There are some good corporate social media accounts out there.
Oreo churns out cute ads based on current events, and the British cell provider Tesco Mobile caught the Internet’s attention with charmingly sarcastic tweets that even trolls can’t resist.
But there are at least as many fails going on in the marketing social sphere as wins, and the fails are often epic.
A common element to all of these mishaps is that the social media team was not listening.
And listening does not just mean talking to customers. It means being aware of the company’s place in the Internet’s culture, and knowing that customers do not appreciate mass-produced responses.
The following list compiles the year’s best of the worst, in which a brand’s social missteps became magnified for the world to see through nonstop sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit — and sites like us, Business Insider.
10. Strip club chain Spearmint Rhino's Melbourne team thought they'd be naughty and have Facebook users guess whose baby picture they uploaded. It didn't take long for users to look at the VHS sceenshot's timestamp and realise that the future stripper was now only 14-years-old. Spearmint Rhino 'liked' its own post.
9. Kmart was excited to reveal they would be open earlier than ever this Thanksgiving, and would stay open through all of Black Friday. So when customers complained about the ethics of the decision, a stumbling Kmart social team responded with over 100 caveman-like statements.
8. Few things hurt a brand more than an accusation of racism. So even though it's impossible to tell if this tweet from Home Depot was indeed racist or simply stupid, the fact that the Twittersphere was up in arms over it made corporate delete the tweet, apologise for two days, and fire the social media agency responsible.
7. This one is up for debate, but we firmly consider the Colorado nonprofit 'Thanks Obamacare!' campaign to be a total fail. Even if some may consider portraying potential customers as morons to be clever marketing, it gave Obamacare critics way too much easy fodder.
6. British entertainment retailer HMV lost complete control of its social media team, when rogue members used the account to childishly live-tweet a massive firing at the company.
5. London Luton Airport tapped into the always-hilarious topic of plane crashes for a Facebook post in March. The photo they used came from a 2005 Chicago flight that slid off the runway and killed a 6-year-old boy onboard.
4. Pepsi's Swedish branch released a set of Facebook ads featuring a voodoo doll of competitor Portugal's megastar Cristiano Ronaldo tied to train tracks, getting his head crushed in, and covered in pins. They were forced to quickly remove them and apologise after a Portuguese anti-Pepsi Facebook group formed and gained over 100K fans in a day.
3. J.P. Morgan thought it could engage its consumer base through an enlightening Twitter Q&A session. Except they were completely ignorant of what their brand represented to the trolling masses of the Internet. Even respected journalists joined in on six hours of harassment fun.
Tomorrow's Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.
-- J.P. Morgan (@jpmorgan) November 14, 2013