Friday, November 30, 2012

Social Volume: How Much Is Too Much?

We really have no one to blame but ourselves. Social Media professionals are tasked with the challenge of increasing demand for their services and for online community management while systematically asked for evidence or proof of the efficacy of social media engagement. That dreaded Return On Investment (ROI) conversation where professionals are asked to quantify in real tangible terms (typically sales conversion statistics) the value of qualitative digital outreach and customer service.

It can be difficult to valuate public relations or laying the foundation to create brand ambassadors.   One of the things we are constantly reminding clients is that participation in social media has a number of intangible benefits which present as value impressions. In other words, much that you will do as a social media manager will be creating good will for your brand which tends to have a less measurable but centrifugal effect that can generate conversation around your product.

It seems  that for some social mavens, justifying the expense to the client has created another unpleasant side effect.  In order to legitimize activity some Community Managers will update through multiple streams quantitatively, providing excessive amounts of posts and communications out through their channels.  In some way that is providing a measurable to satisfy the client.  You can export analytics from Hootsuite or from Facebook to indicate the number of posts made, which shows some irrefutable activity on the account, but ultimately are we posting far more than we should?

A recent Lab 42 Survey “Frequency of Posts, Unwanted Contact Discourage Brand Likes On Facebook” revealed that in almost all cases the audience would actually prefer fewer posts.   The article discusses the response of consumers to the perception of “too much” clutter in their social feeds with some less than surprising results:

  • 47% of responders did not want to be contacted by Brands on Facebook at all
  • 73% of responders stated they had unliked or unfollowed brands for posting too frequently on Facebook
  • 1% of users who ‘Like’ a major brand actually engage with the Brand or purchase the product

With most users providing feedback that they find too much noise in their social streams to be distracting, stressful and even a deterrent to using the Brand, it is worth evaluating how frequency of posts can negatively impact the product perception.   If posts are excessive, are you creating a negative impression with your customers?  That would appear to be the case and with most recent surveys released in 2012 which imply that not only are excessive posts ineffective at growing online community but they can actually be a serious detriment to the reputation of your business.

It won’t help your business, it might actually hurt it.

But according to a great report by Exact Target titled “The Social Media Breakup” consumers are more discerning when it comes to deriving value from their social networks.  For example if they become disinterested in a product or Brand and are unable to receive any kind of bonus benefit or incentive from being socially networked with the organization, the consumer will “Unlike” and unsubscribe from the feed.

But perhaps it is not just the volume of social media shares that can negatively impact brand perception.  Email marketing remains a favourite promotional tool among digital marketers, and sending an e-blast of information is still standard protocol for product launches or press release information.   The report by ExactTarget reveals that 54% of individuals removed themselves from subscribed email newsletters or groups due to being flooded by excessive content and information.  Another 49% reported that over time the content became too repetitive and disinteresting.  Inundated with too many emails from a variety of sources respondents also indicated that 47% received too many emails of a business and personal nature, and removed themselves from subscribed email lists to reduce the amount of volume to their inbox on a daily basis.

So are social media managers killing their clients with too much kindness?   In our effort to legitimize the value of the service we are providing, do we post too much in too many channels?   Is this really beneficial for the client or is it simply something we as marketing professionals do to warrant the service fees we charge?

The important message behind all these reports is that quality engagement is a qualitative measurement.  It is important to advise a client that a quantitative approach will be counterproductive and may even create reputation damage to brand perception.  Create a new content plan that reflects a more qualitative engaged approach which includes:

  • Fewer posts but more relevant content
  • Increased offers, bonus and incentives in communications.  Give them a reason and benefit to remain connected to you
  • Enable customer service interaction, product support and conflict response to be transparent in social sharing.  Other customers like to see issues being dealt with through social channels and a prompt response to issues.
  • Identify names of posters (or initials) to put a human face on the representative who is engaging. This helps to personalize the communication and make it feel less automated.
  • Refrain from using automated posts as much as possible. If you think your customers can’t tell the difference between a scheduled post and a live one, you are wrong.
  • Engage your audience with opportunities to express themselves with photo submission contests, opinion polls and other gamification models to interact with your Brand in a fun (and memorable) way.

The best form of defensible ROI when it comes to social media services is to review the level of engagement through the network.  Happy customers are more apt to “Like” a post or reshare it on their own timelines or social streams.  Displeased customers are likely to “Unlike” and unsubscribe from social feeds if they feel that they are being inundated with too much information that serves no other purpose than blatant promotion of your brand.  Lastly educate your clients on the value of developing Brand Ambassadors through social sharing, and the positive benefit of their centrifugal discussion through all networks.  After all, word of mouth (WOM) is still the best form of advertising.

The Art of Social Intelligence

Social Media

Social media is an exceptionally powerful tool for companies, with most companies now having a social media presence, they now need to measure the data and use the results to implement relevant and effective business strategies.

The speed in which technology is growing and improving can be daunting and increases pressure within the business, but look at it from the other perspective – it creates many opportunities. Social media can provide businesses with new insights into the way consumers, markets and competitors behave, you just need to use the data from Social media to your advantage.

What is social intelligence?

So, what exactly is Social Intelligence? Social Intelligence offers a vast amount of social consulting through the data analysis of social media, presenting businesses with strategies for moving forward and gaining commercial advantage within their market.

Social Intelligence is a relatively straight-forward concept but one that is not currently being used by many companies. The three main steps to Social Intelligence are:

  1. Monitoring social media
  2. Collecting and analysing the content
  3. Using the insights to develop and improve the company’s strategy

The need for social intelligence

Why should we be sitting up and taking note of Social Intelligence? Well, we all know that the way our businesses are perceived through social media is highly important but what many businesses still have not caught onto is that the way we are perceived by our social audience can be tracked, reported and then implemented into commercial and strategic decisions, helping our businesses to move forward and improve.

Using this type of information is nothing new, for years businesses have been presented this information and data through market research, surveys and their own data, but now, with such a heavy reliance on social media, this is changing and Social Intelligence has the ability to provide the answers more accurately and more efficiently.

The activity analysed through social media can help businesses to better understand what is happening in their marketplace – this is not as easy as it sounds. Due to the high volume of interaction through social media platforms and the vast amount of data, it is difficult – wading through all this data and reporting on the most significant parts needs to be done by an expert.

How does Social Intelligence help your business?

The use of social media in order to help business strategies is invaluable. In this day and age customers openly share information through several social media platforms, this is essentially free market research for a business’s products or services, competitor analysis and customer feedback – it is a goldmine for businesses.

Social Intelligence allows businesses to:

  • Monitor the brands reputation and competitors brands

  • Enables them to carry out quick responses to customer complaints and questions, be that through social media, forums, or blogs.

  • Use customer feedback to harness new product development or new service.

  • Great for market research.

Social Intelligence can also provide companies with early insight into market trends which they can then use to develop a strategic approach. For example, Social Intelligence could be used to notify companies to an emerging trend among their competitors allowing them time to implement a pricing advantage.

A business can use the results provided by Social Intelligence to enforce smarter marketing decisions and develop a better understanding of how to respond to their customers and prospects. In turn, these results can be used for their business forecasting, helping the business to predict future requirements which will save them money and also to assess current or prospective future requirements.

By analysing the conversations through social media and finding out exactly what customers and clients are saying about the company and/or its brand, it can help to form a better understanding of likely future service they could provide. Companies may be worried about this but they can use Social Intelligence to analyse negative comments from customers – things they didn’t deliver, and turn this negativity into an opportunity to plan new services and offers to increase sales.

Hypothetical Example


To sum up the advantages that Social Intelligence can bring to a company let’s look at a hypothetical example. Take a big toothpaste brand – for the purpose of this exercise this is a fictitious example and brand name, purely to relay how great Social Intelligence is.

Imagine the toothpaste is a household brand named Sparkle! The toothpaste market is a very competitive place and brands must work very hard on their marketing and advertising to stay on top of the game.

Sparkle has been the nation’s favourite toothpaste brand for generations but has seen a drop in sales over the last few years. They are at a loss of what to do but have a rough idea that they want to use their social media platforms to help drive sales.

They bring in a Social Intelligence consultant to help them; the consultant monitors their brand, collecting data of the trends in the market place, what customers are saying about the Sparkle brand – positive and negative, and what people are saying about the competitors.

Once all the data has been collected the consultant presents his/her findings to Sparkle and puts forward a strategic plan for boosting sales.

Market trends: It was found that in the past year sales of toothpaste for sensitive teeth have tripled.

Competitor Analysis: Sparkles main competitor brought out a sensitive range which customers loved, however felt it was overpriced in comparison to the original range.

Sparkles brand reputation: The main comment which came back was that their toothpaste was fantastic and adored by many, but customers wanted to see a new sensitive range.

Through these findings a strategic plan was put in place to develop a new sensitive range, with a lower retail cost than what their competitors were offering.

This example is quite a simple concept but provides you with an idea of how successful Social Intelligence can be to implementing strategic business plans.

Listening to the needs and feedback from customers and clients through Social Media has really taken off with many businesses. We predict that many more businesses will begin implementing Social Intelligence into their strategies and look forward to this concept flourishing and making a difference too many market places.

Three Ways to Use Twitter for Q&A at a Live Event

Set Up
For any of this to work, there has to be a dedicated event hashtag. This hashtag has to be well-communicated before, at the beginning, and during the event. Ideally, write it on a board on stage or display it on the slides. Keep reminding people of this medium to submit questions.  

Three Ways to Use Twitter for Q&A at a Live Event
1. The ideal scenario = SMSS (Socia Media Savvy Speakers)
Your panel speakers are social media savvy and know how to monitor a hashtag during an event without getting too distracted. They can answer Twitter questions on the fly and integrate them into their answers. I have seen this done well. Most people though, seem to be intimidated by the idea of having to monitor a phone or iPad while speaking.
They might not have it all wrong: there is more and more proof that multi-tasking diminishes performance. So if you check your phone 10% of the time, you can only give 90% of your attention (at best) to the live event. (Here one way to monitor a hashtag: enter the hashtag into the #Discover area, e.g. #MCSV )  
2. A scenario that works just as well leverages a dedicated moderator
Especially if you are planning to have Q&A at the end of the session, having a dedicated person monitor the Twitter stream on the hashtag is a great solution. The moderator adds additional value by picking out the best questions (if there are many) and to sum up questions around the same topic. Sometimes questions might be too complex to be answered right away; the moderator can make a note and have a subject matter expert respond later.
Three options:
  1. The moderator reads the questions out loud using a microphone - during Q&A, or if agreed, throughout the session.
  2. The moderator types the questions into a teleprompter or on a screen that the presenters (or even the audience) can see.
  3. The moderator sends direct Tweets with the questions to the panelists so they can appear to check the Tweet stream but only have to focus on their DM.
The moderator should also respond to the questions on Twitter, using the answers from the speakers. Likely, not all people asking questions via Twitter are actually at the live event or following a live stream. This demonstrates responsiveness and bridges the gap between the physical and virtual world.
3. Twitter Screen
Set up a screen where the panelists (or even audience) can follow the live Twitter stream on the hashtag. Tools like Twitterfall can help. Twitterfall also lets you exclude words (e.g. competition, bad words). Many companies have home-made solutions for their events, so that they can delay Tweets and manually filter out inappropriate content (e.g. on race, religion...). The font has to be be VERY BIG. And if the Tweet stream moves fast, it won't work as there won't be enough time to focus on a question.
There is also a Twitter tool by Timo Elliot that can be embedded into a PowerPoint deck. Simply embed the tool into a PowerPoint slide and it will display a desired Tweet stream. You could show such a slide during Q&A; but Tweets could move too fast (if the conference is big and the audience active on Twitter).  
Things To Keep in Mind
  • Not all questions have to be answered immediately. If there are too many questions, they are complex, or off-topic, answer them later.
  • Sometimes there are no questions via Twitter. If this is important to you, you could reach out to some of your influencers prior to the event and encourage them to Tweet a question. Some people "plant" questions on Twitter but this is fake. If you want to address a specific topic, ask the speaker(s) to address it during their allotted time, not in Q&A. Be authentic!

What is AuthorRank & Why is it Important for SEO?

As online marketing continues to evolve, we have seen the worlds of social media and SEO inch closer and closer together.  There has been some speculation that social signals have an influence on search rankings, however now there seems to be something on the horizon that will solidify that connection. Search Engine Journal reported recently that a new metric known as AuthorRank will become very important when it comes to search engine ranking and page quality. 

If you are familiar with SEO, you know that metrics such as PageRank, domain authority and page authority are ways to determine the quality of a Web page. Historically, search engines measured content quality based on the authority of a Web page; however AuthorRank takes into consideration the authority of the individual who created the content. This score or grade will be used when creating a search engine result.
You might be wondering how exactly to establish AuthorRank. This is where social signals come into play. To receive credit for the awesome content you create, first you will need to tie the pages you have written to your Google+ Profile using rich snippets you receive when being granted Google Authorship. Once your content is up and ready, it will be scored on factors such as:
  • Amount of social signals (tweets, likes, shares, +1’s) and the influence of the people creating these signals.
  • Comments on social sites and the influence of the people leaving the comments.
  • Relevancy and quality of inbound links that point to the content
Essentially the more that an author writes about a topic and the more engagement that the content gets, the higher the AuthorRank score will be.
While Google+ hasn’t always been the hub of excitement, it looks like time to start filling it up with your blog content so that you can see some SEO benefits. Search Engine Journal predicts that AuthorRank will be something to keep an eye on in 2013. I have to say I agree. Do you plan on focusing on building your AuthorRank next year?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Can You Balance Competing Personas in Social Media?

The world of Social Media has effectively adopted a sensibility that calls for authenticity, transparency, and real-ness from all businesses, organizations, entrepreneurs, and institutions of higher education.
I made a potentially risky decision to take that world at its word. I decided to be real, which is my preferred mode anyway. I had to think about the notion of “acting presidential," (I'm the president of a college) and I had to decide how “being real” was inconsistent with “acting presidential.”

What would it mean to be “presidential”, anyway?  Well, I know a lot of presidents at this point, and they are pretty regular people. Of course, we might crank it up a rhetorical notch for a graduation speech, but we all love our dog, follow some sports team or another, love a specific kind of music, are inspired by some literature more than others, and go on vacation to cool places and take pictures. Pretty much everythingYOU do.
But do presidents have to be more careful? I have had a couple of professional colleagues make an effort to nudge/shame me about being real, under the auspices of “bringing a more professional presence” to Social Media.
I will say that I was not 100% certain this was the way to go. Nor am I now. But I will tell you that, anecdotally, I hear from visiting prospects and new students that they follow my blogs, watch my You Tube videos (yes, even the ones where I play guitar), and appreciate my presence and open-ness. We have a new student from Ethiopia who saw my graduation/inauguration speech and loved it, but thought I was a comedian. No, seriously. Until she saw the URL for Southwestern College, looked us up, and, well, the rest is herstory.
I think it’s “working.” Could this backfire? I guess so. I also think that if you are looking, metaphorically and literally, for Florsheims rather than cowboy boots or Birkenstocks, you might be in the wrong neighborhood anyway.
I am pretty clear (if often tongue-in-cheek) about my personality on my Facebook site. I rail against the Cowboys and Patriots. I love the You Tube of Steely Dan doing “Aja” live, and Fleetwood Mac doing “Oh, Well” with Peter Green on guitar, WAY before Stevie Nicks and company showed up. I post those two vids twice a year because the world should see them. I post pictures of my dog, Barney, and updates on his health and (now) old age. I love Jack Kerouac and Shakespeare. Especially the tragedies.
None of that is “Southwestern College business,” but it is authentically me, and I am also concurrently posting blogs on student loans and our philosophical roots, writing for Huffington Post, Social Media Today, and so on. I drop an occasional “freaking” or “goddang.” My brothers may drop worse in responding to my posts. So it goes.
Our college is alternative, open-minded, and more important yet, open-hearted, and people who seek us are not looking for stuffy.
Leaders of institutions of higher education should know their customer base. If they do, they will know what is OK for their institution in the world of Social Media. Your particular version of authentic might be the place to start being part of this grand revolution.

7 Ideas for Creating a Great Social Media Event

Social Media Week returns to New York City for a fifth year with the theme Open & Connected: Principles for a Collaborative World. A platform connecting people,
content, and conversation around emerging trends in social and mobile media, SMWNYC is calling for the city’s most forward-thinking agencies, corporations, non-
profits, startups, schools (guilds, covens, freemasonries, priesthoods, sleeper cells) to submit their event ideas.

As the innovation capital of the world, home to leading thinkers, agents of change and media pioneers, we know there’s a wealth of creative ideation to be had. So, we are looking for the boldest, brightest, most rabble-rousing ideas you have never even thought of. Until now.
Need something to chew on while you are brainstorming? See below!
7 Ideas for Creating a Great Social Media Event:
1. Rip It From The Headlines 
There are great potential hooks all around you – just look to the news cycle. What’s happening politically, culturally, in your industry? How is it playing out in social media? Who’s leading the conversation? Oh that’s right – you.

2. Channel-Surf 
Look no further than your trusty old TV – it is, after all, the original screen. Today, we watch our favorite shows over hashtags and revisit them over endless recaps. What would you be talking about over dinner? At the bar? Talk about that. The conversation will feel engaging and authentic. (P.S. When in doubt, just talk about Homeland.)

3. Meet Your All-Stars
Who in your industry are you dying to meet? Don’t pitch them yet another awkward coffee – invite them to join you on stage. And why stop at one? Stock your panel with the stars you and your community don’t normally have face time with.

4. Make It Servicey
People are more likely to join you if you can provide them with an ROI. Crowdsource what they want to know and then teach them!

5. Look To The Past
Forecasting is trendy and can be essential to the success of any organization, but it’s important that we also learn from the past. What are your greatest successes and failures? What case studies can you reference to underpin your point?
P.S. Everyone looks smarter talking about history. You already know how it ends.

6. Tap The Secret Power Brokers
Social media is an ever-changing landscape and it’s important to know who the outliers are. In the past it was Pinterest and middle aged-women. Who are the hidden influencers? Let your audience in on the secret – or let them tell you.

7. Discuss Dual Citizenship
It won’t be long before all of us are managing both our IRL and digital personas – and wrestling with the public/private divide. What are best practices? This can apply to virtually any areas of our lives. Go nuts.

Thinking outside the box is a surefire way to make your time at SMWNYC more memorable. Feel free to create something outside of the traditional panel format,
invite your community to co-create the program, and allow yourself to take risks.

What Is A Social Media Strategy?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with clients on setting up a social media strategy for their business and it’s become very apparent that they have very little idea of what a social media strategy is.
So before I tell you exactly what a social media strategy is let me tell you what it definitely is not:
  • A social media strategy is not setting up a Facebook account, spamming your friends about it and then posting content any time you are available.
  • A social media strategy is not setting up a like gate and then forcing people to like you in return for some cheap bribe
  • A social media strategy is not consistently posting images and articles to your wall which sell your products to your fans
I know that this list of things NOT to do seems very simple but I am finding that more and more businesses just don’t “get” social media.  They think that it’s a place they can get a quick pay off and generate HUGE returns.
Now don’t get me wrong, a well thought out and planned Social Media strategy will get great results but it’s important to note that the results are not INSTANT and they take time and investment.
If you want to create an effective social media strategy then you need to understand the core of social media which is creating a connection with your audience, then engaging them with your page and then finally converting them to a sale. 
This three step process doesn’t happen in just hours or even just days it happens over a course of time.  The good news is though, if you do it well and create a great environment the rewards are almost endless.
So don’t approach your social media strategy with the hopes of a quick pay off, understand that it’s a long term investment just like SEO.  If you do it right and follow the rules you’ll get the result you desire but if you try and take short cuts you’ll ultimately fail.

3 Case Studies: Christmas Social Media Campaigns that Rock!

Christmas and Social Media

For more and more businesses, Christmas is being powered by social media. Social media is affecting consumer holiday buying decisions. These days, the most popular online activity is social networking as nearly a quarter of all time spent on the internet is spent on channels like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


Here are 3 examples of how companies have and are currently using social media at Christmas: Nutella Last year Ferro, the company that sells Nutella, the sweet chocolate hazelnut spread, used Facebook ads in combination with TV spots in Germany. The results were that Nutella attributed 14% of its sales to its Facebook ads. In terms of ROI, the ads on Facebook outperformed the money spend on TV advertising. Nutella was out to increase awareness and sales from December 1st through the 24th. It used Facebook ReachBlock ads to encourage people to become fans of the Nutella Deutschland page and to try its ‘Advent Calender’ app that allowed them to open a calendar door each day for the chance to win prizes. Nutella reported that the brand reached 30% of all internet users in Germany throughout December via its ReachBlock campaign. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this case study is that Nutella found that 2.8 million people that saw the ad on Facebook had not seen the TV campaign, providing them with a 29% reach. This clearly shows how important including a social media element is to a big Christmas campaign as Nutella was able to ‘sweeten’ its sales considerably. After all, chocolate has always been one of favorites for Christmas gift ideas.


IKEA Sweden-based furniture retail giant IKEA just announced last week that its United States division will unveil its first interactive seasonal catalog. The 31-page catalog titled Celebrate Brilliantly, can be read and watched on the IKEA U.S. website. The catalog features video clips and provides users with the opportunity to share products they like with family and friends on social media channels including Facebook and Pinterest. A user can click on any item to ‘like’ it on Facebook and to “pin” it on Pinterest. Brownstein Group, a Philadelphia-based brand communication firm, collaborated with IKEA in building the clever catalog which is designed to help consumers prepare for the holiday season by enhancing their homes.


Toys-R-Us Toys-R-Us has raised over $23 million and collected more than 3 million toys during its seven-year partnership with Toys for Tots. That program sees to it that underprivileged children wake up on Christmas morning with gifts under the tree. For the past three years, NBA champ Shaquille O’Neal has added some star appeal to the campaign which runs for the six weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. Customers of the retail store are encouraged to drop off new, unwrapped toys and to make cash donations both in Toys-R-Us stores and on the web. The hugely successful campaign is heavily advertised on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The campaign has helped the brand establish a strong online presence and has also assisted in making Toys-R-Us look ‘more human’ as no ever thinks it’s a bad idea to help kids in need.


Christmas time is when we all connect with each other more. It is also the season we shop gifts for our loved ones whether you’re looking for Christmas wreaths or window shades.  The holidays are when charities see the biggest rise in donations and it’s also the biggest marketing time of the entire year. This makes the Christmas season the perfect time for social media and not just for individuals but for businesses of all types who wish to reach out and communicate with existing and prospective customers alike. If executed with success, social media campaigns can breathe life into brands, helping them gain more visibility while driving sales.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Five Social Media Blunders You Should be Thankful for Not Making

Thanksgiving Weekend is, of course, a time to reflect on everything we are grateful for. An extended weekend for most, you likely reveled in the spirit of family and friends, delectable dishes and desserts, and an overwhelming amount of football.

As I returned to the weekly grind on Monday, sleep deprived yet eager to get back in the swing of things, I looked back on what was a much-needed, long holiday weekend. While the Three F’s—family, food and football—reign supreme, I am thankful for much more.

Several blogs across the web detailed the dozens of social media gaffes committed over the course of the year, some far more prominent than others, but all of them were similarly foolish. While most of these mistakes are certainly avoidable, it is evident that the slightest social media miscue can be detrimental for professionals and businesses alike.

Those of us who have eluded these critical errors should give thanks (we also deserve a bit of praise for our common sense). Nonetheless, some were not as lucky. Several renowned brands stirred up quite the commotion via Facebook and Twitter thanks to an offensive tweet or contentious status update.

Here is a quick rundown of five of the most careless and indictable social media blunders I am thankful for not committing this past year.

1. Sending a disparaging Tweet from company account

In the first of three campaign debates between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, Twitter was humming with comments that either badgered or supported one of the candidates. Twitter announced that the debate drew more traffic on the social platform than any political event in history.

KitchenAid—well, at least the person responsible for managing the account—wishes it did not voice its “opinion” on the matter. After Obama mentioned his deceased grandmother, KitchenAid sent out this offensive remark to its then-24,000 followers, albeit accidentally, garnering a wave of outrage for the tweet:

As HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes points out, “sadly, this kind of account mix-up happens all the time.” Although they are glaring examples of what not to do, the quick-fire nature that Twitter promotes makes it very easy to commit this social media mishap.

Just imagine engaging in a delicate debate using Tweetdeck or your mobile device. We all know how common it is to send out a tweet from the wrong account. I often tweet work-related material from my personal Twitter account on accident—certainly not a fireable offense, but it happens.

There are plenty of means to prevent this from happening to your business, whether it’s utilizing a qualified social media marketing specialist or using a service that screens all tweets or status updates before publishing. Thankfully for KitchenAid, its brand manager quickly and efficiently apologized for the tweet and took full responsibility for the mistake.

2. “Newsjacking” to promote products or services

Many brands went the extra mile earlier this month to lend a helping hand in wake of Hurricane Sandy. Conversely, though, some brands—including the very ones going the extra mile—sought profits instead.

There are many instances of brands trying to “newsjack” the storm. According to David Meerman Scott, newsjacking is “the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”
As Meerman suggests, there are ways to appropriately capitalize on a major news story if it’s in good taste. But as several brands have shown, there’s a fine line between what’s suitable for business and plain poor judgment. American Apparel, for instance, became the poster child for insensitive marketing after it sent out the following email:

A barrage of tweets ensued, most of which cited American Apparel’s insensitivity and called for customers to “boycott” the clothing retailer. As shown in the image above, not only did the sale target those in the areas hit the hardest by the storm, but also asked customers to enter “SandySale” upon checkout. Business Insider wrote about the handful of brands that took a similar newsjacking approach during the storm.

Hurricane Sandy claimed 253 lives, caused an estimated $65 billion in damage and resulted in millions without power for days after the storm hit.

Fellow retailer Gap issued a similar Tweet and sale, but quickly apologized and donated $1 million to The American Red Cross. To think a prominent brand could be so clueless during a deadly storm is a head-scratcher to say the least.

Sears, meanwhile, made a borderline move when it offered supplies such as generators and household items, for those affected by the storm. Such newsjacking can be a risky practice, so it’s best to put yourself in not only your customers’ shoes, but of those who have been affected by the newsworthy event.

3. Tweet related to sensitive current event

Often brands will try to parlay a bucking trend on Twitter into sales or attention. In the case of online fashion retailer Celeb Boutique, the move could not have gone any worse. The United Kingdom based online store sent out the following Tweet in response to the hashtag #Aurora, which at the time was trending worldwide due to the unspeakable mass shooting at a premiere showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo.

Celeb Boutique deleted the tweet and responded, saying that its social media team is based outside of the United States, and thus was unaware of the shooting. It offered an apology on its website as well, according to Post Advertising. However, a simple click of the mouse could have avoided this problem altogether.

Brands like this deserve all of the negative backlash they get for posting something so carelessly.

4. Robo-Twitter

Quite frankly, there isn’t a brand out there that is actively pursuing a bad rap (duh, right?). Despite the negligence involved in the other examples listed in this post, each merely lacked common sense. Progressive Insurance, meanwhile, went great lengths to destroy its own reputation.

Back in August, Matt Fisher wrote a blog detailing the tragic death of his sister and how Progressive allegedly not only failed to pay the correct amount to the victim’s family, but defended her killer in court “in order to not pay [her] policy.”

Now, this is certainly a terrible situation, and aside from how Progressive responded to its detractors on Twitter, the insurance giant handled this circumstance quite miserably—both publicly and behind closed doors. Progressive later agreed to an undisclosed settlement with the family, and offered an automated response to those voicing their displeasure to the company via Twitter.

“This is a tragic case, and our sympathies go out to Mr. Fisher and his family for the pain they’ve had to endure,” the tweet read. “We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations.”


Automated responses won’t win your company many points when it comes to customer service. Progressive clearly mishandled the situation, proving they were completely out of touch with the power of social networking in the process.

5. Hijacked Promoted Trend

Promoted Trends will always be vulnerable for attack. It’s a means for savvy Twitter users to take what was supposed to spark a positive discussion about a brand, product or individual, and instead spin the hashtag into the exact opposite of what it was intended to accomplish.
Twitter users hijacked the Republican National Committee’s tweet, #AreYouBetterOff, one of a handful of Promoted Trends to backfire during the presidential campaign. While strong political beliefs can easily derail these misguided Twitter campaigns, Promoted Trends by consumer brands are just as susceptible to similar treatment.

Look no further than America’s favorite fast-food chain, McDonald’s. Coming in at No. 1 on Mashable’s 11 Biggest Social Media Disasters of 2012, McDonald’s Promoted Trend #McDStories spurred an outpouring of distaste for the restaurant.

It takes a bit of bravery and determination to successfully pull off a Promoted Trend. McDonald’s later admitted that the campaign “did not go as planned,” but the damage was done. While brands must have a grasp on their targeted audience at all times, it is equally important for them to identify their critics. Providing fuel for a fire that will ultimately burn your brand’s image is a serious no-no.

Clearly, brands are still adjusting to the power of social media, so it would be wise for your business to take note. It is important that your company establishes a strict social media policy, which includes a thorough explanation of how to handle a sensitive situation if it arises—or how to avoid an embarrassing issue altogether.