Social Media Woes Highlight Marketing Faults

David Amerland
David Amerland owner/founder,

Posted on October 10th 2011

It’s getting a little tiring, these days, to hear yet one more large company social media disaster. First it was Netflix who could not even secure a Twitter account before they launched a new service and now it’s Blackberry whose services suffered a widespread outage in Europe. Twitter apparently got flooded by unhappy Blackberry business users making #Blackberry a trending topic on the social network site.

Yet over three hours later their tech team @BlackBerryHelp, oblivious to the social media disaster they were facing, were adding fuel to the pyre by cheerfully chirping from their account: "Hey #teamblackberry happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend we are back to answer your questions stay tuned for answers."

The full story for those who are interested was reported here. What is important to note is that RIM, the Canadian company which markets Blackberry phones and which used to be spoken with awe amongst business users has become the third party in a two-party race between Google’s Android smartphones and the iPhone. With the stakes so high that the entire company’s survival is on the line, let alone its reputation, mistakes like this are unlikely to win it any further market share or create the impression that it is in control of its own products.

Arguably, tech disasters and outages can happen to anyone. From Amazon’s failure of its cloud computing servers to Google’s Gmail outage and Microsoft’s Hotmail blackouts the history of tech is littered with companies whose services, vital to users lives and businesses, have failed at one time or another. That is why how you handle it is crucial to your company’s continued well being. Google and Microsoft have the tech might and processes to rectify issues quickly. Blackberry should do, so keeping to a strictly Canadian time zone when it has a global clientele makes no sense, especially when the company is fighting for its life.

RIM’s misfortune however serves social marketers well when it comes to learning just what to avoid:

1. Social marketing is real time.
It provides an instant channel of communication for customers which also means that it becomes an easy way for them to vent their frustration when things do not go according to plan. If you do not have a means of tackling this the moment it breaks, hiding behind corporate  announcements which are scheduled to happen at an appointed hour is not going to fix anything.

2. Internal communications are crucial. If you want your social marketing to be part of your corporate outreach program you’d better damn make sure that those responsible for it are kept in the loop and know when things are wrong before anyone else, otherwise they just become lambs to the slaughter, demoralized, frustrated and suddenly in doubt of the very company they work for.

3. Social media marketing is about communication. You have a social media marketing campaign in place to communicate. Even if you are so corporate mentality bound that you cannot envision the possibility that international customers of your products might not want to stick to your time zone, do have a plan that really communicates with them, addressing issues and concerns that affect your products.

4. Say you’re sorry. It sounds silly but an apology works wonders. The time of the faceless corporation is so last century and today it only serves to annoy those you want to keep as customers against stiff competition. We all know that whenever a corporate façade is presented either things are really wrong and no one is admitting culpability or no one really cares – or both. Stick to outmoded models of communication and you are really missing the whole point of social media marketing and personalization.

5. Give timelines. Is there a problem? Acknowledge it and say when it’s going to be resolved. Even if the timeline is approximate communicating provides evidence that someone cares and is doing something to fix the issue.

6. Understand what you are doing. Social media marketing is about letting go of control and beginning a real dialogue whereby your customers get to know who you really are and how passionate you are about the products you are selling. That is your only hope of actually converting eyeballs, shares, ‘Likes’ and impressions into the kind of brand awareness that leads to sales.

I have said before that social media is not rocket science. This, however, does not make it easy either. In order to avoid falling into the social media trap where someone goes through the motions of using social media marketing by simply using its channels, requires a clear understanding of what you are trying to do, how, when and how you measure if it is working.

Get that wrong and you end up with the kind of social media marketing disaster that lends itself to becoming a lesson to avoid for your competitors.

David Amerland

David Amerland


David Amerland is the author of seven best-selling books including "Google Semantic Search: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Techniques That Gets Your Company More Traffic, Increases Brand Impact and Amplifies Your Online Presence" and "Google+ Hangouts for Business: How to use Google+ Hangouts to Improve Brand Impact, Build Business and Communicate in Real-Time."

He helps multi-national clients and start-ups to organize their SEO and Social Media strategies. He is a business journalist, author and international speaker. He blogs about social media and search engine optimization, writes for a number of prominent websites including Forbes, and advises a handful of corporations on their social media crisis management techniques.

His books on SEO and Social Media demystify the complexity of the subjects they cover for readers around the world providing an accessible blueprint to better understand and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the connected economy. Follow him on @DavidAmerland. or find him on G+

See Full Profile >


Posted on October 11th 2011 at 3:44AM

The content of this post is very interesting. Some people forget these things. Knowing how important to know this simple things would be a great help.

Posted on October 11th 2011 at 2:51PM

To think, it could have all been avoided with a hashtag search on its product name. That's the lesson for me: ego search not only the company name but key product/service offerings. 

Posted on October 11th 2011 at 3:47PM

Microsoft and Psychster Inc. did a multivariate study testing what you should or should not say on Twitter during an outage, a version of which is now out in the PR News Crisis Management Guidebook. The data we collected agrees with much of the above!

Posted on October 12th 2011 at 1:30AM

This blog post give us a vivid picture of how the social media can easily hurt a company's image if the company does not solve its problem appropriately. In general, companies just use social media as a tool to attract more customers and increase their recognition among public. Maybe they don't think social media as a double-edged sward, however, it gives their customers direct access to complain and express their angry mood about the products when the products don't function as customers hoped. Moreover, the reply from companies are taken very seriously by the unpleasant audience. If companies didn't behave appropriately, their public image will be damaged. So I think the "things that should avoid" brought by the blogger are reasonable and helpful to PR practitioners.

Posted on October 12th 2011 at 7:58AM

It just amazes me that we are still hearing these stories.  Monitoring your brand name & product names should be an absolute basic for any business of this size at this stage. 

Posted on October 13th 2011 at 12:54AM

OMG - it took me about 5 clicks to get to this 'article' only to read 6 blatently obvious statements about social media and interaction with people in difficult times - eg the BB meltdown.  I see 5 others (?) made the same e-journey to nowhere.  Tell us something we don't know please David.

Posted on October 14th 2011 at 12:24PM

The immediacy of social media clearly needs proactive effort. You've got to get on top of any crisis before it spirals out of control. Definitely why companies need to invest in a social media marketing expert or include it in their marketing agency's responsibilities.

Posted on October 16th 2011 at 12:48AM

This points to why I always say (others have said it too) that while "content may be king, listening is queen."  And you must respect the queen. ;)

MyTradeZone - The B2B Social Network
Posted on October 21st 2011 at 6:36PM

I think social media also has serious marketing faults that pose a continuous problem for B2B companies.  For example, it is a problem for wholesalers and manufacturers trying to use Facebook to connect with their customers, who are other businesses.

To fix this problem, we built, a new B2B social networking site.  You can sign up free on MyTradeZone and create your company profile, post your products & services, and follow other businesses.