Social Media Marketing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Social media has changed the way we interact and share information; with very little effort we can now ‘broadcast’ our thoughts, and with a click of the re-tweet or share button, our audience can easily keep the message rolling. This is essentially the idea behind Social Media marketing; get your fans to do the talking. Get it right, and you have instant, free, and possibly even viral publicity. Get it wrong and you’ll be left with a red face and a bruised ego; it could even damage your company image.

Here’s a quick look at some of the most famous SMM campaigns from the past few years, from the good and the bad, to the downright ugly. There are lessons to be learned from all of them.

The Good

They’ve been described as the team that made Old Spice smell good again. In just 24 hours the Old Spice response videos were viewed more times than Obama’s victory speech.

The lesson to be learned here: know your audience! They created a character that the public loved, and then used the correct channels to interact with their audience to make viral video history. This is an example of user interaction at its best.

The Bad

Last week, the population of Twitter let McDonald’s know just how much they’re not lovin’ it. It was an example of a hashtag promotion gone horribly wrong, as the tag was used to share stories showing McDonald’s in a less than flattering light. It started with an innocent tweet from McDonald’s; ‘when u make something w/pride, people can taste it,’ and ended in what is being described as an epic McFail.

The sponsored hashtag was soon abandoned, as the marketing team realised it wasn’t going exactly to plan. So what can we learn from this?

Social media is unpredictable; there is no way to guarantee a specific reaction from your audience. Before embarking on a social media campaign, consider the public perception of your company, and be realistic about your weaknesses.

Always have a plan B to fall back on; for McDonald’s, this was the #Meetthefarmers hashtag, which aimed to promote their use of fresh produce. This avoided the bashtag fiasco, and so their efforts weren’t entirely wasted.

And if all else fails, own it. People are talking about you, so seize the moment and don’t take yourself too seriously.

The Ugly

We have to travel back in time a little to visit what can only be described as the most catastrophic social media mishap in history.

In 2010 the Nestlé Facebook fan page was hit with a barrage of anti-social media. Users were protesting Nestlé’s use of palm oil in their confectionery. When their Facebook fan page was hit with negative comments, the response was to allow an administrator to haphazardly delete comments and post ill thought-out responses, including: “Get it off your chest – we’ll pass it on” and this debate with one user.

Before you embark on any social media venture be sure to have a plan in place. This will prevent you from ever having to say ‘social media: as you can see we’re learning as we go’, as Nestlé later admitted.

Social media is designed to be spontaneous, but that doesn’t mean you can just make it up a strategy as you go along. Nestlé learned the hard way as their share price tumbled in the wake of the Facebook disaster.


While there are risks to having a social media presence, the benefits of being able to interact directly with your audience surely make it worthwhile.

So, what’s your social media strategy for 2012?