 screw ups and one absolutely genius response. Plus what we can learn from each, after all, it’s easy to laugh and point but it could easily be us next time.

PS: To see this in all it’s original beauty on an iPad it’ll be easier to view the social media screw ups on slideshare.

Social Media Disaster

I can’t believe this really happened.

Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 1.29.15 PM
Kmart tweets about the massacre of school children in Newton, and adds a promotional hashtag.

But it did, Business Insider carried the story along with people’s reaction. Kmart’s explanation is that they were ending the #Fab15Toys campaign in light of the Newton events, I don’t think anyone reading the tweet would have understood that.

At the time of 9/11 my company was about to run a TV ad campaign in the US. Not only did we not run the campaign (on the basis the timing would have been insensitive), we donated the TV time to Red Cross. It’s a story that’s never made the news – because creating PR about doing the right thing is ugly. I really struggle to understand how a company like Kmart with all the resources in the world can make such an insensitive communication error.

Not only is it incredibly insensitive there are precedents, two that come to mind are;

  • Kenneth Cole suffered backlash in 2011 when he tweeted an insensitive comment connecting the uprisings in Cairo to the new spring collection. He apologised.
  • Gap tweeted about Hurricane Sandy and shopping – in the same message. And later apologised

Do these companies think that any publicity is good publicity  – or are they really that stupid?

Every company using social media should have a content plan and set of standards around it. Every company should have a crisis communication plan that includes social media channels. Check yours today – make sure it includes something like;

In a time of crisis or natural disaster not directly connected do [insert company name here] you may tweet messages of support.

– Do not combine the hashtag of that event with any company promotional hashtag or link.

– Before you hit send think “how would a victim feel reading this tweet?”

Discuss it with your social media team, show them the impact, add it to your social media training. Keep doing this until they get the message – it’s not OK to promote your product on the back of a trending crisis hashtag.

Hashtag Art

Hashtags look like this; #

Hashtag Art looks like this;

Image from MissPixels via flickr, as part of her Hashtag project.

Hashtags are used on twitter to categorise your tweet, and it’s this frequency of hashtag appearance that leads to the trending topic on twitter. They’re simple to use, just type it into your tweet or post. The use of the hashtag has spilled into other forms of communication, although it seems to be frowned upon by facebook pedants.

People get really creative with the use of hashtags, adding them to tweet about events, conferences, company failures (the infamous #fail), games (check out artwiculate), news and tv programmes. Humourous tags have emerged – such as #FirstWorldProblems

I love the creativity people put into their hashtags, and some have developed into memes (#durftevragen – dare to ask in Dutch is a great example), but MissPixels hashtag project seems to be a rare example of applying the hashtag to the visual. Given the trends of increasing images used in presentations, increasing use of social media and increasing use of text/image combinations I’m surprised. It could be a fun project for a team or group as well.

Image #imagine – fun in the sunset – Hashtag project© /MissPixels/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0