Thursday, November 4, 2010

Biggest Social Media Marketing Blunders in 2010

Many consider 2010 to be the year of "social media." It is also the year that many large corporations had major social media blunders. Some were the result of over reaction to social media attacks by organizations like Greenpeace (see the NestlĂ© case study below). In addition, Greenpeace effectively used Dove's own social media marketing campaign against them to pressure the parent company Unilever to reduce the use of palm oil from Indonesia, which destroys the rain forest (details below). Other corporations needed no help in shooting themselves in the foot. Perhaps the biggest social media disaster (not to mention ecological disaster) in 2010 was BP (British Petroleum) botched social media and search engine marketing campaigns in reaction to their massive oil spill in the Gulf. Imagine asking for help using social media platforms like YouTube, then turning off the comment feature! Naturally, the social Web did not take these types of patent attempts at manipulation laying down (for more, read "The Counter BP Social Media Campaign"). 

Of course, P&G’s PR response to the backlash against the introduction of a new Pamper diaper that may cause rashes is the quintessential example of breaking the Prime Directive of social media marketing: be honest and transparent. In an attempt to quash the panic about the new diaper, P&G "recruited" four influential "mommy bloggers" with a trip to Cincinnati to meet with company experts for a briefing, and then these new advocates for the product started blogging positive reviews, without being completely transparent about their compensation. Indeed, these bloggers may be violating Federal Trade Commission (FTC) laws regarding endorsements and testimonials. Worse yet, it appears that some of the posts may have been written for them to nothing more than well crafted propaganda. 

Even Southwest Airlines, known for its social media savvy, got taste of what happens when you of lapse in customer service in throwing celebrity Kevin Smith off a plane for being too fat to fly in one seat. Smith's Tweets about the incident were not only widely read and hilarious, but a PR nightmare for the airlines (see last link for the scoop).

To learn more about some of the bigger social media marketing blunders of 2010, check out these resources:


  1. I liked reading this very much, and it was definitely a good post. I realize also, that you are probably trying to make some money from this blog through the use of foreign site links. The result, however, confused me somewhat. What exactly are the things to avoid and, in your words, the biggest blunders of social media marketing? here's what I understand:
    -Don't throw celebrities off planes.
    -Make sure any hired advocates for your product are convincing, rather than appearing to be propaganda.
    -Don't make any political enemies that can publicly hurt you.
    While these are all well and good, this post doesn't really explain how to do any of those things. As a reader, I'd appreciate if you could include some more detail in the future.

    Thank you,
    David Kappele

  2. Hi David,

    Glad you found this information of value. We can often learn more from failures than successes. ;-)

  3. I enjoyed reading your article very much. The information was awesome and you did a great job relating social media to current news stories and events. As I read the article I learned how BP did a horrible job at their marketing and search engine campaigns.
    How do these attacks affect these companies? All of the companies that you mentioned in your article are still going strong. Do you feel that the public has a strong enough pull through social sites, to influence peers one way or another? Are the reviews truly valued by other readers?
    Thank you,
    Tyler Owens

  4. Melissa,
    First off I wanted to ask if you were related to Charlene Barker? I was extremely curious! I viewed the above links about the top SMM blunders of 2010. I was surprised to see that GAP was on this list, because they are such a reputable brand. I did not know of the logo change until I read this, and I couldn't believe it! It is odd that GAP, being such a constant for so many years, has attempted to in a way scam people to help design their new logo.

    Logo designers and graphic artists seemed to be inclined to what was going on, and are not willing to work for free. I could imagine that they would also be somewhat baffled at why such a large and reputable company would succumb to such low standards for their ever constant logo. The prototype logo that was posted on their website was horrific! I believe that if the GAP is going to revamp their 20 year, unchanged logo, then they need to cough up the cash for the right designer.

    Kaelyn Richner

  5. Melissa,
    When major companies come under attack by bloggers, what are some remedies they can do to restore their image and snuff the attacks? It is always hard to have to apologize for making a mistake and even harder when it seems that large companies always have a target on them. I read the article about the mommy bloggers that bashed and degraded the diapers that Pampers introduced; the article made it to the Wall Street Journal. Is it fair to companies that are trying to make good and safe products to be attacked so brashly by a few slighted individuals? As I said before, once a slighted individual posts a negative blog about a company, everyone is more than happy to attack the large company because they are the bad guys that make all the money. In reality, they are the best companies in the market and are the ones that have provided such good quality products in the past, isn’t that why they are some of the most dominating companies in the industry, respectively?
    When I read negative posts that people blog about certain companies actions it’s really rather disheartening. I work for a Toyota dealer, when Toyota first was accused of making an unsafe car, the media literally tried to destroy Toyota’s reputation. They viscously attacked the company with virtually no proof of any incidents that Toyota violated. The media took on an overly aggressive assumption that the company built an unsafe vehicle and the media firestorm grew exponentially. So the biggest question that I ask is is it fair to assume that a few slighted people should have majority right in their claims to what they think and have the rest of us believe them and the companies they attack suffer? Would it be safe for Kevin Smith to fly in a plane where he doesn’t fit, or should he take on lifestyle changes? Do any of us believe that Pampers never tested their diapers, or did a few kids have a reaction? My biggest issue here is that there is not an equality of power because people assume corporations are out to get them and therefore people will blindly follow the ones with the loudest protest.
    Sieg Fichte

  6. This was a great post!I used to work for Coke and saw there competiton like Pepsi try to degrade them often! What I found out though was that Coke didn't mind, in fact they looked at it as free advertising! They often would put pictures of coke and their products on commercials or You Tube and the Coke brand was then marketed. This to me would be a marketing blunder.

    However, I would have to agree somewhat with David above. Your post indicates the blunders of 2010, but what do you think are some of the things to avoid? What do you think these companies could have done differently?

    Anthony Pfau

  7. Melissa, thank you for your wonderful article on Social Media Marketing Blunders. This seems to be what either already is, or will soon become a major component of a business's marketing plan, and it will also play a huge roll in their public relations as well. Your information opened my eyes to the truth in this.

    I followed the link to the "Lessons Learned from the Nestle Social Media Crisis". The tips for handling an online social media crisis were intelligent & tactful; in an online community, I think because we don't SEE or HEAR the people we are communicating with, it's easy to get carried away with defensiveness and blow a situation out of proportion, when you probably wouldn't handle it that way in a face to face situation.

    Thank you for sharing this information, and the links to the additional articles with us all.

    Darcey Turner

  8. A company should have a clear set of goals in place before engaging with consumers in different types of media platforms just as a company has goals by which they operate. Once the goals have been established, the networks used for socializing should be monitored on a regular basis. Responses should be made by trained staff members in a quick and professional manner.

    I found your post to be thought provoking Melissa. Businesses that use social media platforms can learn a great deal from the many blunders made by others in 2010.

    Annette Grant

  9. Facebook, youtube, and myspace is a great way to get out information about your company or to get the word out of something new. These three things have become very popular and millions of people are using them. Seveal people use facebook and myspace to communicate. I good way to get advertisement out on your company would be to make a video on the unique thing that are at you work place. When making a video you should uses proper editing to make a well advertised video. By having this it will help your business go and become better known.

    Using facebook and myspace to get out the word out about your company is a great idea because there are alot of people look on the internet through these sites to find company information. by being facebook or myspace friendly it will great help you get known as well. with the use of these three things you can get you business out there and known.

    -Trever Anderson

  10. Sieg, I find your comment interesting. It skirts a line between common sense and personal rights at some points, ( "Would it be safe for Kevin Smith to fly in a plane where he doesn’t fit, or should he take on lifestyle changes? ") and it also shows the viscous circle that we create for ourselves.
    You wrote: "they are the best companies in the market and are the ones that have provided such good quality products in the past, isn’t that why they are some of the most dominating companies in the industry, respectively?" Yes they do put out wonderful, high quality products and WE buy them, making those companies as powerful as they are. And yet when an accusation gets made against that same company, some of us circle it like a shark to blood and attack en masse. ("there is not an equality of power because people assume corporations are out to get them and therefore people will blindly follow the ones with the loudest protest.") I believe it is this continuous love/hate type relationship that has created strife between people, communities, religions, businesses & governments throughout the world.

    Darcey Turner

  11. I agree with you Darcey; when we are not looking right at the person we are communicating with we can have a tendency not to act in a civil manner, especially when we are upset.

    Annette Grant

  12. Its pretty unbelievable that BP who is responsible for the worst oil spill ever launched an aggressive social media campaign that includes Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flicker. Especially the fact that they don't allow any comments from people who don't support them or who don't like them. It seems like the concept is going against everything that these social media cites offer which is open communication and discussion and feedback.

    Its amazing that they are even allowed to spend millions on advertising to rehabilitate its image to make sure that they " do everything we can so this never happens again"? Give me a break! It couldn't have been said any better that they should be spending millions to rehabilitate the Gulf. Bottom line in my opinion is that there is no amount of money or advertising that can ever repair the damage that has been done and they should be forced to pay all the businesses and families and wild life organizations with the money they are using for rebuilding their image.

    Damien Ramirez

  13. Hi Damien,

    You make a great point--the money could have been better spent on actually cleaning up the mess than trying to convince people of their good intentions.

  14. The social media network reaches out to many people corporations need to be wary if they want to continue to succeed and prosper in these tight times. Policy decisions should usually side with the customer. Perception is everything and if a customer feels that they have been wronged then they will tell everyone they know not to buy from that company (I always do).
    I was very unwise of southwest airlines to get into any kind of altercation with anyone let alone a mid-level celebrity of an airline for being a bit too thick in the waistline is a far cry from a good public image. This article has the appropriate links to continue research on any of these stories. Also, this article was written quickly and made easy to understand.
    Michael Arnold

  15. The idea that any marketing agency or department would underestimate the strength of the internet or the ability of the social media network and how many people it can target and affect is not up to speed in their area of expertise.
    It seems to me that in this day of youtube videos, facebook entries and twitter participants and their ability to go viral and direct public opinion, as a public relation or marketing professional, I would have my finger on the pulse of all of these sites at all times. I would have a company site on facebook where customers could let me know what we were doing right and where we have our challenges.
    I wonder how much damage Amazon could of avoided recently by utilizing the social media network, ironically being a company that is a product of the internet.
    Thank you for you though provoking posts.
    John O'Brien

  16. Melissa:

    Funny looking lemmings, oh I am sorry they are sheep. I did not know sheep jumped off of cliffs - hee, hee.

    What further compounded P&G's blunder was the timing of Kimberly Clark and Huggies coming out a week or two later with their Mommy Inspired Grant, a great use of social media, soliciting open innovation from your community.

    I am in the food business. It never ceases to amaze me how poorly some chain restaurants handle complaints re: food or service. Who is training their people or are they being trained at all?


  17. Hi Jimmy,

    You make an excellent point about the Mommy Inspired Grant.

    It sounds like in the food business, people simply aren't being trained how to handle criticism.

    Thanks for the comment!


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