Social media allows companies to reach audiences in authentic and immediate ways. Sometimes, companies hit the mark and create worldwide trends, and sometimes they fail miserably. We’ve compiled the best of social media wins and the worst fails:
- WIN – NASA made space exploration a worldwide point of interest through social media interactions in 2015. NASA’s social media account activities (the agency has 500 accounts) keep the agency in global online conversations. The Mars Rover missions, in particular, generated significant interest on Twitter and other social networks. Social media serves the public outreach mission the agency has pursued since 1958.
- FAIL – IHOP thought it was okay to release sexist tweets. Among the short “jokes” it posted was, “The butter face we all know and love.” Apparently, the company did not get the memo that shallow, sexist jokes are not so cool in 2015.
- WIN – Hawaiian Airlines’ “Lei Day” campaign won a Skifties award in 2015. The Skifties highlight travel brand success on social media. The Lei Day campaign used the traditional Hawaiian holiday as a way for the airline to give back to the community. Hawaiian Airlines’ video documentary showed Hawaiian celebrations, their community outreach endeavors, and a “Which Lei Are You?” personality quiz. The multifaceted campaign effectively built brand awareness on Facebook.
- FAIL – SeaWorld has had a rough few years. In the midst of allegations of animal rights abuse, the company decided to try to improve its online brand image with a Twitter campaign. #AskSeaWorld backfired, as many used the hashtag to highlight their displeasure with the amusement park.
- WIN – World Wildlife Fund (WWF) won a Webby Award in 2015 for its Snapchat campaign, which highlighted endangered species. Snapchats are available to viewers for only 10 seconds, and the company used this time to illustrate the cycle of endangered species and extinction in the world. WWF’s campaign reached users around the world and generated increased awareness and donations within a few days.
- FAIL – Starbucks tried to get in on the discussion of race with a Twitter campaign under #RaceTogether. The coffee giant wanted to generate an honest online discussion within the Starbucks customer and employee community. However, many users had negative comments about the campaign, rendering the hashtag useless in the race relations discussion and Starbuck’s attempt to increase brand loyalty.
- WIN – GoPro used Instagram to release a viral video promoting the brand. The skateboarding cat videos were entertaining and short, and they achieved the company’s highest-rated Instagram engagement score as of September 2015. Sometimes, a company only needs a cute and well-placed animal video to generate buzz online.
- FAIL – After Vanity Fair magazine published an article titled “Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse,” Tinder tweeted several refutations. Instead of downplaying the damaging effects of the article, the Twitter response directed more attention to it. Twitter may not always offer the best forum for online reputation management.
- WIN – Lowe’s has continued to generate attention on Vine with its “Fix in Six” videos. The short, entertaining, and relevant videos reach a younger demographic. With simple tips, the series has earned the company 33,000 followers and millions of video views. Using video in marketing materials is a great way to sell DIY home improvement.
- FAIL – American Apparel did not do enough research before posting a “cool” picture of smoke on the Fourth of July. Instead of showcasing the aftereffects of fireworks, however, the image was an incredibly inappropriate photograph of the fatal 1986 Challenger Explosion. This faux pas is the latest in a string of PR fails the company has been fighting.
Looking back at what succeeded and what failed in 2015, there is a clear trend. Twitter can help a company stand out, but it may not offer the best forum for generating a serious conversation. Study your audience carefully before you start a potentially divisive hashtag.
Other mediums, such as Vine, Snapchat, and Instagram, may yield better results. Companies may need to spend more time creating content for these platforms, but that extra development could save them from a haunting lapse of judgement. Partner with an existing platform influencer and start looking for your viral factor.
As 2016 continues to ramp up, consider the potential for success in newer social media networks and define clear posting guidelines for any new platform you start to use. Get creative and have fun with social media campaigns.