Social Media Disasters – Examples

Seth Godin in his book ‘All Marketers Are Liars’ refers to an odd condition I have regularly encountered during my marketing career. The fact that marketers believe that they are ‘in control’ and determine the destinies of their campaigns. It is important, particularly  for marketers considering using social media, that they realise that once live, the campaign can take on a life of its own – and in some cases achieve results you had not expected.

The following examples demonstrate the potential pitfalls of trying to ‘control the message’ or not be completely honest with the truth.

Walmarting Across America: A blog written by two supposed Walmart “enthusiasts”. They decided to travel across the United States visiting Walmarts along the way and blogging their experiences in the process.

While the two people actually did travel across America for the purpose of this blog, it was revealed to be paid for by Walmart and generated considerable digital ire at their attempts to mislead consumers.

In fact I came across the following article that suggests ‘Flogging’ (fake blogging) in the European Union is actually now illegal under the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive which came into British law as the Unfair Commercial Practises Directive on the 28 May 2008. I imagine that this could have been argued to be the case for some time now from a financial services perspective given that promotions must be ‘fair clear and not misleading’ according to UK regulator, the Financial Services Authority.

To my mind, there can’t be a more spectacular example of how attempting to control social media, and in this instance user generated content, can go REALLY wrong than these consumer constructed ads for Chevy Tahoe. For those of you not familiar with the campaign, Chevrolet’s marketing agency came up with the idea of letting US consumers build Chevrolet’s next set of ads from stock footage that they supplied via a website. The winners ad would ultimately be shown on US national TV to promote the then ‘new’ Chevy Tahoe SUV.

While the campaign was in many respects wildly successful, some of the adverts took on an alternative tone…

The key takeaway, if you are considering using social media or user generated content in your campaigns, consider all eventualities – and be prepared for it all going horribly wrong!

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