Lessons Learned through Big Name Social Media Mistakes

By: Nick Burnett, 13 Jun 2011

Twitter has brought a new phenomenon to the social media/micro blogging world. Companies, large and small, have been using Twitter and Facebook as marketing channels to run their campaigns. Some have greatly benefited from the use of these tools and others have destroyed the public’s opinion of their company. Loads of companies have made highly publicized mistakes, and here we will address three of them: 

1. Chrysler’s F-Bomb

In March of this year, a tweet emerged from the Twitter account held by Chrysler, that read as follows:

“I find it ironic that Detroit is know as the #motorcity, and yet no one here knows how to (expletive) drive.” (Image taken from Forbes)

The Story: An employee of the marketing firm that managed the Chrysler account had posted content to the account earlier in the day from his phone. Later, having forgotten to log out, he unknowingly posted to the company’s account thinking it was his own.

The Repercussions: The backlash was intense. The marketing firm fired the employee responsible and Chrysler firing the marketing firm the next day.

Lesson Learned: The world is watching your every move when you market through social media. These new social media tools are out there to connect people, and to allow everyone to post things that are important to them. When you post something on Twitter it is ‘out there,’ so be mindful of what you are writing. Don’t post things that you wouldn’t want your boss or employers to see because those types of things have a way of coming back around. With a few clicks or retweets your content can be seen by millions of people.

2. Kenneth Cole Offends the World

The Story: In an effort to create a clever advertising campaign Kenneth Cole capitalized on globally trending topics (often around tragic situations) with tweets like this, sent out to his nearly 13,000 followers:

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available” (Image taken from Mashable)

The Repercussions: Facing an overwhelmingly negative response, Cole later apologized for making light of a bad situation.

Lesson Learned: It is never okay to base your advertising schemes off of unstable current events, they will blow up in your face and you will end up making a public apology like Mr. Cole. If something like this does happen the best way to handle it is to face the facts immediately. You were wrong and you must apologize as quickly as possible. Many times the press generated by a big mistake, coupled with a quick turn around, and truly remorseful apology will help build your company’s image back to what it was before the comment. History has shown that sometimes this technique even leads to a boost in public opinion of your brand. The worst thing that could happen is if you try to hide something from the public, or to act as though you were right. In these situations types of situations you can never be ‘too quick’ to apologize.

3. Honda’s Secret Agent

The Story: Honda took to advertising through social media in late 2009 with the release of their Crosstour CUV (crossover utility vehicle). They created a Facebook fan page for the vehicle and then released several photos in an attempt to introduce this new car into their fleet. What they received in return was a slew of negative feedback from less-than-impressed fans. In response to all of this feedback, Eddie Okubo decided to write a comment stating his positive view of the car – how he found it novel and useful. (See image to left – taken from CNN Money) The only problem was he did not disclose the fact that he was the manager of ‘Product Planning’ for Honda, and more importantly, participated in the development of this vehicle. Needless to say his opinion was skewed.

The Repercussions: Within two minutes of his posting, Okubo was being outed in comments on the page. People even linked to his LinkedIn profile and called him out on his purposeful lack of disclosing who he was. Honda ended up deleting his comment and releasing a press statement diverting attention from his comment stating there would be better pictures of the vehicle out soon.

Lesson Learned:

  1. Never let the success of a product be overshadowed or influenced by your own personal ego. Okubo thought it was about him and forgot that he represented a brand. As marketers, it is not our job to try to boost our own self-image and ego through our jobs; we are supposed to boost the image of our product and brand, always. The moment this is forgotten is the moment a mistake of huge proportion can be made. Okubo could have simply disclosed his position at Honda and stated his positive comment and it would have been taken for what it was worth, but instead he tried to deceive to create positive feedback about something he was invested in and it didn’t work.
  2. Do not delete comments. Face the music and accept criticism – it can be very helpful. When you make a mistake as a marketer don’t try to hide it – use the negative feedback and respond to it. Most of the time there is some good that you can take away from the feedback. The minute you start deleting comments or try to hide the negative is when your brand and/or product looses all credibility.

Social Media Lessons Learned: Summary

  • Do not forget that the world is watching you as a marketer, with every ad or promotion you run be sure it represents the company in a positive way.
  • If a mistake is made in a marketing promotion you can never be too quick to admit it and apologize. The faster you do this the faster you can go back to marketing the actual product instead of doing damage control.
  • Never let the success of a product be about your own personal ego. When that happens you are unable to see clearly what is usable criticism, it becomes all about you and not your product.
  • Finally do not delete, or try to hide from the public eye, mistakes that you make. Simply admit them and move on, deceitfulness will never take you far.

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One Response to “Lessons Learned through Big Name Social Media Mistakes”

  1. Bob Weeks says:

    Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.