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Beth  Nunnington, Senior Account Manager

The author

Beth Nunnington

Senior Account Manager

Social media can be one of the most effective tools in marketing; bringing people together, building brand visibility and engaging with customers in a meaningful way. But used incorrectly, it can ruin absolutely everything…

It happens to all social media marketers at some point – posting something that receives an unexpectedly negative response. But there are a certain few who screw up so monumentally that it can be difficult to undo the damage.

A key part of any social strategy is looking at current events and seeing how you can subtly incorporate them to increase engagement. The following tweets failed to understand this entirely… 

Following the mass shooting that killed 12 people in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado:

 

During the riots in Cairo against the nearly 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak and associated government corruption:

 

And of course there are campaigns which ask the public to interact with them in a meaningful way, without remembering that the general public can be a cynical and cruel-humoured beast. 

For example, in January 2012, McDonalds launched a campaign to encourage users to tell of their own stories about McDonalds, likely hoping for admirable, funny and shareable sentiments.

Unfortunately, the actual reaction was somewhere along the lines of this, and a very important marketing lesson was learned:

 

2. When it’s used as a news source

According to the internet, actor Jeff Goldblum has died approximately seven times. Now, unless we are to take Mr Goldblum as a modern-day Lazarus, this kind of mis-information is rife on the web, as are endless ‘RIP Celebrity Name’ groups on Facebook. 

You would expect news organisations to fully research such claims before covering them, butas evidenced by the Today Show in 2009, sometimes social media is reported on with little fact-checking.

Even wildly ridiculous stories have been embraced by major news corporations due to their popularity within the social landscape, such as ‘LAPD Plans to Spend $1 Billion on Jet Packs for Officers’, ‘New York Stock Exchange Under Three Feet of Water’ and perhaps most infamously ‘Lion Mutilates 42 Midgets in Cambodian Ring Fight’.

So, what is it that fools these news outlets? According to a study by Saarland University, it is thought “a rumor started at a random node of the Twitter network in average reaches 45.6 million of the total of 51.2 million members within only eight rounds of communication”. When you then factor in the ease of accessing this information for journalists, it is a haven for potential stories.

Paul LaRosa, a CBS News producer, states, “When a big crime story happens now, every reporter and producer attacks Facebook for information and sources. It’s the first thing we do, and everybody does it.” 

Remember, kids (and newsrooms), don’t believe everything you read.

 

3. Your personal life is on show

Whilst many think of Facebook and Twitter as their personal diary in which to vent about their lives, all too often do they forget that this is all on show to more people than just their friends.

There are way too many stories of people revealing too much on social media to tell them all, so I present to you a quick rundown of the most notable (and yes, these are all real – I checked!)

 

 

4. It can kill you

You might not think that wiling the hours away on Facebook and Twitter could be a pathway to your death, but it actually turns out there are a few ways that social networks can end your life prematurely.

Naturally, the tabloids have already stated that social media can increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, strokes and dementia. Additionally, the effect of socialising via the web has led to a spike in Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), a widely recognised disorder. 

Unfortunately, there’s a darker side to this, where the desire to constantly share updates and impress friends puts users into dangerous situations. Whether it’s death by ‘planking’ or updating your status while driving, the allure of social media can be a deadly one.

Both of these updates were posted minutes before the user crashed:

 

 

And finally, there’s this depressing list of people killed because of social media updates… 

 

Like any new technology used wrongly, poor social media practices can cause an array of problems, but ultimately it is a benefit to society, and we can only learn from the mistakes of others.

Whether it’s allowing us to keep in touch with friends and family, documenting our lives or showing that real people work behind brands, the internet is becoming an inherently more social place.

And lest we forget that a marketing team thought to promote an upcoming album from Susan Boyle with the unfortunate hashtag #susanalbumparty.