Keep Calm and Social On: When a Mistake Doesn’t Mean the End

No one wants to make a mistake, much less a highly visual mistake on social media. But it happens, and it happened to Ad Age last week. Guess what? No one was fired, angry readers and Twitter followers didn’t surround Ad Age’s office with pitchforks, and surely no one died (well, Michael Delligatti, the inventor of McDonald’s Big Mac did die last week and has gone on to the Golden Arches in the sky … but that’s only slightly related.)

No one wants to make a mistake, much less a highly visual mistake on social media. Those are the kind of snafus that land you on “Worst Tweets of the Year” listicles from subpar media sites who burn through negative coverage just to keep the lights on. But it happens.

Huge tiny mistake Arrested DevelopmentIt happened to Ad Age last week, and guess what? No one was fired, angry readers and Twitter followers didn’t surround Ad Age’s office with pitchforks, and surely no one died (well, Michael Delligatti, the inventor of McDonald’s Big Mac did die last week and has gone on to the Golden Arches in the sky … but that’s only slightly related.)

What am I talking about? Managing Editor Ken Wheaton’s Dec. 5 article, “What You Can Learn From the Social Media Crisis That Wasn’t” and the tweet in question:

Fun fact: The image of the Big Mac went with Ad Age’s story about Delligatti’s passing … the Vagisil story actually had a video attached to it, but clearly did not play well with the system.

So, 11 minutes following the first post, the folks at Ad Age tweeted what I think is a measured, smart response.

The Vagisil story with a Big Mac image tweet was a MISTAKE. Like many media companies, Ad Age’s content management system (CMS) is integrated with a platform to automate social media. Usually it’s all rosy and saves editors time, but there can be snafus, but here the wrong image got pulled and used with the wrong content.

Was it offensive? No.

A little confusing? Maybe.

Do I think this is a fireable offense? Absolutely not.

As Wheaton explained:

I decided not to take it down. Why? One, this is social media. It was already out there and I knew with 100 percent certainty that someone had already grabbed a shot of it. It’s what I would have done. Hiding it would have just fed the beast. “What is Ad Age trying to hide?” … Two, it wasn’t really hurtful or offensive. If anyone looked bad, it was us. Three, again, this is social media. Despite the intensity of tweet storms, despite it feeling like the world is ending, these things pass relatively fast. Four, 2016 has sucked for a lot of people, and it seemed like our faux pas was actually bringing some sort of joy into the world.

Did the folks at Ad Age learn a lesson regarding how their content gets automated for social? Absolutely. But the bigger lesson, and what I REALLY appreciate Wheaton for sharing, was that Ad Age let the mole hill be the mole hill. There weren’t even flames to fan, and I think if they had made a bigger deal out of the mistake, it would have been like replacing a fan with a blowtorch set on high.

Bravo Ad Age for realizing that making a harmless, slightly embarrassing (and kinda funny) mistake is not the end of the world. We all screw up sometimes, but if we learn something from the situation, then it’s worth it. And kudos to Ken Wheaton for writing about it so candidly. It’s one thing to leave the tweet up and acknowledge the “oopsie!” and it’s another thing to let us in, and let us learn from a mistake so perhaps we can avoid making a similar one.

And with that, let me leave you with Wheaton’s apt, closing words:

Words do matter, sure. But getting outraged over every little thing is not only exhausting, it’s childish and lessens the impact of actual outrage. If we’re all outraged all the time, when something is truly outrageous, no one cares. It’s the equivalent of crying wolf.

And a last word of advice for marketers. Don’t do anything offensive or hurtful. Don’t say anything offensive or hurtful on social media. And if you do do something stupid, especially if it’s an accident, sit tight and give it a chance to blow over.

Hashtags: #smartnewmarketingtool or #riskymarketingmove?

Call me out of touch, but I really don’t understand the fascination with hashtags. The hashtag gives Twitter the ability to collect all tweets about that topic into one collective location. That makes it easy for Twitter users to join the conversation by reading, retweeting and adding commentary. If enough people tweet and retweet about the hashtag word or group of words, it’s considered a topic that is “trending” (i.e. it’s popular).

Call me out of touch, but I really don’t understand the fascination with hashtags.

The hashtag gives Twitter the ability to collect all tweets about that topic into one collective location. That makes it easy for Twitter users to join the conversation by reading, retweeting and adding commentary. If enough people tweet and retweet about the hashtag word or group of words, it’s considered a topic that is “trending” (i.e. it’s popular).

Of course marketers have smelled an opportunity to leverage the hashtag because what could be better than having consumers talk about your brand—especially if the brands themselves sparks the conversation?

Within the last 20 years, there’s been a huge change in advertising CTA’s (Call-to-Action)—especially in television. First, many commercials ended by showing an 800 numbers, and that was quickly followed by the vanity 800 number. With the advent of the web, marketers substituted URL’s for 800 number. After it was discovered that the consumer didn’t know what to do once they landed on a website home page, the MURL was invented (www.nameofbrand/specificpage). When Facebook exploded on the scene, brands wanted you to visit and like them on their Facebook pages. But now, it seems, all of that is old school.

Many of the most recent Super Bowl commercials didn’t end with phone numbers, web addresses or any mention of Facebook. Instead, a hashtag was offered up in front of a pithy subject line as a way to get viewers engaged in a dialogue about the commercial itself (and, ultimately, the brand).

I find it interesting that during the Super Bowl this year, millions of dollars were spent on each 60-second spot, and yet several marketers risked it all by using a single CTA: a predetermined #groupofwords. I could understand if the hashtag was in addition to other CTA’s, but in most of the instances I observed, it was the standalone close on the spot.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never even bothered to look to see what topics are trending on Twitter. Maybe I’m not cool enough to care. But I’m not 100 percent confident that throwing a hashtag in front of a topic will generate a POSITIVE conversation about my brand. So why would you place your brand at risk after you’ve spent hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Creating “brand evangelists” has always been a core goal of any brand—people who support your brand, talk about it, recommend it to others and basically act as your mouthpiece by providing personal endorsements. But does doling out a hashtag topic guarantee that a positive conversation will ensue? Not in my book. #marketinghashtag

5 Steps for Putting Twitter to Work for Your Brand

Twitter can help you win customers, drive sales, find/solve problems and manage your brand. If you don’t have a Twitter strategy, you need one.

The previous sentences are a combined 140 characters, the maximum length of a tweet. They perfectly capture the power of this relatively new short-form messaging system.

Twitter can help you win customers, drive sales, find/solve problems and manage your brand. If you don’t have a Twitter strategy, you need one.

The previous sentences are a combined 140 characters, the maximum length of a tweet. They perfectly capture the power of this relatively new short-form messaging system.

Coming on the heels of a recent $200 million investment and $3.7 billion valuation, Twitter has firmly cemented itself as a force to be reckoned with. A critical communication tool for leading brands, marketers are flocking to this burgeoning social media platform, adding more than 65 million tweets each day. However, establishing and building an effective presence on Twitter takes more than grabbing a name and sending a tweet. It requires work, just like any other channel. With that in mind, here’s a checklist to get you started:

1. Establish your Twitter objectives and do your homework. Spend the necessary time up-front to identify areas of your business that can be served by Twitter — e.g., customer service, tech support, marketing, PR. Define your objectives and metrics for success. Do your homework by conducting a competitive analysis. Read case studies and learn from industry experts and your peers by attending Twitter industry events.

2. Build your presence. Create and complete your bio. Include a clear description of your brand and your stream. Create an avatar and custom background to help reinforce and distinguish your brand. Include a URL to your website or other official brand communities in your bio. Check out @twelpforce if you need help.

3. Develop compelling content and dialogues. Start by listening before speaking. Investigate how your brand/products are organically mentioned and look for opportunities to establish a conversational feed with brand advocates. To engage users, share relevant content and look for opportunities to provide unique value on Twitter, such as offers or photos not found anywhere else. Test content themes such as trivia, historical facts or challenges, and reward your loyal followers with prizes.

Over time, consider establishing multiple accounts to streamline content or interest areas. For example, the NBA uses its primary Twitter account for game updates, offers and breaking news. However, it launched a separate Twitter feed dedicated to historical facts: @NBAHistory.

Also, remember to listen and respond to customer inquiries quickly. Weave conversations across communities. Many brands, such as @CastrolUSA, share news on Twitter and invite followers to join the discussion on their Facebook page.

4. Grow your audience. Promote your communities using all touchpoints — e.g., TV commercial tags, call centers, email. Consider integrating your Twitter feed into your existing website, and experiment with Twitter feeds and advertising units in contextual environments to peak interest and increase followers. Find people already tweeting about your subject and follow them. Identify key influencers, showcase them and encourage them to retweet or @mention you.

Publish Twitter lists to further extend your content and attract followers. List your Twitter account in directories and test sponsored tweets and/or promoted accounts.

5. Manage and measure. A recent study by R2integrated found dedicating time and resources to be the No. 1 issue for marketers when managing their social media presence. Create a team micro-blogging strategy to help keep your social operations nimble and responsive.

The good news is that many people and groups across your organization are interested in learning more about Twitter, and they’ll all benefit from a successful Twitter presence. Get them involved and consider investing in a social media campaign management tool to streamline the process of creating, implementing and analyzing tweets and Facebook posts.

Campaign management tools also enable organizations to manage multiple users. Create benchmarks around key metrics such as customer satisfaction and service levels. Leverage the real-time nature of Twitter to solicit feedback. Be a stickler about channel attribution by using unique coupon codes or tracking URLs tied to shortened URLs.

Finally, take the time to understand the difference and dynamics between public and private tweets, and use direct messages to handle private or sensitive one-to-one conversations.

Twitter isn’t only a new ecosystem, but a constantly evolving one. While a great deal of its evolution is driven by its users, the recent influx of $200 million and focus on making money is certain to increase the opportunities for marketers — advertising and beyond. For marketers to effectively embrace this channel, however, they need to galvanize their internal teams, build a compelling strategy aligned to corporate goals and customer needs, stay current on industry best practices, and maintain and grow their followers by building an engaging dialogue. In the end, some things never change: same marketing fundamentals, different channel.