Brands can still screw-up on social without the drama of a #fail

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A quick Google search and you can quickly find the social brand failures. But this isn’t a post poking at those brands that make mistakes. This is about raising the bar on the quality of social communication, which right now, isn’t always that great.

Starbucks Race Together campaign

Social media marketing is on pretty much every brand’s agenda these days. Facebook Pages and Twitter profiles abound. We have toilet paper brands discussing the weather, soft drink companies talking about superheroes and fast food chains getting political. And generally, just a lot of noise.

Consumers aren’t best pleased though. In fact, cringe worthy and daft posts are increasing, as brands rush to say something, often without thinking. Customers are turning off, leaving acerbic comments and generally viewing posts with more cynicism than ever before.

The biggest mistakes generally come from a lack of senior investment in social, where ideas are allowed to fly onto the networks, often half baked. Or – in larger companies where social integration doesn’t happen and social marketing happens in isolation – disjointed from other marketing activities.

There are three common mistakes:

1) Being too needy: Like me! Like me! Like me!

I love a good call to action, so I am not suggesting for one minute that you don’t occasionally ask fans to like or comment on your post. But for some brands, it is in every post (just take a look at some of the big supermarket profiles on Facebook). Surely there are more creative ways to garner engagement. When you consider 21% of people unfollow a brand because it is boring or repetitive, there is a greater reason to balance your creative copy with calls to action: maintaining your hard earned reach!

I also suspect that many followers mute or hide brand pages rather than unfollow, and with Facebook organic reach now so low, you really can't afford to be so needy for likes at the expense of increasing impressions.

2) Jumping on the bandwagon, and falling off

Embracing the techniques of ‘always on’ is one thing, but understanding how to apply them to a brand is quite another. Social in real-time has a dramatic impact on social media activity. It can raise engagement, send reach stratospheric and positively impact ROI. However responding in real-time, following trends and capturing the zeitgeist only works if it fits with your brand.

Whilst some high profile brands have been vilified in the press for poor social newsjacking, many brands continue to sail close to the wind. Stress test your social posts before going live and make sure they fit with your brand values.

The same goes for brands jumping on current big issues. As Starbucks found out with its ‘Race Together’ campaign. I suspect that pulling this campaign as the backlash escalated left a very nasty taste in the mouths of Starbucks’ marketers.

3) Trying to be cool: Also known as ‘Dad dancing’

We all love a bit of personality for our brands. It allows us to have proper social conversations. But sometimes brands need to act their age. Especially when targeting the ‘youth’ (does anyone say that anymore? See, I am too old too!)

Dominos rather wittily makes the point. Many brands are not cool. They don’t get ‘down with the kids’.

Sadly, for a lot of brands though, they just look like they are trying too hard. It is much better to know who you are as a brand on social. Then creative ideas can be tested against your personality to see if they fit. It will save you from the embarrassment of being the dancing Dad at the school disco!

Whether you are being too needy, or just plain embarrassing, one thing is for sure; consumers are less tolerant. They will unfollow, hide and remove you from their timelines. So invest in social. Be serious about it and up the game on creative content or risk losing out to those brands that invest time in social.

Katy Howell is CEO and social media strategist of Immediate Future.

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