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“Company fires staff; staff take over branded Twitter account.”
Sadly headlines like the one above were popping up all over the media throughout the last year. As brands flock to establish social profiles and social marketing becomes more prevalent, we were bound to see an increase in blunders such as these.
The question is, have these brands learned from their mistakes? And slightly more importantly, have others?
Let’s take a look at how brands messed up on social media in 2013, and what they could have done to prevent it.
How many people have access to your brand’s social accounts? If you don’t know, it might be time to start rethinking your social strategy
Whilst at first it may seem head-scratchingly baffling to imagine not knowing exactly who has access to your Twitter account, it’s not as rare as some of you may think. For example, if I asked you how many apps you currently had installed that have access to your social profiles, would you be able to tell me?
Luckily, there are web-apps and sites such as MyPermissions, which alert you whenever websites gain access to your information. These are incredibly useful when it comes to the proper management of your social profiles.
Accidents are going to happen, after all to err is human, but to leave the reputation of your brand in the hands of someone who you’ve just really upset, well now that’s just silly (putting it politely).
I’ve lost count of how many times this has happened in the last year. Let’s take a look at some of the worst culprits below:
To get 2013 off to great start, HMV held a mass firing of over 190 staff. Unluckily for the brand, one such person being fired was their social media planner.
The results were equal partseye-opening and heart-breaking, and led to a hail-storm of bad press raining down on HMV.
Poppy Rose Cleere, former social media planner for HMV, later issued a statement via her own Twitter account, pointing out something that all brands could benefit from taking on board:
“I hoped that today’s actions would finally show them the true power and importance of Social Media, and I hope they’re finally listening.”
Although the tweets themselves have since been removed from HMV’s profile, you can view the entire collection in all its grim glory here.
On a much smaller scale, Oxford based pub The Plough made exactly the same mistake at the end of last year, firing their head chef, who also happened to run their Twitter account.
He promptly took to the branded account, to explain how was being fired in the lead up to Christmas, despite the fact that “he has a 7 ½ month old baby” (quoted directly from @ploughpub).
The story quickly spread, and drew attention from all over the web. Luckily, this also led to the chef acquiring a new job before Christmas.
@chefjimknight Welcome to The Shepherd’s Crook Jim – your misfortune is our very good fortune!!! Enjoy your Xmas Day with your new baby!!
— The Shepherd’s Crook (@TheShepherdsCro) December 16, 2013
Great publicity for both Jim (the chef) and The Shepherds Crook, but very bad news for The Plough. What can we learn from this? Reputation is a fragile thing; it can be ruined, changed or improved in just a few simple moves. It stands to reason that you should properly manage (read: take very good care of) those who have the power to alter this.
This goes hand in hand with my previous point, online security really is important. In a world of WikiLeaks, hacker groups and government monitoring programmes such as PRISM, keeping your accounts as secure as possible is paramount. Of course, some big brands didn’t get that memo, and suffered at the hands of hackers because of it.
The reason these two seemingly unrelated brands are being lumped together is because they were both hacked within the same week, and apparently by the same people. The hacks changed both brand’s Twitter pictures to their competition, and posted a series of tweets giving shout outs to other twitter users, accusing employees of drug abuse and generally just spouting nonsense. The accounts were promptly ‘fixed’, but not before the tweets were retweeted tens of thousands of times, and the damage to the brands was done.
That being said, whilst a few caused mild outrage, several of these hacks were relatively harmless and actually resulted in the profiles receiving a large amount of free press, and gaining more followers on social media than they started with. This of course led to lazy copycats. Some brands tried to capitalise on the hackings and poorly utilise them for their own marketing efforts. This included entertainment channels MTV and BET, who used the thinly-veiled premise of a competitive takeover to actually promote a then upcoming awards ceremony instead. It’s cheap and tacky, but sadly it worked. It was relative to current affairs, and relatively ‘on message’ with both brands’ playful personas.
Hashtags really took off in 2013, when it seemed as if lots of brands suddenly realised how they actually worked. This led to many companies utilising hashtags to host (undoubtedly Reddit inspired) question and answer sessions with their followers. Of course, this didn’t always go as well as planned. Several brands came to the realisation that they weren’t actually as popular with the public as they originally thought:
When J.P. Morgan’s VC Jimmy Lee took over their Twitter account to answer questions via #AskJPM, they seemingly invited people to grill them about their latest ‘vampire-like’ banking behaviour:
They quickly realised what a terrible mistake it was, and promptly pulled out, which of course led to even more insults.
Tomorrow’s Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board. — J.P. Morgan (@jpmorgan) November 14, 2013
After announcing a considerable rise in gas prices for homes, British Gas took to Twitter to try and calm the public using the #AskBG hashtag. Needless to say it did not go well.
— Lisa (@BiscuitAhoy) October 17, 2013
— AngryBritain.com (@AngryBritain) October 17, 2013
— Tony Shepherd (@tony_sheppy) October 17, 2013
In summary, if you’re going to talk to people, be prepared for what they might say. Your brand isn’t always going to be loved; take the negative criticisms and learn from them. And if you’re going to host a public forum as soon as you’ve announced bad news, the you better be willing to be treated as the public’s punching bag.
Timing is everything folks.
You don’t need to capitalise and comment on social and world events. If it has nothing to do with your brand then stay away from it, and even if it is relevant, be careful how you approach potentially newsworthy topics.
At the very beginning of last year the nation was shocked to discover that traces of horsemeat had been found in frozen produce at supermarkets, most prominently in Tesco.
The scandal made international headlines, and the supermarket is still suffering from the repercussions a year later. Although they worked hard to once again build trust in the brand, something which really didn’t help their efforts was this supposedly unintentionally playful tweet:
It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay! See you at 8am for more #TescoTweets
— Tesco (@Tesco) January 17, 2013
Many accused the Tesco team of horsing around and not taking the scandal seriously enough (no apologies for that pun), but apparently the real fault was the brand not keeping a close enough eye on their social media accounts. In an apologetic tweet, a Tesco’s Customer Care explained how they slipped up: “I’m terribly sorry. That tweet was scheduled before we knew of the current situation.”
If the above is what it looks like when brands mess up, what happens when they get it right? It’s incredibly easy to focus on the negatives sometimes, so let’s take a moment to highlight how some brands are utilising social media especially well:
It seems 2013 was the year for music on social. Twitter launched its (remarkably underwhelming) music service, Spotify launched its web player and greatly enhanced its social features, Beyoncé announced a secret album via Instagram and AC/DC used Facebook to try and push their hit song ‘Highway To Hell’ into the Christmas number one top spot. The most stand out, and successful, effort though was of course the Queen B.
Dropping a brand new album without any forewarning or promotion is an incredibly risky move for artists, unless you’re Beyoncé apparently. Reportedly “bored with traditional album marketing”, the hits-making megastar announced her new album via a video on her Instagram account (on which she is much more active than her Twitter) and then released it shortly after exclusively on iTunes. This obviously paid off in a big way, as the word “Beyoncé” was tweeted 1.2 million times within 12 hours, and less than three days after its release the album became the fastest selling album ever on iTunes.
What she got right here was the exclusivity (well that and being insanely famous of course).
It’s obvious that this release was for the fans. It wasn’t announced on TV or on a billboard where everyone can see it. It was revealed on her personal profile, where only those who follow Beyoncé could see it. Those who dedicated their time to following her brand were first to know about new content. It sounds like a good deal because it is.
By releasing an album this way, both exclusively through social media and on iTunes, the fans are happy, Apple is happy, and Beyoncé is no doubt very happy. Everyone wins.
Some brands use Twitter as a point of first response, others don’t use it all. A few brands use Twitter to showcase new content, others use it to sell their products. There are a few brands however, such as those mentioned above, that use Twitter like a personal playground, and benefit from it brilliantly.
I think we can all agree that this is still one of the greatest Twitter conversations ever right?
If the above post hasn’t had you checking and double checking your social accounts, ensuring they’re completely secure, then I don’t know what will.
Think I’ve missed something blindingly obvious? Let me know about your favourite social blunders, hacks and stunts of 2013 in the comments section below.
Social Media Definition via BigStock
Tweets and Twitter Feeds from respective brands
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.