Social Media Brand Failures: Lessons to Learn

Jithesh Rajendran Manager, Blueocean Market Intelligence

Posted on March 28th 2013

Social Media Brand Failures: Lessons to Learn

social media failExperienced social media managers are well aware of the unpredictable nature of the medium. While some campaigns tend to go viral in a matter of minutes, some others like American Apparel’s Sandy Sale campaign which sparked a hate storm online or the #McDStories which unlike McDonald’s plans to highlight nostalgic tales of Happy Meals ended up being used to share horror stories and shocking facts from customers showed that big brands are not immune to social media failures. Various brands have suffered the ire of social media backlash; most of these instances highlight the need to plan for the worst while expecting the best.

Dell and Blogger Jeff Jarvis

When influential blogger, Jeff Jarvis ranted about his experiences with his new Dell laptop (issues with hardware, overheats, etc.) online, Dell did not respond in a timely manner. The result: the social media flames only got hotter. Dell learned from this experience after Jarvis’s Dell Hell blog posts took center stage on Google. They realized that failing to respond quickly only hurt Dell’s reputation online. Fast forward to 2013, the company has moved on and has a Social Media operations capability to monitor customer talk in real time as well.

Kenneth Cole Uses Egypt Uprising to Market Spring Collection

Kenneth Cole’s namesake chairman’s tweet went viral in hours after he tweeted, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at [landing page [link] -KC.” With an estimated 1500 negative responses in an hour, this example proved that it is hard to combine humor and sensitivity, especially in a marketing campaign. Eventually, Cole apologized stating that the message was poorly times and absolutely inappropriate. We could not agree more.

customer service social media

Nestle Facebook Page

Facebook can turn out to be a powerful ally in marketing campaigns but brands need to be aware of its dark side and Nestle’s Greenpeace – Palm Oil nightmare is a great example. With their Facebook and YouTube page coming under pressure from Greenpeace over palm oil buying policies, they (Nestle) moved to have the YouTube video removed and tried to protect their Facebook page by removing critical comments. The lack of transparency and apparent unconcern on the brand’s part was tweeted and discussed. In the end, the Nestle rep backed down on Facebook and said “This was one in a series of mistakes for which I would like to apologize. And for being rude. We’ve stopped deleting posts, and I have stopped being rude. “This case was also one of the first environmental activism cases which took shape in Social Media.

social networking best practices

Social Well Done

What’s the recipe for a blockbuster social media campaign that delivers superior ROI and makes an overall favorable impact? No one knows just yet. Looking at what worked in Social Media success stories is not a bad idea. Barack Obama’s skillful use of Social Media, especially the Twitter front and the #Romnesia hashtag to frame the debate yielded great results. His popularity with the younger generation and their use of social media was one of the main reasons for the popularity of Obama 2012.

The ideal example for a campaign that matched the appropriate networking site (Pinterest) with the right business (Jetsetter) garnered lots of interest and boosted referral traffic by 150%.

Avoiding Social Media Disasters

It’s always good to be social. But, it’s also important to have a social media policy in place since Social Media sites have a home in most workplaces today. Businesses need to embrace the age of influence, and importantly need to prevent social media disasters. Empower employees to act as owners of the company on social media platforms, monitor what your customers say, and be proactive in responding to customer queries and complaints and you’ll save your business from one.

(image: social media fail/shutterstock)


Jithesh Rajendran

Manager, Blueocean Market Intelligence

Jithesh is the author of Social Benzene and serves as Digital Marketing Strategist for blueocean market intelligence; Jithesh helps Fortune 500 businesses powerup social/digital media strategies by evaluating technologies, markets, and trends in the social media ecosystem. The one aspect that binds my experience together is the analysis of social media from a data-backed position so I can guide next-gen marketers to scientifically grounded social media best practices.

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Stephen Tamlin
Posted on March 28th 2013 at 3:25PM

Look like Nestle did not have a social media policy in place, can not believe how they talked to some poeple on their page.

Great article!

Posted on March 28th 2013 at 3:54PM

Thank you Stephen. Nestle's Facebook page got oily with barrage of negative comments. Infact, they changed the page description for sometime. Read:"Social media: as you can see we're learning as we go. Thanks for the comments" !!