Ragu’s social media faux pas offers lessons for brands

By spamming dads on Twitter, Ragu reminds brands to fully understand social media before jumping in.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Ragu and the “crisis” it created by tweeting a video to social dads in a very offensive and spam-like way.

Having read what C.C. Chapman wrote here, here and here, as well as Adam Singer, Arik Hanson and Michael Schechter, I think everyone is missing the biggest lesson of all: Twitter is not a promotion and publicity tool. It’s not a sales tool, either. It is a social tool.

Granted, I’m not sitting in the room with Ragu and its agency while they decide their strategy, but based on experience, I can make an educated guess that they likely used Klout to determine who to target with their tweets.

And what do we all know about Klout? That it is a great first step in determining influencers if you don’t already know who they are. But if you’re in PR and don’t know who your client’s or company’s influencers are, shame on you! Klout is not the way to develop your list and begin to send links to those perceived influencers.

Let me show you what I mean.

This is Ragu’s tweet stream the night everything broke loose:

For those of you who use Twitter, do you see the problem? For those of you who don’t use Twitter, how does this make you feel?

This is akin to standing in the grocery store, seeing a man walk in—with or without kids, or even with or without a wedding ring—and saying, “Who makes dinner in your house? Mom or dad?” and then throwing a jar of Ragu at him.

Now let’s say you’re standing in the grocery store and you ask every man who walks in the same question while throwing a jar of Ragu at him. The first man you did this to happens to be leaving the grocery store at the same time.

How do you think he feels about you and your jar of Ragu as he hurries to his car, fearing you will accost him again? Not good. In fact, he’s probably hurrying home to tell his wife, girlfriend or partner what a weird experience he and every man in the grocery store had with the people from Ragu.

Multiply that by one thousand.

Adam Singer said it best during a speech he gave this past spring: If you aren’t using the tools yourself, you won’t understand how to use them effectively for your client or company.

The moral of this story for businesses around the globe is that if you want to use social tools to build awareness and increase your sales, make sure you work with people who understand their use. It’s easy to discover whether or not they’re using the tools themselves because it’s all online.

Don’t just take someone’s word for it. Be diligent. Find out what successes and failures he or she has had.

Companies used to hire PR firms for the relationships they had—or could easily create—with journalists. Now companies hire them for their expertise, not only in the digital world and integrating it with traditional tactics, but also in creating relationships with bloggers and influencers to match those they have with journalists.

Please make sure the experts you work with understand and have relationships with the influencers you’re targeting. Also make sure they understand how to use each tool differently, but in an integrated way. That will help you avoid some of these issues.

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this post originally ran on Spin Sucks.

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