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5 Ways to Fail in Social Media

5 Ways to Fail in Social Media


15 days until SMW September 14-18 Conference in London, Miami, Rotterdam, and São Paulo. Learn more here.

Want to fail at Facebook, Twitter and YouTube? I mean epically? There are time-honored ways to really make a mess of things online, and Hilding Anderson of Sapient ran down a solid list of them at SMWWDC’s “Five Ways To Fail In Social Media.”

5. Lack of Transparency

Look up “fake blog” on Wikipedia and you’ll find the infamous “Walmarting Across America,” in which Wal-Mart paid two people to cruise around in an RV and stay in Wal-Mart parking lots. They might have gotten away with it, too, if the campaign hadn’t loaded up the blog with lots of profiles of blissfully happy Wal-Mart employees.

4. Underestimating the Fickle Consumer


Here’s another great tale from social media’s ancient history (i.e. 2006): the make-your-own-Chevy-Tahoe-ad campaign. The automaker supplied the footage of Tahoes in wintry mountains and remote deserts; the company’s critics were happy to fill in the snarky text (“Like this snowy wilderness? Better get your fill of it now. Then say hello to global warming.”).

3. Oversharing or Sharing the Wrong Thing

Two words: Anthony Weiner.

2. Mishandling controversy

During its recent Fail Week, the Susan G. Komen Foundation compounded its woes with a social media blackout.  “Going 24 hours without a tweet, without a Facebook update, sort of compounded that PR challenge,” said Anderson, noting that Komen got a third of its lifetime Twitter traffic in that seven-day period … and did nothing with it.

1. Hitting delete

Once it’s out there, you can’t reel it back in. That’s what Chapstick discovered last fall after posting a photo on its Facebook page of a woman digging behind a couch with the slogan: “Where do lost Chapsticks go?” A blogger objected to the photo’s butt-centric perspective. Chapstick deleted her comments, inevitably leading to more negative comments and more deletions.

After its collective Delete finger was ready to fall off, the company did what it should have done in the first place: apologize! There, doesn’t that feel better?

On the other hand, rules are made to be broken, and so it was when Lowe’s home improvement stores got into a PR mess by pulling ads from the TV show All American Muslim. In response, some Lowe’s “supporters” posted hate-filled Islamophobic comments on its Facebook page (and with supporters like this, who needs random crazy people?).

The company took a stand against bigotry by removing the posts — but only after they’d been up for four days. Sometimes deletion is the only option, Anderson said: “You gotta draw the line and I don’t think that’s a gray area.”

Written by Trish Anderton, an official Social Media Week DC blogger. Follow her at @TrishAnderton.