5 big-business social media ‘fails’

A haughty tone and an addiction to misleading metrics are just two ways that major corporations mishandle these very human, highly interactive channels.


In many ways, global corporations are the biggest and the best. They have the financial resources to become leaders in emerging technologies, can roll out a product globally at high speed, and set new standards in high-priced marketing and advertising.

So why can’t they can’t master social media?

To help the big guys out, here are five big-business social media “fails” and accordant remedies:

1. Bigwig voice

Just because a company’s corporate image is buttoned up in suits with slick haircuts and $300 shoes doesn’t mean the social assets should look that way. Lose the arrogance, be approachable, and humanize the brand. It’s really that simple.

In using intrinsically human platforms, there is no room for the corporate tone if you’re trying to build relationships with people. One solution for creating an authentic voice is to check with the social managers for the brand and let their personalities shine through.

After all, what represents a brand better than employees who are passionate about it? Corporate leaders need to learn to trust the management of their social voice the same way they trust the management of the company’s reputation to public relations professionals and analyst relations to their investor relations pros.

It’s time the corporate world recognizes that social media is an important avenue for engaging with customers and should be taken seriously.

2. Social diaspora

Time and time again, Acme Global Brands launches a new feel-good campaign, so it starts a new Facebook page. The skewed logic of this strategy is confounding.

The brand reps are trying to build engagement with consumers, but they drive them to a location separate from the brand. It’s foolish. There are only a handful of scenarios where starting a campaign identity as a new asset is appropriate, yet this is the chosen strategy for most large businesses.

Aside from mixing in campaigns to regular messaging, there are numerous ways to run campaigns through current assets, such as Facebook tabs, YouTube playlists, etc.

3. “Like” me

Forced engagement has to be the biggest turnoff in the social environment. If your company needs to remind people to “like” it, share, comment, or RT, you’re doing it wrong.

The content should be strong enough to evoke engagement without your begging for it. If you look at the top 10 brand posts for August 2012, it’s clear that businesses are abusing this tactic constantly.

So, why are these ranked as the top 10 posts if they are requesting “likes”? It’s because the content is strong enough to overcome this tactics. Unfortunately, those analyzing this data are misinterpreting the request for “likes” as the reason for the success of the post, but in reality, it’s because the content is strong.

4. The numbers

This ties in to No. 3, but do you know why brands ask for “likes”? It’s because when social managers have to meet with the boss each quarter, they are measured by their ability to garner engagement, and “likes” are an easy way to demonstrate that engagement.

Here’s a challenge to the social managers of large brands: Go one month focusing on incredible content—visuals, pithy statements, or quotes and high-quality tone. Don’t ask for engagement the whole month. Then compare the engagement results to the previous month. I’m willing to bet the results will please any social manager or boss.

Though engagement is definitely an important metric, an equally crucial measure would be the qualitative sentiment regarding posts.

Of the big-business social media fails, this one is completely avoidable. When it comes to metrics and engagement, the current environment is ruled by an overemphasis on numbers that can be forcefully manipulated. It’s time for sentiment to be the new benchmark of social success.

5. Advertising invasion

Current advertising methods on Facebook and Twitter are cheap tricks at best: “So-and-so long-lost acquaintance likes Giant Corp.; you should, too…”

Have you ever seen this type of advertisement? It comes off as an invasion of privacy and can have an adverse effect on its target. The real solution for advertising in social media is high quality of content.

How to avoid these missteps

When it comes to social media innovation, small businesses and small agency shops are leading the way. Why? It’s simple. Their main focus is on high-quality content for the consumer.

If the folks at big brands really want to participate in social media, then they need to loosen their proverbial ties and focus on how content can benefit the consumer-and ultimately, their brand.

Steve Martin is the social media strategist for Copperfox Marketing, a full-service marketing agency based in Cincinnati. You can find Steve on Twitter @CopperfoxSays.

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