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Photo courtesy of Creative Commons Flickr user Search Antigua

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons Flickr user Search Antigua (http://bit.ly/12yhTuB)

You’re nowhere if not online – right? In fact, the world wide web is a measure of your success – you’re either on the rise, or on the fastest path to invisibility. Or so the trends seem to be telling us.

But when do the social media gods decide to turn against you? If the price for a successful campaign has upgraded from the original sacrificial lamb, large corporations and mom and pop businesses alike will be willing to slaughter a whole herd to find out.

McDonald’s, for example, has undoubtedly been successful in using social media to boost its profile; but even the top 10 strongest brand internationally has faltered: the company launched a campaign for Tweeters to share stories of their favorite McDonald’s experience with the rest of the world. The onslaught of snarky comments instead of warm and fuzzy emotions was a shock that cut the campaign short – it was taken down within 2 hours of its inception. Unknowingly, McDonald’s created an opportunity for image abuse; and internet-users jumped on the once-in-a-lifetime chance to hate, and hate with permission.

“MickyD’s” isn’t the first one to fail so miserably online: most recently, a campaign to promote safe sex worldwide went awry. Instead of Durex’s product being likened to dog food and suggesting the need to wallow in shame (as the McDonald’s food was), the condoms were voted to a place between a rock and a hard spot. Durex’s hope for a charitable donation to a city in the world was ridiculed when participants in the online poll added one few were aware existed: Batman. But beyond the lack of recognition for the city in Turkey, it was the fact that Batman doesn’t welcome the use of contraception that riled the responders. The question Durex asked was intended for finding a city whose residents wanted a donation of condoms most. Instead, the company was left with results they couldn’t use – a shipment to the Turkish city would have likely resulted in an even bigger backlash than the failed campaign itself did.

Kmart, too, has had its fair share of criticism for a marketing campaign gone wrong: with just one tweet, the whole company was defaced as insensitive. In offering their condolence after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the big-name company included a hashtag and promotion for a toy giveaway they were participating in. Though it took 10 seconds to type the message, Kmart had to deal with outraged Twitter users for days.

Screen-shot by author from The Search Engine Journal article: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/social-media-fails-every-company-should-learn-from/63031/

Screen-shot by author from The Search Engine Journal article: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/social-media-fails-every-company-should-learn-from/63031/

Before these companies experiences true social media fails, they had extraordinary faith in the online tool. While the faith is in no way uncalled for, it’s important to keep its power contained. Being successful with social media is all about pleasing the customer – but unfortunately, when you can’t read minds, that task becomes a level harder. With the increased pace of the internet world, and with emotions and opinions flying from one side of the globe to the next within milliseconds, the consequences of misreading a consumer can blow way out of proportion. Earning the label of a social media fail (with even one remark that explodes online) is “not only fodder for the front page and late-night talk shows, but a brand-buster too.”

If you’re a company or organization trying to get some big-scale attention, do yourself a favor and learn from other’s mistakes before you click “post.”

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