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Turn Social Media Failures Into Learning Opportunities

For the past couple of years, social media has been at the center of attention for customers, employees and brands alike. Everyone seems to be finally jumping in, but not everyone understands how social media should be used, who should be using it or when they should use it.

As the cluetrain manifesto said many years ago, we have hit “the end of business as usual”. Companies who try to leverage the social media movement as merely another marketing channel, miss the point and will be left behind. Why? Because everyone, in any job, is and will continue to be, impacted by social media. It is not only for “PR, marketing or communication” specialists. It is for all people. For all conversations. It is about engagement. It is about truth, transparency and human breath. 

This new business age fosters values like discipline, intuition, new ways to see/think “out of the box”, the ability to deliver authentic experiences with real and personalized voice, and innovation. It is also about the ability to transform a whole process / mindset, not simply adding another “tool”. A business not prepared to pay attention and then engage using social media will miss the opportunity to transform its organization that will empower its employees and ensure customers feel like they have the information they need to make the right decisions, and are being heard when they need help.

Business today should keep the following ‘rules/tips’ in mind when engaging online:

  • Be true, transparent and unique;
  • Engage long term for rich conversations;
  • Be inspired with those you inspire yourself;
  • Be remarkable and build personality: people don’t look for mainstream or boring relationships;
  • Bring experience, content and storytelling: people need dreams to become their simple life; 
  • Hold and sustain the relation in good and bad times: that’s life!;
  • Be ready to throw your strongest beliefs in the garbage: we never saw this before;
  • Talk about real things, with real words, to real people, with authentic voice: there’s only one way to be trustable, the first time;
  • Don’t consider transactional as an obligation or an end: it’s probable, not sure, and in between there’s a conversation need.

Put your efforts there. Join the conversation as a real person with a name, a point of view, an authentic voice, passion and…a sense of humour! 

As far as these rules can be nurtured, they must be strictly employed, first for the customer…business second.  

While we don’t like to focus on ‘social media failures’, I think it is important to understand what has not worked, to help other campaigns go a little more smoothly.


Let’s stare at Summer’s Eve, womens’ products for private hygenia, who tried to mix some humour and the opportunity to get a professional lift, including tips that generated some trouble in the audience…Link raise with hygenia? Mmm bad idea for that, and a real downside effect for all the community

Be careful too with your Twitter accounts as they can be hacked and polluted twits can become disasters, as anyone can RT it as quick as possible around the globe. If something bad happens, respond openly, and honestly. Sometimes humour works in these situations, but understand your audience to ensure they would be ok with a lighter response. 

“Don’t fake out the audience”. An insurance company created buzz with Mark and Audrey false love story, built on the social web, to sell more insurance. Don’t play with the emotion of people, as they want to have something to believe in and can turn against you if they think they have been lied to.

Fear of a bear? Philips in Singapore simulated a wild bear let loose in the streets to generate buzz. That played on a fantasy for fear and a huge hunt in a residential area. “We should have been more obvious with the stuntman inside to do something weird and funny, more than hold the role too tight”, Philips spoke. Next time you see a bear, don’t shoot too fast, it may be a man inside!

Last time you dreamt of a puppet? Ford did it, believing that Doug, its new ambassador for the Focus models overcame the brand itself. People never saw the Focus, while they “liked” the Puppet so much that they gave it life and story. Spokespuppet Doug introduced close and funny values, but people in fact never thought about the Focus. Too real, too friendly, too “human”. Is there any footprint or lesson for the brand tomorrow? Think Ford has been really troubled with this tremendous success, until “killing” it now. Doug’s story came to an end, because it’s the destiny for a “temporary character” to go there. RIP Doug.

“Fail yes, fail harder so, but always try. That’s the essence of entrepreneurship and the guarantee that we are still alive”. Social media always reminds us of this principle.

But the worst fails are those you never heard of. And it’s the opposite of social media effect, that means buzz is all around!