Digital marketing can be tedious work with all the campaigns that need to be run. And it can be pretty scary too when something goes wrong. Here are some marketing horror stories and how you can deal with them should they happen to you.
Horror no. 1: Sending out an inappropriate tweet
In most cases, an inappropriate piece of content is entirely unintentional. You might have accidentally pasted the wrong link into the tweet, or made a typo. US Airways made that kind of mistake when it accidentally tweeted an image of a naked woman… Let’s say she was doing something to herself with an airplane, in 2014.
Since media is pixelating the US Airways tweet, I've pixelated so it's totally safe for work, here: pic.twitter.com/WKslf7wwtN
— Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) April 16, 2014
Your team member’s personal actions can also contribute to the incident. This was the case with KitchenAid USA in 2012 when an employee posted an unsavory comment then-president Barack Obama through the company account, but I was supposed to go over a personal account.
Accidentally tweeting inappropriate content can cause a significant backlash against your brand. The tweets can be easily mistaken as part of your official Twitter content and put your brand image in a negative light.
Dealing with the situation
The quickest way to deal with accidentally tweeting inappropriate content is to take down the offending tweet immediately. Have multiple people monitoring what is being posted on your company Twitter account to catch bad tweets early.
Be sure to apologize for the mishap and assure your Twitter audience that it won’t happen again.
Deepest apologies for an irresponsible tweet that is in no way a representation of the brand's opinion. #nbcpolitics
— KitchenAid (@KitchenAidUSA) October 4, 2012
Make sure that your apology tells people what caused the incident. This will make your brand more transparent. Use Devumi’s Twitter Retweets to quickly spread your apology, and regain some of that trust as the apology is focused on more than the mistake.
Improving your Twitter protocols
Reviewing your social media protocols after an incident is vital. Take a look at your tweet creation and posting process to determine how the mistake could have happened:
- In the case of unintended mistakes in the tweet’s copy, create stricter proofreading rules to filter content.
- If the cause was that of an employee using the company Twitter account to post personal comments, establish firmer guidelines on personal social media use at work.
You also need to restrict access to the company Twitter account, you should have a dedicated social media team.
Horror no. 2: Your campaign hashtag gets hijacked
Another common horror story for any digital marketing team is getting their campaign hashtag taken over and used for unintended purposes. Reasons they hashtag might be hijacked include:
- Trolls using your hashtag to send out inappropriate content
- The audience misunderstanding your hashtag and using it for unrelated posts
- The public using the hashtag to criticize your brand
By reviewing the posts made using the hashtag, you can determine why your hashtag was hijacked.
Getting your hashtag hijacked can often put your digital marketing campaign in a bad light, depending on the nature of the attack, affecting your brand image. On the flip side, a hashtag hijacking can also bring to light public sentiments that you are not aware of. This was the case when Twitter users hijacked McDonald’s #McStories hashtag in 2012 to talk about their negative experiences with the fast food chain.
Dealing with a hijacked hashtag
Knowing how to respond to the perpetrators is the first step in effectively dealing with a hijacked hashtag:
- In the case of trolls using your hashtag for posting inappropriate content, don’t respond to them directly. Replying will only cause their actions to be more visible and create more damage. Instead, just let the incident die down by itself. To lessen their impact, take down any offensive content that they might have posted on your social media walls. You can also report the troll accounts and have them suspended.
- If it is your audience using your hashtag to criticize your brand, take time to assess which of the complaints are legitimate and respond to them accordingly. Assure your followers that you are dealing with the concerns that they have raised. You do need to quickly act on that promise to show the public that you do listen to their voice.
The nature of the hashtag hijacking will also determine whether or not you need to issue an apology. If you are a victim of malicious trolling, there is no need to apologize. Otherwise, issue an apology for concerns raised by the incident.
Deciding on what to do with the campaign
Getting your hashtag hijacked can lead to an abrupt end to an otherwise good digital marketing campaign. Avoid this by having a backup plans. This could be an alternative hashtag that can be used to restart the campaign once the backlash dies down. You can also create an entirely new campaign to counter the effects of the hijacking. Whichever direction you take, be sure to put up safeguards to prevent a repeat of the incident.
Horror no. 3: Jumping on a hashtag trend the wrong way
Brands often ride existing hashtag trends for their digital marketing campaigns. In the best case scenario, your social media audience will simply be amused by you joining in on the trending hashtag. Be aware that your brand can also end up in a bad light for not understanding what the hashtag is all about.
The latter was the situation that cereal maker Cheerios found itself in when it joined the hashtag trend #Prince in 2016. While the brand is aware of the trend being about the passing of the musician Prince, its tribute ended up being seen as insensitive. Netizens pointed out that Cheerios’ message was ruined by an attempt to insert its brand into the tweet.
— Jaffe Communications (@jaffecom) April 22, 2016
The brand took down the tweet after the negative response.
Recovering from the situation
Just like with accidentally tweeting unwanted content, the quickest way to deal with the mistake is to delete the problematic post. Issue an apology both to the public and the specific audience of the tag.
To avoid the mistake from happening again, remember to carefully study the hashtag that you want to jump in. Note that it isn’t just about what the hashtag is about. You also need to consider the tone that it implies. This will guide you in creating content that is more appropriate for the hashtag.
Horror no. 4: Social media automation fails
Some brands opt to automate their social media actively to avoid potential mistakes in their postings. But if left unchecked, this can end up creating problems of its own. In most cases, these errors might be minor, such as not posting images or posting content at random.
There are also the major fails that can impact your digital marketing campaign. The New England Patriots fell into such a situation in 2014 when their Twitter bot accidentally sent out a racist tweet.
— CJ2K (@CJ9223) November 14, 2014
The offending tweet was up for more than an hour, and it was retweeted nearly 1500 times before it was taken down.
Your social media bot can also be taken over by trolls. This was the case with Microsoft’s Taybot in 2016. Taybot was an artificial intelligence program designed to learn to communicate by interacting with people on Twitter. Trolls eventually found a way to make the bot send out offensive and racist tweets, forcing Microsoft to shut down the account.
Dealing with automation fails
In the event that your social media bot gets severely compromised, you have to shut it down immediately and delete the inappropriate posts. Issue an apology to the public afterward and answer any concerns that might have been raised by the incident.
We apologize for the regrettable tweet that went out from our account. Our filtering system failed & we will be more vigilant in the future.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 14, 2014
It is also important that you do a thorough review of why your automation might have failed. Take a look at the various issues and fix them. This will allow you to redeploy the automation should you decide to continue.
Reviewing the incident will also help you plan preventive measures for future automated digital marketing campaigns. In particular, refine the automation’s programming to detect and avoid potentially problematic content. You also need to determine when the appropriate situation is to let the automation run, and when you should let human editors take over.
Be ready to face and overcome digital marketing horrors
Social media fails can have a significant effect on your brand’s online presence. Lessen that impact by:
- Responding quickly: Monitor your online engagements to catch any problem early. You also need to act quickly and take down problematic posts should the situation escalate.
- Issuing a sincere apology: Assure the public that you are doing everything to resolve the situation.
- Fixing the problem: Review how the situation happened and put in measures to prevent it repeating in future campaigns.
Follow these reminders and you will be able to deal with any digital marketing horror that comes your way, and create better social media content ideas.