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Category Archives: Social Media

Stuff about Social Media

Social Media Fail #1: Cable Service with Time Warning

Patrick Stewart despairs

Oh no, it’s all gone Pete Tong

And so, finally, we reach my favorite Social Media Fail of 2012.  And though it got quite a bit of coverage in September, there’s a pretty good chance that not many will have heard of it.  But also a fair chance that many of you will empathize.

When was the last time you moved house?

For me it was about 4 years ago, and in my case it was actually moving from one continent to another, but whether it’s halfway around the world or only down the street, moving house is often considered to be second only to the death of a spouse or a child in terms of the levels of stress it is capable of inducing.

And of course it is only when you have sold your old house and bought your new one that the challenges really begin.  Finding someone to help you move, getting all the endless paperwork completed, finding new suppliers, comparing prices (not just the 6 month prices designed to hook you, but the long term prices where they really make their money).

Time Warner CableIt’s a seemingly endless round of searches and phone calls. Fortunately, since you’re a ‘potential new customer’ you can usually get straight through to a real person, a seemingly unremarkable fact at the time but one you will remember wistfully when you’ve been a customer for a while and you’re being herded through the autoprompts to the “Your business is important to us” holding area with the rest of the cattle.

Then finally, you’re into your new house, the power, gas, taxes and all the other annoying crap have been turned on or put in your name, and only one key task remains: the visit from the cable company to set up your cable TV, internet connection and (for those blissfully wedded to last century) your landline phone.

Most of us have been in the position of waiting, hour after hour, to see whether on the appointed day the guy or gal with all the cables, boxes and associated gizmos arrives on time, or even at all.

Patrick Stewart's cry in the wilderness

Patrick Stewart’s cry in the wilderness – an emotion
not uncommon among cable subscribers

In September this year, new New York resident Patrick Stewart set up an appointment with Time Warner Cable to come and install his links to the outside world.

The experience did not go well, causing him to tweet “All I wanted to do was set up a new account with @TWCable_NYC, but 36hrs later I’ve lost the will to live.”

Patrick Stewart's RejectionTo their credit, Time Warner responded promptly, tweeting to find out “How can we assist you?”, but Stewart clearly thought, quite rightly when all’s said and done, that he had a right to expect decent service from those who had been supposed to provide it in the first place., and that this offer of help on social media was too little too late.

Again, Time Warner’s Twitter team were professional and tweeted back “I apologize for the frustration.  If you change your mind we are here.”

Sir Patrick Stewart

Sir Patrick Stewart

This exchange happened on September 13, and the conversation could have ended there.  But overnight, I’m guessing someone in Time Warner’s Social Media team noticed the little blue check mark next to the name ‘Patrick Stewart’.

For those of you not familiar, the blue check indicates a ‘Verified’ account, meaning that twitter users can be certain that the person they are following is the genuine article and not a copycat.  People whose accounts are ‘Verified’ are movie stars, sports personalities, senior politicians, and so on.

So, when someone at time Warner noticed the little check mark it’s probably only then that the penny dropped and the sound that the penny made went something like “Oh, it’s Jean Luc Picard, that might not be a good thing!”.

Another dead giveaway might have been the fact that @SirPatStew had roughly 60,000 followers despite only having been on Twitter for a few months.  And another still might have been that his tweet was being retweeted hundreds of times an hour.  But, OK, they missed it, so let’s move on.

TWC - Ingratiation is the key to success

TWC – Ingratiation is the key to success

And move on was exactly what they should have done.  They’d dropped the ball on the install, but responded professionally on Social Media, so leave it at that.

But no.  They decided to try and cozy up to him, tweeting at him the following day using a couple of ingratiating Star Trek references to illustrate how much they loved him.  I can almost imagine half a dozen of them gathered round the screen, composing their masterpiece:  “Oh, dude, I got it, tell him we’re trekkers! Is it trekkers or trekkies?  Oh, what the hell, say trekkers.”  “What’s that catchphrase of his?  Oh yeah – ‘make it so’!  Tell him we’ll ‘make it so’ “.

To my absolute delight, Stewart was having none of it and sent back the equivalent of Monty Python’s ‘Fish Slapping Dance’, which basically stopped the conversation in its tracks.Patrick Stewart's dismisses TWC

Once again, that could have been the end of it, but alas for Time Warner, the pummeling gathered pace.

The original tweet had now received getting on for 2000 retweets, and practically everybody who retweeted or replied seemed to be agreeing that Time Warner installs were as organized as a tossed salad.  And that wasn’t the worst, not by a long shot.

LeVar Burton tweetLeVar Burton (Picard’s colleague Georgi La Forge from Star Trek TNG), replying to a tweet from the New York Observer writer Steve Huff said simply “Been there!”.  Huff’s tweet referenced an article on tech site Betabeat (for whom he also writes) chronicling the previous day’s exchange.

The Betabeat article was posted to reddit, where redditors agreed with Stewart’s decision in no uncertain terms.

Shatner's views on Time WarnerWilliam Shatner replied to Stewart’s first tweet, initially just saying that he agreed, but then going on to amplify his view in a separate tweet informing everyone that he’d been waiting for Time Warner LA to re-add Digital Talk Radio for nearly a month, and describing them as “Terrible”.

George Takei

George Takei

By this time the story was being featured prominently in the mainstream media around the world. However, after a couple of weeks, just as Time Warner might have though it was safe to come out of the bathroom, former original Star Trek cast member turned Social Media darling George Takei chimed in, saying “It doesn’t get much better than this” and sharing the entire story with his half million Twitter followers (leading to another 2500 retweets), and his legion of Facebook fans (over 3 million of them), resulting in nearly 25,000 likes, 5,000 shares and well over 1,000 comments, very few of them with anything positive to say about Time Warner.

Stewart meanwhile was maintaining a dignified silence while the interwebs were amusing themselves with poking fun at Time Warner.  In fact, his only related tweet during the entire time period was to @dish, to thank them for providing the “prompt and professional service” that he had originally hoped to get from TWC.

Patrick Stewart's tweet to DishThough it appears he couldn’t resist one final, priceless little swipe at Time Warner Cable, which I think ties the story up quite nicely – the perfect place to end.

Thanks for reading.  I’ve enjoyed writing these Top 10 Fails, particularly reseaching them, and hope you’ve found something that has either given you food for thought, or at least made you smile.

May I wish you a very Happy New Year.

 

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Social Media Fail #2: @Sweden and the Average Sven

Curation Rotation - the @Sweden twitter account

Curation Rotation – the @Sweden twitter account

During the week or so that I’ve been listing these social media fails, some of the most frequently trodden ground I’ve covered relates to the leap of faith required in hiring someone to manage one’s social media.

It’s easy for something to go wrong.  One mistake and the wise denizens of the internet start punching you mercilessly and holding you up to public ridicule.

And it’s possible you may deserve it, particularly if you’ve forgotten that while the person handling your social media may be responsible for what you share, you are still accountable.  It’s your brand.  The buck stops with you.

So consider the leap of faith required to hand your social media over to someone with no professional social media credentials – someone who is, in fact, a complete stranger.  Consider the risk in telling them that they can pretty much say whatever they want.

Then, if by some miracle it works out, consider taking the same risk a week later by giving the responsibility to a different person again.  And again.  And again.

And, the biggest leap of all, to have your entire nation judged by what these strangers choose to say.

Welcome to Sweden, where in late 2011 the idea of giving control of the @sweden twitter profile to a different member of the Swedish public every week was considered a good idea.

The idea came, not surprisingly, from an ad agency, Volontaire of Stockholm.  It was a brave idea, a new idea, an idea so full of both promise and pitfalls that the bravery of the agency in suggesting it dwindles to insignificance when compared with the bravery of the client that approved it.

The concept was borne of the idea that the world would better understand Sweden if the world understood the Swedish people.  Giving Average Sven control of @sweden would allow people to get a better understanding of what makes Swedes tick, what’s important to them, their likes and dislikes.

And so, in December 2011 and throughout the year that has followed, Svenska Institutet and VisitSweden gave one Swede every week the responsibility of curating the @sweden twitter profile, thereby pioneering what has become known as ‘Curation Rotation’.  The only rules were that you must be a Swede, you must tweet in English, and you shouldn’t do anything criminal.

Miss @Sweden, Sonja Abrahamsson

Miss @Sweden,
Sonja Abrahamsson

And do you know what?  It wasn’t the public relations disaster that might have been expected.  Erm…..for the first few months.

The first time that most people in the US will have heard about @sweden was in June this year, which coincidentally was exactly the moment that it became a much bigger story than it had been up to that point.

Folks who work in marketing may have heard about it a little earlier (it won a Gold Clio in May) but on June 10, @sweden moved into the mainstream in the U.S. as a New York Times article shone a spotlight its first 6 months of operation.

The article was interesting, gave a number of examples of some of the points of view tweeted and took Erik Isberg, the curator of the moment, as its main subject.

What's the fuzz?At the end of Mr Isberg’s week, just as the NYT article came out, Sonja Abrahamsson took over and by the end of her week the publicity of the NYT piece had been dwarfed by the publicity surrounding her tweets, which ranged from mundane to potentially anti-semitic to certainly gross and generally bizarre. An article on Mashable collected some of the most ‘memorable’.

In addition to Ms. Abrahamsson’s high profile tenure, yet more light was shone on @sweden when the campaign won a Grand Prix at the Cannes festival.

Across the remainder of 2012, the @sweden handle settled down again into the mundane, the everyday, with only the occasional blip.  That is not to say that there has not been some interesting stuff – there has – but none has even approached the levels of social media hysteria reached in June.

In general, the Swedes have shown themselves to be good natured, humorous, down to earth people.  Their ability to communicate effectively in a second language should put most English speaking nations to shame.  Given the opportunity to make a name for themselves in representing their country, the vast majority of them have behaved with grace and good nature, have taken their responsibility seriously and have been conscious of the impact they may have on their country’s global image.

That said, while clearly the unpleasantness of some of Ms. Abrahamsson’s series of tweets is likely to live longer in the memory than those of all the other, more mainstream-minded curators, can it really be said to have failed?

Gold Clio

The coveted
Gold Clio

No, and yes.

No because the campaign won a Clio award in New York and a Grand Prix at Cannes.  No, because the number of followers has increased.  And no because it can probably be said that followers of the @sweden account have a more rounded view of the Swedish people than they did before which was, after all, the objective.

But yes because for all the good things that may potentially have come of this experiment, the one thing that will most likely be remembered, the thing that received the most media coverage, was an image of anti-semitism and lack of education.  On the basis that perception is reality that is a sad legacy, and particularly sad for all those curators who provided excellent content only to see their efforts, thoughts and feelings swamped under a blanket association of bigotry and ignorance.

Is a picture worth a thousand words?

Is a picture worth a thousand words?

And remember that it could be said that the perception of bigotry is only a perception, and not reality.  Reading Ms. Abrahamsson’s tweets with an open mind, in the views of some Jewish commentators, leads to an understanding that she is not being bigoted, but is rather asking questions that many people might share, and that these questions stand on a foundation of naiveté, not one of prejudice.

At the end of her tenure as Curator of Sweden, she posted a somewhat bizarre video to summarize her week, and told people to make up their own minds.  Around the same time, she also gave an interview in which she explained a tattoo on the back of her neck  The tattoo actually reads “hej hej” (Swedish for hello hello) which could be seen as a link to her twitter handle @hejsonja but, from a distance, it could be read as something else, a coincidence that Ms. Abrahamsson explains as “a mistake”.

So, what can we learn from the @sweden experiment?

Well, clearly we can learn that handing over control of your brand without putting strict guidelines and safeguards in place is a very dangerous thing.  But perhaps more importantly, we can learn that tweeting half-formed thoughts or open questions is likely to result in a backlash.

It is not unusual in this day and age for people to extrapolate from any position that leaves any middle ground, in order to infer a whole host of other positions, and usually assuming these positions to be either black or white.

And so it proved with @sweden.  Ms. Abrahamsson’s tweets were largely taken to be an indication of an assumed set of values.  That assumption may be right or wrong, but 140 characters does not give much room for clarification.  Or as Time Magazine put it, “long enough to say something stupid, but not nearly long enough to explain yourself when you do”.

 

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Social Media Fail #3: Know what you’re talking about.

Numerous fails related to insensitive handling of current events

Numerous fails related to insensitive handling of
current events or just lack of vigilance

There were several ghastly gaffes this year that can be attributed to the lack of a professional approach towards social media marketing.

Retailers using Hurricane Sandy as a sales platform was not particularly smart.

NRA_Rifleman forgetting they’d scheduled a tweet only to have real life events make it completely inappropriate.

Someone (how many times have we seen this now?) at KitchenAid forgetting to switch between corporate and personal accounts when sending out a tweet.

They were all pretty bad and, not surprisingly, generated something of a social media beatdown.  However I’d argue that one stood head and shoulders above the others because it’s such a classic example of someone firing off a joke marketing tweet without stopping to consider whether the joke was funny.

On Friday July 20, just after midnight, James Eagan Holmes walked into Century movie theater in Aurora, CO., and opened fire.  12 people were killed, over 50 injured.

It didn’t take long for #Aurora to start trending worldwide on Twitter.

Celeb Boutique original tweet6000 miles and 7 time zones away, in England, Celeb Boutique caught sigh of the word ‘Aurora’.  Not yet being familiar with the shooting, they sent out a tweet offering the view that the trend must surely be related to their Kim Kardashian inspired ‘Aurora’ dress.  Which begs the question, is that stupid or is it just a legitimate mistake?

Well, I guess it’s a legitimate mistake if you hand your social media over to an idiot.  But if you’re actually paying someone to manage it for you it’s inexcusable, because you have a right to expect professionalism.

Celeb Boutique streamWithin a few hours, it had been retweeted over 1,000 times and the comments were coming in thick and fast at which point Celeb Boutuque did 3 things.

They apologized.

They retweeted about how excited they were about the weekend.

Then they apologized again.

To be honest, I find the ‘Fabulous Friday’ tweet as bad as the original one.

Celeb Boutique saw that there was a problem, issued and apology and then moved straight on to retweet their excitement about plans for the weekend, before going on to apologize again, and again, and again.

The implication of this seems to be that their initial apology was something of a perfunctory response, and the retweet was sent out before they really got to grips with the strength of reaction their original tweet had caused.

celeb-boutique-profileThat aside, Celeb Boutique’s response when they found out how dumb they’d been was, I believe, sensitive, complete and sincere.  They appeared to be genuinely sorry, and I do sometimes find the way that the holier-than-thou crowd turn into internet bullies somewhat sickening.

However, the fact remains that sending out a marketing tweet on the basis of a trending topic that you haven’t even bothered to investigate for 30 seconds is intensely dumb, almost as bad in fact as Kenneth Cole’s #cairo blunder last year.  Almost.  Cole’s was unforgiveable.

Sensitivity is one of the key skills that should be expected of anyone working in communications.  I sometimes make poor decisions as well.  We all do.  But thinking about what you say in advance of actually saying it is always time well spent.  For instance, when thinking of a title for today’s blog, I mulled over a number of euphemisms for ‘acting without thinking’.  One of the first that came to mind was an observation about how unwise it is to shoot from the hip.  In view of the subject of today’s blog, that particular headline was discarded pretty quickly.

Celeb Boutique makes my Top 3 fails of the year.

 

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Social Media Fail #4: The IOC and the Forty Thieves

Ellie Arroway

#NBCfail – Decision to delay Olympics until Prime Time was infuriating.

Back in August, when after a delay of about 5 hours I finally got to see Usain Bolt win the Olympic 100m, I mocked-up this picture as a means of expressing my extreme annoyance with NBC for their thoroughly aggravating decision to tape delay broadcast of key Olympic events so that advertisers had the benefit of prime time TV ratings.

Every other nation under the sun gets the Olympics live, but U.S. viewers had to wait.  I have spent many years in advertising and I understand commercial realities very well, but that doesn’t make it any more palatable to have to choose between either watching the biggest sporting event in my hometown’s history on a choppy live stream, or watching on TV after a wait of several hours.

Also in August, I wrote a long blog post about how I had struggled to buy any of the Team GB merchandise that their twitter stream was constantly encouraging us to buy.  Apparently, licensing agreements don’t take account of Brits living outside Britain.  If I live in the US, I can buy TeamUSA and….that’s it.  I supported TeamUSA pretty much throughout the Olympics but, when all’s said and done, I’m a Brit.

Having already moaned online about those two commercially motivated pet peeves, I guess you’d have thought that, if I had a commercial ax to grind about the Olympics I’d have covered it already.  Well, think again.

The most annoying thing about the manner in which commercial arrangements at the Olympics seemed to be more self-serving that they should have been didn’t even impact me directly.  It did however impact the athletes.

Way back in the mists of time, the IOC in its wisdom published ‘Rule 40’.  It was a sensible rule, designed to maintain (to as great a degree as possible) the idea that the athletes should compete for the glory of sport and of international relations rather than for any shallow commercial reasons.

Abrahams (l) and Lindsay in Chariots of Fire (1981)

Harold Abrahams (l) and Lord Andrew Lindsay compete in the
‘Trinity Great Court Run’ in the film Chariots of Fire (1981)

In preparing for the Paris Olympics of 1924, British hurdler Lord Lindsay practiced by placing glasses of champagne on hurdles, which he then tried to “brush but not spill” as he practiced.  But those days have gone.

In their place, we have a world ushered in by another 1924 athlete, Harold Abrahams, the first high profile British athlete to hire a professional coach to help him prepare, and for which he came under a significant degree of pressure at the time.  Those who have seen the film Chariots of Fire will of course be familiar with this story.

Fast forward some 90 years to London 2012.  With very few exceptions, almost every athlete at the games is reliant to a greater or lesser extent on commercial sponsorship.  And while it is true that a small percentage of the athletes in London will have made a small fortune over the years through their success in a high profile discipline, the majority will train just as hard, practice just as long, and prepare just as much, and will do so on a shoestring budget.

For many sportsmen and women around the world, and particularly in the U.S. where competition is so fierce and funding from the USOC is nonexistent, qualifying for the Olympics is the crowning glory of their career.  Most will compete with dreams of making the final, winning a medal, but without any real hope.  So what makes them do it when the cost is so high and the possible agony of defeat so real?

In most cases it is the belief, the determination, and even the sheer bloody-mindedness that on the day, irrespective of past results or personal bests they will somehow find it within themselves to produce something superhuman.  And it is the hours that they put in on the practice field, in the gym or on the track that gives substance to this dream.

Without their sponsors, their endorsements, their commercial relationships they would have no hope because they would not be there, unable to devote such a massive amount of their time and effort to chasing something so virtually unattainable.

The sponsors, in return for the support they give, ask for commercial exposure.  In the case of most sponsors, athletes are not allowed to display logos on their uniforms, or suits, or other equipment, so they have to try to live up to their end of the bargain in other ways.  And in London, that is the point at which Rule 40 slapped them in the face.

Nick SymmondsAmongst other things, Rule 40 effectively prohibited them from mentioning their sponsors on Social Media, except if that sponsor was an official partner of the 2012 games.  Some got around it with a bit of creativity of course, but for the most part the gag was effective and total.

Visa was a London 2012 sponsor, but if an athlete had been sponsored by MasterCard they couldn’t mention it.  Reebok sponsored London 2012 as well, so if you were sponsored by Nike, fuggeddaboutit.

A number of high profile Olympians, notably 800m finalist Nick Symmonds and 400m Gold Medalist Sanya Richards-Ross, were very active in pushing the envelope, and indeed pushing the case for Rule 40 to be at very least re-examined.  And their voices were not alone.

The hashtags #Rule40 and #WeDemandChange got significant exposure during and immediately after the Olympics, but as far as I can tell it has now largely been forgotten.  It will undoubtedly resurface sometime between now and Rio 2016 and, when it does, I hope the IOC take a more reasonable approach than they did in London.

Everyone with an once of common sense will appreciate that the Olympic Games is now a commercial venue as much as a sporting one, and that the money generated by official sponsorship is critical to a well run global event.  But a wholesale ban such as that enshrined in Rule 40 is unjust.  There has to be some middle ground and the IOC should step up to the plate and discuss this issue with a view to resolving it satisfactorily well in advance of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

In the meantime, the IOC’s intransigence means it makes my list of the top Social Media Fails of 2012.

 

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Social Media Fail #5: McDouble Meaning

McDonalds Golden ArchesNext up, one of the earliest and highest profile fails of the year. In all honesty I’m not sure that it merited the number of column inches it received, but it does serve as an illustration of a particular pitfall that marketers need to remain aware of when generating hashtags.

On January 18, McDonalds launched a 24 hour campaign to insert promoted tweets into twitter users’ streams.

The campaign started uneventfully using the hashtag #meetthefarmers, which ran for the first couple of hours.  Then, McDonalds started the campaign’s second hashtag with the tweet  “When u make something w/ pride, people can taste it.” – McD potato supplier #McDstories.

Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 9.15.09 AM

McDonalds only used the hashtag twice but, unlike #meetthefarmers, #McDstories was sufficiently ambiguous to invite the negative as well as the positive and in this case, while limited to a relatively low percentage of total tweets (2%, according to McDonalds Director of Social Media, Rick Wion), the negative side seems to have gotten the upper hand.

Various tweetsWithin the first hour, the Social Media team at McDonalds had noticed that something was going wrong, with negative tweets coming thick and fast.  Some were just poking fun, but others shared negative experiences while a few can only be described as highly unpleasant.

Wion stated that it’s inevitable that both “fans and detractors will chime in”.  This appears to be particularly true in a fast-paced retail environment where a brand is accessed hundreds of thousands of times every day, and the opportunities for poor standards, poor service, or poor product experience are therefore commensurately amplified.

PETA logoBut of course it is also true that where a brand has a known political football in play, any opportunities for brand detractors to make hay while the sun shines are pounced upon very quickly, and in this case the primary pouncer was PETA.   Using McDstories as a convenient portal via which to share their concerns, the pressure group tweeted their accusations about McDonalds meat handling / recovery practices.  This charge is not exactly breaking news – PETA have been pushing it at McDonalds for a long time and there are, I would imagine, a selection of defenses (all carefully worded and cleared with legal) that McDonalds executives and marketers can use at any given moment as the occasion merits.

McD to PETAThe PETA accusation actually appears to be the only criticism that McDonalds decided to respond to with a tweet, the other stories presumably being considered either anecdotal or simply mischief making, and that a response giving them the oxygen of further exposure was a less attractive option to allowing them to expire slowly and quietly in a vacuum of inattention.

Within a matter of a couple of hours, McDonalds had abandoned #McDstories and had gone back to promoting #meetthefarmers, with a result that negative tweets dissipated in fairly short order.

Rick Wion

Rick Wion, McDonalds Director of Social Media

I personally think that Wion’s response to the backlash was both swift and sure-handed, and it rather surprises me that #McFail became such a big story.

However, there is a lesson that can be learned and it relates to selection of hashtags.  #McDstories is not the only time that we have seen a hashtag with a potentially ambiguous meaning being hijacked.  In fact, even those that could be considered to be positive expressions, such as #spreadthecheer (see my #10 fail of 2012) or #quantasluxury, are capable of being misappropriated.

And while a company in crisis is likely to see any communications misapplied or misrepresented because the public is actively looking for something to kick, those companies who are not in crisis mode still need to take care that they do not invite a mischievous punch on the nose by promoting a hashtag that is capable of supporting the negative as much as the positive.

 

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Social Media Fail #6: The Butt of the Joke

Britain's Got Talent logo

BGT – 2013 will be the show’s 7th season

Susan Boyle is pretty well known, not just in Britain but in America as well.  Since April 2009 when she debuted on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, singing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from Les Miserables, she has gone on to produce several hit albums and has amassed a fortune approaching $50m.

Her debut album, also also called ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ and released in 2009 is Britain’s best-selling album of all time.  It was also nominated for a Grammy, as indeed was her 2010 follow-up album, ‘The Gift’.

Her success on BGT also received attention due to the marked and clearly visible difference in public reaction between Boyle’s audition when she first appeared on stage and that at the audition of Paul Potts the previous year.  Potts was a relatively plain looking middle-aged man, Boyle a relatively plain looking middle-aged woman.  But the audience were significantly more hostile towards Boyle before she even sang a note than they were to Paul Potts.

Susan Boyle Standing Ovation

Standing Ovation, Susan Boyle’s 4th Album, the subject of an unfortunate party invitation

However, Boyle has now reached a level of personal success where she can afford laugh at those things that a few years ago might have been desperately hurtful…..such as the manner in which her PR Team chose to promote her new 2012 album on Twitter.  Entitled ‘Standing Ovation:  The Greatest Songs from the Stage’ the album was released November 13 and, as part of the pre-release promotion activity, a Q&A session and “album listening party” was planned.  This was, quite naturally, promoted to her thousands of followers on Twitter.

Unfortunately, the hashtag chosen for the event was capable of being misread, and “Susan Album Party” became #susanalbumparty.  Despite her twitter team hastily changing the hashtag to #SusanBoyleAlbumParty, the damage had been done, the twitterverse exploded with laughter and #susanalbumparty trended without delay.

It has been speculated that this was a deliberate ploy from Ms Boyle’s marketing team, but the fact that they did not respond to questions and changed it so quickly leads me to believe that it was a snafu.  However, there can be little doubt that the tweet reached many people that it ordinarily would not have reached, including me.

In the meantime, Ms. Boyle probably laughed all the way to the bank, particularly in view of the fact that, just days after the hashtag gaffe, it was announced that Fox Searchlight have bought the rights to her story and plan a biopic in 2013.

WonderlandMag tweetLesson:  Our language has become increasingly mangled by urban sayings, littered with acronyms and abbreviations to allow it to conform with format requirements.  Content managers and marketers need to read and re-read anything that does not use proper punctuation to make sure they’re not setting themselves up for 15 minutes of infamy.  With hashtags, use upper case characters to clarify meaning if needed.  And when someone tells you that punctuation does not matter, explain to them how in the modern world it matters more than ever before.

 

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Social Media Fail #7: Chick Fail – A

Abby Farle Shutterstock pictureA very quick blog today, since it’s Christmas.  What made me promise to do this every day until new year I’ll never know.

There are probably plenty of folks who remember the Chick-fil-A social media meltdown that was kicked off in June this year when President and COO of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, was interviewed on the talk radio ”Ken Coleman Show’.

During the course of the interview, Cathy said “I think we are inviting God’s judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘We know better than you what constitutes a marriage’.  I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about”.

This and other statements by Cathy provoked a furious backlash from the LGBT community, politicians, and indeed a significant chunk of the general population.  And of course another significant chunk of the population defended either his position or his right to express such a position.

I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of this, but there was a particularly interesting element to this particular furore.

Jim Henson, a well known supporter of gay rights, made the decision that in light of Chick-fil-A’s stance, he could no longer in good conscience continue the commercial relationship that had seen Pajanimals toys given away with kids meals since 2011.  Chick-fil-A withdrew the toys claiming safety concerns.  Strange coincidence, but whatever.

ChrisThe really interesting bit was when a character called ‘Chris’ posted the following to Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page: “Admit it Chick-fil-A: You stopped carrying Jim Henson’s puppets as kids meal toys because you got dumped for being bigots, not because some kids “got their fingers stuck”.

Out of the blue, a response came from someone called Abby Farle: “it was taken back weeks before any of this…check your info Chris…John 3:16.”

RobertA brief exchange with Chris then ensued but then, two hours later, in stepped Robert.  Robert had clicked on Abby’s profile.  Robert had found out that Abby had only joined Facebook that day and suggested that Abby Farle was the nom de plume of a Chick-fil-A PR.  Robert then noticed that Abby’s profile image had a ‘Shutterstock’ watermark on it.  Robert went to shutter stock, found the image titled “Pretty Redhead Teenager” and linked it to the Facebook post with a comment that said “FYI:  Busted.  You f****** moron.

One of the things we know about sharks is that they tend to gather where there is blood in the water, and this single Facebook post became a feeding frenzy.  It was carried across multiple media, was the subject of some very funny memes and became almost as big a story as Dan Cathy’s original statement.

OfferChick-fil-A of course denied having anything to do with Abby Farle and, to my knowledge, she has never been proved to be a PR plant. On the other hand it has never been proved that she wasn’t either.

Now, people will speculate as they see fit, but in amongst all the memes was one little nugget of a comment that seems to add veracity to the suspicion that she was a plant.  Buried among all the comments following Chick-fil-A’s denial on their Facebook page was a comment suggesting that Chick-fil-A reward her if she comes forward to prove she’s a real person.

We’re still waiting.

Douglas Adams

Adams – truth is stranger than fiction

Lesson:  In his book ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, Douglas Adams tells us that “Space is big.  Really big.  You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.  I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s but that’s just peanuts to space.”

And the same is true of the internet.  Never think, even for a second, if you tell a little white lie, that there isn’t someone out there among the millions and millions of interwebbers that doesn’t have the time, the knowledge, the inclination or the sheer bloody mindedness to trip you up.  In public.  With highly embarrassing consequences.

Merry Christmas everybody.

 
 

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