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Top Social Media mistakes of 2013


Aria Cahill was kind enough to send me this infographic from It illustrates some of the top social media mistakes of 2013.

The original can be seen here: SocialMediaFails.jpg

It demonstrates more than anything how social media brings transparency to mistakes, missing politics and guidelines in companies. Some are a plain laugh, some are plain stupid and some seems not really to be mistakes of social media, but – as said – deriving from elsewhere in the organization and simply magnified by the nature of social media.

I have summarized it in five learnings:

1) The two-edged sword of transparency

HMV is a great example of how social media can be a two-edged sword. Employees can be your biggest asset in spreading and engaging your brand on social media. But they can also be the source of crisis – and there are many examples of this.

In many cases it’s not really about social media. It’s about how you treat your employees. Social media just makes it visible. For HMV it looks like they should review their HR guidelines, when firing people. And at the same time they should review their social media guidelines, which seems not to have been in place.

And I am still wondering why HMV did not make use of the 20.000 new followers on Twitter?

2) Listen before taking action

Both K-mart and JPMorgan do not really have a social media issue. They have image-issues with their audience on Twitter. Of course an outsider should always be careful playing clever on what went on in the communications department when coming up with the ideas. And it is sometimes very hard to predict when things turn into a crisis.

However it seems like they forgot to listen first. Is Twitter really the place where people are:

– Talking service announcements on opening hours?

– Positive in debates around employees in supermarkets?

– Positive in debates around bank-issues (especially these days)?

– Truly interested in engaging positively with your brand – in this case a supermarket and a bank?

3) Context is king

When trying to brand or rebrand a company, always remember where the company comes from. If communicate to far from the perception of how people actually relate to the company, you’re simply out of context. If you are lucky you will just be ignored, but in most cases you will be misunderstood in a negative way. And the same goes for trying to hijack an agenda which is out of context with your brand, product or service rarely. There are three great examples here:

Epicurious. In this case – just tasteless. The tweet from The Onion must fall into the category of being plain stupid, but also shows how easy it is to make big mistakes in 140 characters. However The Onion should know better. And Home Depot Oh no… Were they drunk or stoned at the agency brainstorm, coming up with such concept? And did they really just post it without someone at Home Depot approving?

4) The 10 minute fad

Quite often we see big ripples in social media around a company, brand or product. A great deal of these tend to fade out and be forgotten just as quickly as they came. We tend to call them all social media crisis. Usually these are originated in a certain personal opinion (which is hard for a brand to argue with) and carried on by me-too’s.

And even if they serve as great cases for social media consultants to discuss, at the end of the day they have relatively little impact on the brand or company itself. Simply because its not based on something that really can be changed unless the company wants to be a different company. Or even if the storm shows up on trending hashtags, there are in reality not that many talking about this. And there are even less that would change their shopping behavior because of it.

So next time you find yourself in the eye of the storm – don’t panic! Ride the Wave:

We would probably never have heard of these crazy people at Amy’s Bakery, outside Ramsay’s TV-show, if it was not for social media. But at least they get some Kudos for being entrepreneurial about the issue.

And for Burger King, I guess you can only congratulate on the new followers.

5) Someone is always going to find out

Not so much to comment here. When you potentially communicate to the world, be very sure that you have you facts straight and your path clean. Because if you don’t, someone out there will find out. And when they do, they will not tell you quietly.

That goes for the Spearmint Rhino and ehm… I guess there is no need to mention Shell and the Niger Delta Oil spill here…

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