The social media landscape is always changing. It is constantly disrupted by new players, new memes and the ever evolving whims of users. That means there are very few hard and fast rules to cling to. However, if we have learned anything from the social media gaffs of 2016, it is that there are at least 5 rules you can never break.
Rule 1. Do your research.
Coca-Cola and DC Comics learned this the hard way. Coke ran an advertising campaign in Russia using a contested map that did not include all of the territory currently claimed by Russia. This led to a social media backlash that included thousands of photos of Russians pouring Coke down the toilet.
DC Comics made the mistake of thinking people who lived in Pakistan spoke “Pakistanian”, they speak Urdu. This did not go over well with many fans.
Rule 2. Using race to sell a product or make a joke is a bad idea.
Soul Secret ran the unfortunate social media campaign, “White makes you win”. The makers of skin lightening products were on the receiving end of a very angry social media storm. The campaign was a flop and now they are a cautionary tale.
MTV Australia is another culprit of racially insensitive behaviour. They tweeted asking why America Ferrera and Eva Longoria were not subtitled at the Golden Globes. While the tweet was meant as a joke, it was in very poor taste. Both actresses were born in the USA and speak perfect English.
Rule 3. Be very careful who you allow on your social media.
The US Justice Department tweeted that CNN, a major news outlet, was “the biggest troll of them all”. This tweet was meant to go out on the private twitter account of a Justice Department employee. Unfortunately, the employee did not realise they were signed in as their company. The tweet was quickly deleted but it looked very unprofessional.
Rule 4. Stay out of peoples bedrooms.
The Italian Ministry of Health launched a campaign to try to encourage women to get pregnant on September 22. The idea was to shore up the countries declining birth rate. Many people objected to a government trying to interject itself into the very personal decision of having a baby. It also did not help that one of the campaigns slogans was “Beauty knows no age. Fertility does.”
Rule 5. Never underestimate the power and determination of the troll.
2016 has been full of examples of trolls hijacking legitimate social media. One such example is Microsoft’s chatbot. The bot, named Tay, was designed to learn by talking to other twitter users. Trolls realised they could abuse the bot and quickly started tweeting misogynist, racist, anti-Semitic and other abusive things at the bot. The bot learned this and began repeating it, turning an innocent creation into a monster.
Another great example is the tale of Boaty McBoatface. The UK ran a very public campaign to get people to vote on the name of a new polar research ship. When someone jokingly suggested the name Boaty McBoatface, social media was on board. The name won in a landslide and the UK Science Minister had to step in and override the public vote.
While these rules will not completely protect you from all the social media pitfalls, they will help you prevent some of the worst mistakes. If you are interested in working with a professional social media marketing company, contact us today.