Social media failure stories, revisited

Social media is the new marketing imperative for nearly every type of business.  Those of us in the marketing world read social media ‘success stories’ all the time and learn from them. But I think we learn as much, or more, from failures.  Last year I wrote a blog about the lack of failure stories (Where are the social media failure stories?)

Sure, everyone has heard about the few big flame-out failures — the inappropriate tweet or rigged contest. But the more common failures, useful from a learning perspective, are all around us.  Most are subtle and quiet – particularly in the B2B world.  Here are a few common categories of failures that I run into often:

Mysterious silence

Company ABC has a regular social media presence in Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook – until one day it suddenly stops. Months go by without a post.  Did they shut down? Fire everyone? Are they in trouble?  As a visitor, I go through their news to see what happened – it turns out they were acquired by investors who were continuing to run the company as an independent entity. My guess is that they gutted the marketing budget, which would make me worry, as a customer or prospect. Don’t leave people wondering what happened.  If you’ve decided to stop a significant social media effort, let people know the reason or they will assume the worst.

Obvious automation 

It’s always dangerous to run on cruise control – a story about LiveNation’s automated tweets after a tragic stage collapse in Ontario is a dramatic example. (Read about it in the Unmarketing blog:  The Worst-Scheduled Tweet Timing Ever.)  If you automate or buffer postings, make sure to keep on top of them! And don’t make it obvious that you’re automating things – social media is meant to be an authentic engagement.

Constant self-promotion

You’ve seen the Twitter accounts for which every tweet is the same promotional offer?  Some social media campaigns are still one directional, promotional and repetitive.  That’s a waste of effort and makes you look insensitive and greedy.

It’s hard to do social media right, which is why you should align your strategy with your resources and abilities in the first place.  And it’s easy to do it wrong – in fact, we’ve all made mistakes. Most of these lesser failures can be corrected.

Do you have a failure story you’d like to share?

Update: On the very same day that I posted this, Tracy Sestili posted this wonderful list of 7 Lessons from Bad Social Media Campaigns on the Social Strand Media site. Some of them are pretty funny, some simply appalling.

5 Comments on “Social media failure stories, revisited

  1. Hi Anne – I love the warning about Obvious automation. That can really bite you in the butt. And thanks for the link back. You rock! Great article!

  2. Pingback: Time-shifting tools « Content Marketing for Technology

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