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For every great social media marketing achievement like Oreo, there are even more social media fails than you can count.

Not even the big, corporate brands are immune to these follies. We’ve seen brands like DiGiorno, McDonalds and Starbucks make complete asses of themselves over social media.

Personally, I always get a kick out of these kinds of gaffes. A little bit of cringe? Sure. But, mostly joy. In fact, the German language – being the beautiful language that it is – has a word for this exact feeling: schadenfreude.

It’s very easy to take these social media fails at face value, have a good laugh and then move on. As a business, however, there are tremendous learning opportunities you could be overlooking here. After all, learning from mistakes (hopefully others’) is a keystone of business success.

So, without further ado, here is a small sampling of some big social media fails. Some, obviously, are worse than others, so we’ll go in order of increasing severity. Feel free to laugh and/or cringe at their misery while you consider the lesson each one has to offer.

Delta Air Lines’ World Cup tweet

The Post:

delta giraffes

It’s not unusual for companies to take advantage of major events to try and draw attention on social media. Heck, many have done something similar in the past. Olympics, Super Bowl even holidays are great times to tie your business together with something everyone is talking about.

In this case, Delta Air Lines tried to get in on the popularity of the United States men’s national soccer team run in the 2014 World Cup. Delta posted this after the Team U.S.A. scored a goal against Ghana. Seems like an okay post, right? The graphic is solid. Delta offers service to over 300 destinations in 58 countries (including Ghana) so there is a good connection. 

So, what’s so wrong with it? Well, soon after this was posted the good people of the Internet were kind enough to remind Delta that giraffes are not native to Ghana. See, says so right here on this headache-inducing tourism website. Delta deleted the tweet and apologized, but the damage was already done.

The Lesson:

This may not be the most outrageous social media failure ever, but it is still a good reminder on the importance of doing one’s homework.

Social media is often seen as this free wheeling, off-the-cuff marketing tool. In some cases, spontaneous social media interaction yields great results. But even so, it requires thought, research and, even if you have a “social media person,” the importance of having someone check your work.

Name another area of your marketing you would move forward with without doing any research or having another set of eyes go over. None. So why should social media be any different?

Blackberry advertises a competitor

The Post:

blackberry iphone

This may be what the kids call a “no-brainer”, but can we all agree that it generally is a bad idea to promote your competitors?

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, you should be able to tell pretty easily why this Instagram post from BlackBerry is bad news. The text at the bottom shows that whoever inside BlackBerry posted this tweet did so from an iPhone. Besides the fact that not long before that, BlackBerry Creative Director and celebrity sponsor Alicia Keys tweeted from an iPhone, a post like this kills all credibility in your organization. 

If the people that work for you don’t even believe in your product, why should we?

The Lesson:

The big take away here is if your business is going to engage in social media it is important that whoever you put in charge actually understands social media. Whether you do social media in-house or use a marketing company, you need to monitor not only what you say but understand each individual platform you interact on.

Social media isn’t the only area this can occur either. One common blog post type is a roundup, where you grab relevant articles and link to them throughout a post. We do these kinds of posts with recipes for many of our food clients, including Randall Beans. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to link to a recipe that was sponsored by a competing bean producer? 

Live Nation forgets about scheduled post

The Post:

radiohead live nation

In 2012, the band Radiohead was scheduled to play a show in Toronto. Tragedy struck earlier that day during set up when the stage collapsed leaving one dead and several injured. Obviously, the show was immediately cancelled. Live Nation Ontario was quick enough on the draw to send out a tweet reporting the cancellation of the show. But, they forgot one crucial detail.

Not 30 minutes later, a previously scheduled tweet was sent out encouraging people to take pictures of that evening’s previously scheduled show and share with a hashtag. Due to the severity of the incident, once again the good people of the Internet made a point to voice their displeasure of the insensitivity displayed by Live Nation.

Even if the reason for the cancellation wasn’t particularly tragic, this would still be an embarrassing moment. The whole situation and backlash was a serious black eye for the company.

The Lesson:

Social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite are great. They can help you get ahead of the game on social media and help take some pressure off your shoulders by scheduling posts weeks and even months in advance. But, over reliance on these kinds of tools can get you in trouble. 

Just because you can schedule in advance does not give you a free pass to “set it and forget it.” Your social media needs to be constantly monitored, judged and adjusted. This is an exceptionally bad example, but other small, more harmless posts can still lead to embarrassment. 

For example, how foolish would you feel for scheduling a post weeks in advance about going out and enjoying the sunshine on the first day of summer, only for it to be pouring down rain the day it goes out?

Want to avoid making similar social media fails? Make sure you understand the basics of social media.

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