The social media practice that must end in 2014

Hint: We really don’t need to know a brand’s take on a national tragedy.

With 2013 in the rear window, there are a lot of ideas for ways to improve social media campaigns and efforts generally as we begin a new year.

There were a lot of unique and creative campaigns in 2013 that we can all look to for creative inspiration. Conversely, there is one social media tactic that deserves to boxed up and shelved with the rest of the holiday decorations, forever.

Brands’ commenting on news, holidays, and anniversaries

For some reason, marketers find it necessary to share the thoughts of the brand (usually a cartoon mascot or logo) on a breaking news event or historical anniversary. This sort of gimcrackery has become pervasive in the wake of the brilliant Oreo Super Bowl tweet that spawned a multitude of copycat memes.

No one needs to know how Pizza Hut is reminiscing about 9/11 or how JCPenney feels about the most recent school shooting.

Epicurious found itself in the midst of a social media firestorm when it tried to newsjack the Boston Marathon bombing during a flash sale. Only after deleting the insensitive tweets and apologizing profusely did it finally land on the above tweet, which even on its own would have been completely unnecessary and disingenuous.

It isn’t just breaking news stories that somehow trigger an insatiable need for brand comment. Historical anniversaries and other dates of significance have provoked sometimes clever, though mostly insipid posts.

We all know how well that turned out for SpaghettiOs:

In case you missed it, the SpaghettiOs account was roundly chastised for its pointless and tacky tweet, having eventually caught the attention of celebrities and comedians with vastly larger networks than the Campbell’s Soup-owned sub-brand. Needless to say, the whole scenario didn’t exactly move a lot of product off the shelves.

What brands should do instead

Breaking news: Nothing. Silence is golden, especially as tragedy unfolds. It’s nice that the thoughts and prayers of your logo are with the victims, but no one wants their stream filled up with the sympathies of a brand. Consider suspending all scheduled tweets, especially if they’re promotional or solicitous in nature.

Anniversaries: Do something if it pertains to your business. The SpaghettiOs tweet was stupid not because it was insensitive, but because there is no connection at all between that brand and the event they were commemorating. Is today the birthday of the inventor of macaroni and cheese (Thomas Jefferson)? That’s a great excuse for a fun campaign from Kraft or the like. Just put some thought into it before you circle that next national holiday coming up on the calendar.

A very wise person once said, “Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” Social media is the best channel for putting that maxim into practice.

Which social media practices drive you crazy? Let me know in the comments below.

Steven Shattuck is the vice president of marketing at Bloomerang. A version of this article first appeared on SocialMediaToday.

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.