Social media

Guest blog post

By Francois Muscat

You don’t need to be a digital marketing expert to know that social media can be risky. While some brands can afford to experiment with racy and experimental campaigns and strategies, things can go terribly wrong if you don’t understand your target audience or you misjudge the reaction (or level of engagement) from your consumers.
The world of Internet marketing has been changed forever thanks to social media. While some brands are leveraging these platforms in exciting and innovating ways, some have caused a lot of damage to their online reputation. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned from social media over the past few years:

More money doesn’t = more success
In the beginning of 2013, KFC poured approximately USD$50-million in a campaign to promote their new boneless chicken. DraftFCB came up with the #IatetheBones tagline in order to position KFC as the new ‘boneless chicken brand’. Unfortunately, this hashtag can easily be associated with sexual innuendo and/or dead bodies (something that doesn’t really sit well with a food brand). It didn’t take long for people to start sharing videos and pictures of Hannibal Lector, people choking on chicken bones and others less-than-appetising images. This just goes to show that a huge social media marketing budget won’t compensate for bad judgement.

People need to like you In Real Life too
Social media can amplify your message, thanks to viral content sharing. What it won’t do, however, is change the sentiment of your consumers. Another fast food brand, McDonalds, learned the hard way that relying on user generated content isn’t always the best way to promote your brand.
McDonalds started a hashtag on Twitter called #McDStories, where they shared one or two stories about their employees. Unfortunately, Twitter users quickly caught on and started sharing negative stories about bad customer service and food at McDonalds. An important lesson is that viral marketing is often a gamble – your customers own your brand and they have just as much power as you on social media.

You need a crisis communications plan
If there’s anything the BP Oil disaster told us – it’s that you need to have a crisis communication plan in place. This event was unlike anything most brands will experience. It was a man-made disaster, it went on for months and virtually everyone around the world wanted answers, apologies and explanations.
BP got it right by setting up their own ‘press platforms’ (a blog) that were dedicated to giving updated information about the situation. They communicated clearly and – more importantly – quickly. Being humble, honest and fast to react is key when it comes to dealing with a situation of this magnitude on social media.
Even though there have been many huge social media failures, there are also many success stories. Brands shouldn’t be shying away from social media because they’re afraid of potential problems. Social media is an evolution of digital marketing – it’s an extension of your marketing, customer service and PR – so it’s vital that you start using it to engage with your consumers.

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