Lessons in Social Marketing and PR Disasters

While it is true that smart social marketing can increase your business, it is just as easy to make mistakes that can cost your business in customers and reputation. It is important to learn from mistakes done by others and try not to repeat them.

Mistakes by small business owners frequently go unnoticed by the media. But when a big company does a faux-pas, the media is all over them like a wet suit.

A few examples:

  • BP: Trying to do damage control in the aftermath of the oil spill, BP started pouring money into advertising and public relations. During that time, they drastically increased the amount of the PPC (Pay Per Click). Their logo stared at you from many search result pages, increasing the resentment many people felt towards the company. On another level, they had a hacker. Someone started a fake BP Twitter account and posted satirical tweets about the situation. Things like “Look, cut us some slack. We’ve kinda just been winging the whole ‘deepwater drilling’ thing.” Social Media sites level the playing field and the company could do nothing about it. The fake account had over 200,000 followers and the real BP account had about 15,000. Today the fake Twitter account went dormant, and the real BP is up and updating regularly.
  • Nestle and Greenpeace: Nestle is a big company with many interests, thus is makes it easier to target. When Nestle announced a new product that includes Palm Oil, Greenpeace launched a campaign protesting against the palm oil because the production causes detrimental environmental effects, and cut on the habitat of orangutans. Nestle tried, unsuccessfully, to take their video down from YouTube and that caused the rage of many. People started commenting disparaging remarks on the company’s Facebook page. The company became defensive and posted “We welcome your comments, but please don’t post using a altered version of any of our logos as your profile picture – they will be deleted.” Becoming defensive and arrogant on social media will almost always turn out badly. Nestle eventually apologized, but the damage was done.
  • AT&T: A disgruntled customer wrote an e mail to the CEO of the company, complaining about the way he was treated. After sending two e mails, he heard nothing back from the CEO, but did hear back from the legal department threatening him with legal action if he will not cease and desist sending e mails to the CEO. The customer took it to the blogosphere and to Twitter and even posted the recording of the legal department. The story went viral and was picked up by news organizations. AT & T apologized, but the damage was done.
  • Honda: When Honda launched its hybrid “Crosstour” it gave a sneak peak of the design on its Facebook page. Fans were not impressed and wrote about it. One follower posted an extremely positive remark, and proclaimed how much he loved the design. It didn’t take long for fans to discover that the poster is no other than Honda’s Product Manager. Resorting to deception, Honda attracted the anger of fans. It apologized for using that tactic.
  • Domino’s Pizza: You probably remember the video which was uploaded to YouTube by Domino’s employee, showing what one employee does with the cheese (he stuffed it in his nose before putting it on the pizza). The video went viral and was picked up by the news media. Even though Domino’s swore that pizza was never delivered, it suffered a big financial loss. This is a good example of the destructive power of social media. It took Domino’s weeks to straighten things out, and this one video cost them a lot of money in customer loyalty.

 

What Does this mean?

Businesses and Organizations better get a handle on Social Media in a proactive way, policies need to be developed that invest time into employee education about social media. This provides two opportunities, first it helps prevent events and issues like this from taking place in the first place. Second, and more importantly, it provides companies with the opportunity to use the new media sources as tools for communication, outreach and sales.

Taking a proactive approach allows a company to develop a history of interaction and creates a more complete picture of its practices and personnel. This is useful in two big ways: It helps challenge bad media as it ends up one touch point or instance in a mist of values of positive history. It also educates a staff on how to handle an issue based on which form of new media the issue developed.

“Look at the New Media as a opportunity not a threat, in most cases it provides a chance to have a business, organization or individual shine, displaying who they are and what they can do. Now that’s credibility and value!” Basil C. Puglisi

Sources:

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