5 social media fails

Social media can be ruthless, especially when it comes to Twitter; users are more engaged than on Facebook, and are more likely to point out mistakes, big or small, on the instantaneous social network. But just because a tweet is limited to 140 characters, doesn’t mean that your social media marketing strategy should take 140 seconds to make.

While it’s impossible to account for human error, using apps like those featured in our list of top 25 social media marketing apps, can help a company spot some of the red flags and prevent a social media fail before it occurs (or at least help monitor the damage in real-time before it gets out of control).

Below are some of the biggest social media marketing fails in recent memory, and how they could (and should) have been managed with social media marketing apps.

Ronald McDonald #RonaldMcDonald

Using a hashtag instead of a handle can be tricky, as McDonald’s found out all too well when it decided to use the hashtag #RonaldMcDonald to promote its newly revamped mascot late last year. Unfortunately, what was meant to be a fun idea to get people to share their happy memories of the clown turned into a PR nightmare when people started using the hashtag to criticize the McDonald’s corporation about anything from its low wages, to marketing fast food to children.

The biggest problem for McDonald’s was using a hashtag instead of a new Twitter handle for Ronald McDonald; reportedly, handles like @RonaldMcDonald and many other potential spin-offs were already taken up by squatters hoping to cash in on the name.

Had McDonalds looked past these obstacles and chosen a separate Twitter handle for Ronald McDonald, it could have easily used a tool like Hootsuite to manage conversations happening on multiple Twitter accounts, avoiding a hashtag that ultimately slammed the company.

DiGiorno #WhyIStayed

Hopping on the trending hashtag bandwagon is a good way to get exposure, but if you’re not careful, it might be more coverage than you bargained for, and not the good kind.

Frozen pizza company DiGiorno caused a lot of controversy when it used the #WhyIStayed hashtag to push its pizza after it started trending in relation to a domestic violence video that surfaced featuring NFL player Ray Rice. Women were using the hashtag to share their own stories of domestic violence, while DiGiorno, totally oblivious to the meaning behind the trending hashtag, used it to promote its product.

Once tweeted, the damage was already done, but it could have been as simple as using a tool like TweetBinder to check out the conversations happening around that hashtag before pulling the trigger and causing a Twitter storm of controversy.

US Airways NSFW photo

Most big companies consider it convenient to have more than one employee with access to their social media accounts, but the price of convenience can cost a reputation.

In light of a customer delay complaint on Twitter, airline company US Airways did what any social media manager would do: respond. Unfortunately, the response came attached with a link to a NSFW photo which the company had meant to flag, but instead accidentally pasted into its response to the customer. In no time, the Tweet went viral, followed swiftly by its removal and a subsequent apology.

In this case, having a quick check before sending out a Tweet could have saved them. Apps like Falcon Social allow for different levels of permissions and management so that Tweets can go through more than one set of eyes before getting sent out. It may slow down response time, but it could be worth the price to avoid creating a NSFW drama like the one made by US Airways.

New England Patriots celebrate 1M followers

Celebrating a Twitter follower milestone is common in the Twitterverse, and so the New England Patriots did what many brands do when they reach the 1 million mark. They rewarded their loyal followers for retweeting their ‘thank you’ message with a personalized (automated) tweet featuring their Twitter handle on the back of a Pats jersey. Sadly, the team got a bit lazy with its spam filters, and one Twitter follower with an extremely offensive Twitter handle was given the same digital jersey as all the other retweeters. It took hours before the tweet was removed.

After a somewhat haphazard apology, the Pats walked away a bit scathed.

This problem could have easily been avoided with better filters, or at least more quickly resolved with a social media monitoring tool that offers comprehensive monitoring options, like SproutSocial.

Smuckers deletes Facebook comments

While Twitter probably plays the bigger role in most social media meltdowns, corporate Facebook faux pas are still rife. Last year, jam company Smuckers was accused of deleting comments from its Facebook page after some users posted questions asking whether or not their products contained GMOs, a topic which they’d gotten publicly called out for in the past. Instead of responding to the the fairly innocent questions, it chose instead to sweep them under the rug by deleting them, only making the problem worse.

Deleting spammy or vulgar comments from Facebook is completely acceptable, but deleting a perfectly legitimate question to try to avoid answering it is a big no-no. Getting trigger happy with the delete button might seem like a good idea at the time, but it’s much better to use a tool like Meltwater, which monitors social media activity and can give you a better idea of when something arises and what the reaction to it is like. It can even provide historical data for analysis so that you don’t end up making the same mistake twice.

Human error can’t always be avoided, but when it comes down to it, time is of the essence. Having the proper tools, and the right people for the job, to monitor your company’s social media marketing activities is important to help avoid social media fails, especially on Twitter.

Originally published at lab.getapp.com on October 19, 2015.