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September 9, 2012

Social Media Fails & Triumphs

by Marina

There is a lot of chatter on the web about the use of social media and there is no day goes by that I don’t see a tweet about 10 things you need to know on  how to use Twitter or Facebook, and now Pinterest, effectively. So I wanted to see how many companies use Social Media effectively and how many Fails & Triumphs there are.

Social Media Fails

We know that Social Media is all about Engagement. Not all of us can get away with a one-way rant, like Kanye West. Lol

Kanye West Twitter Rant.

Kanye West asked his followers a question (let’s just ignore for a moment what he is asking) and then didn’t respond to anyone, and just kept talking to himself. And I assume there were a lot of responses from his 8+ million fans. Btw, the only person he follows on Twitter is Kim Kardashian.

However, the fact that social media is a two-way communication seems to elude many companies.

McDonald’s #McDStories is a good example of that. Their promotional #McDStories hashtag (which btw they paid for to be trending at the top of Twitter searches in January 2012) was highjacked by Twitter users to share fast food horror stories, turning their campaign into an epic #McFail!


The same thing happened to Wendy’s with their #HeresTheBeef hashtag last year. Many Twitter users responded with their pornographic versions of Here it is! And others responded with equally graphic imagery of cruelly penned, industrially-raised livestock.
To make things worse, Wendy’s ran their campaign on #MeatlessMonday. Lol

HereisTheBeef Wendys Twitter


It looks like Twitter is favorited by Fast Food Restaurants. Subway also generated a lot of negative buzz with their hashtag #SUBWAYAllStarBBQ

SUBWAYAllStarBBQ Backlash

On January 3rd, Volkswagen UK asked on Facebook for advice for 2012. More than 2 thousand people responded asking Volkswagen why they are lobbying against environmental laws and why their boss Martin Winterkorn refuses to meet Greenpeace.

Volkswagen UK FB page

The thing is if you ask people to talk about your company or your products, they are not going to say only nice things about you.

Consumer research shows that bad to good feedback ratio is about 5 to 1, meaning users will five time more likely share their bad user experiences than praise the good ones. (On a side note –  we rarely remember neutral moments. And according to the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman, each day we experience approximately 20,000 moments, each a few seconds long, in which our brain records an experience.)

Taco Bell was slammed for its offensive reference on Martin Luther King Day in their tweet, asking people – “Have you ever dreamed of eating @Taco Bell and then woke up and made that dream come true?”. What a better way to honor one of the greatest figures in American history, who fought segregation, by comparing him to a taco, probably served by an underpaid employee?

Taco Bell tweet on Martin Luther King

Coca-Cola was also in the middle of the social media crises in 2010 and forced to apologize when a complicated social media contest for Dr. Pepper resulted in them being accused of using porn to target children on Facebook.

The PR company in charge of the Chrysler’s twitter account was probably fired after posting this.

However, there are some Success Stories too

Barack Obama, America’s First Truly Social President

barack-obama-twitter-accountBarack Obama have been embracing social media since he decided to run for the office in 2007 and can credit social media tools as a big part of his success. According to, in 2008 Obama’s online efforts included 13 million emails, 4 million digital donors, and 2 million members on, a social network that inspired grassroots campaigning on a scale never seen before in the United States. And the momentum has carried through his term: On September 6, 2012, During Democratic National Convention, Obama’s nomination-acceptance speech set a new record of 52,000 tweets a minute.

Re-tweetable Messaged by

This is a smart way to create an awareness and to promote the cause (Health Inequity) – by creating educational and inspirational content (“Now Imagine” messages) that could be easily shared using social media tools (Twitter and Facebook in this case).

Now Imagine Question

Now Imagine Message

Instagram & Pinterest “Hotel Noir” Campaign for Grey Goose

Grey Goose CampaignThis is an interesting multichannel social media campaign execution. To promote Grey Goose vodka marketers from Chicago’s R/GA commissioned four smartphone photographers to snap shots for its own Instagram stream – and share with their own followings, which total in the hundreds of thousands.

The digital component – which launched August 23rd and is rolling out in a series of six chapters, also includes a Pinterest page. Why Pinterest? “It really gives us an opportunity to insert our brand and our cocktail recipes into an environment where people are looking for that type of information,” – says R/GA account supervisor Michelle Roberts.

Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice Campaign

Burger King customers were given incentive (a free burger) to do something they already wanted to do – improve their Facebook experience by purging their non-friend friends. Burger King developed a simple FB widget application that allowed people to remove undesired FB accounts. It was a win-win for customers. On the flip side, Burger King was able to drive customers into its restaurants & up-sell them – “Would you like fries and a beverage with that?”. They were also able to track a myriad of business metrics to prove return on investment.

Unfortunately, it was a short-lived campaign, as Facebook didn’t like the idea of people un-friending their friends – it conflicted with their monetization model! Apparently, improved user experience is not the top of their priorities.

McDonald’s Mommy Bloggers Program

Not all McDonald’s social media campaigns are huge #McFails. Back in 2010 McDonald’s reached out to “mommy bloggers” to get help in shaping their image in a more positive way. They flew 15 bloggers and their families to Chicago, putting them up in a nice hotel and giving them the grand tour of their operations, hoping they’ll like what they see and then telling their readers about it. That was a smart move. People trust someone else’s opinion more than they trust ad campaigns from big corporations. And those mommy bloggers are Key Influencers for the McDonald’s brand, especially when it comes to their skeptical demographic (parents). Apparently, the posts that followed – each accompanied by a disclaimer noting their sponsorship by McDonald’s – were overwhelmingly positive.

“Will It Blend?” Viral YouTube Videos

Blendtec’s hilarious viral videos demonstrated the effectiveness of blenders by blending everything from Golf Balls to iPhone, were so effective that orders for their blenders jumped overnight, increasing company’s sales by 700%.

UK Jewelry Store gets publicity from YouTube How-To Videos

Small UK jewelry business owned by a father and son have used How-to videos to build their brand awareness. First posted as part of a school project, videos on how to craft precious metals into works of art, became instant hit on YouTube and gained them new customers across the world. The most popular clip – having been viewed nearly 200,000 times – is one which explains how they made two wedding rings from scrap gold.
I like this story because it shows that even small companies and unknown brands have a chance of getting a lot of exposure from social media without spending a lot of money.

Domino Pizza’s Response to their Social Media Crises

Back in 2009 Domino Pizza didn’t didn’t even have a social media presence, but they already had a social media crises on their hands when two of their employees in their Conover N.C. franchise uploaded a Youtube video of themselves doing disgusting things to customers’ food. That video went viral in a matter of days.

Instead of ignoring criticism, the company launched smart social media campaign, including opening a Twitter account that provided regular updates on this incident and issuing a video of their own using the same channel where the crises broke out on, optimizing it in such a way so it appeared alongside the offending video.

They apologized and openly admitted their past shortcomings. This kind of incident could’ve easily brought their brand down. Instead, Domino’s immediate and regular response to this massively severe crisis through social media humanized their brand and the situation, and gained them loyal customers. So in my mind this is a success story.

Want to see more Success Stores?

Check this great article on Mashable – 5 Surprising Social Media Business Success Stories or Case Studies of Successful Use of Social Media on Here is another good article actually questioning social media success of companies by examining their ROI – 101 success stories: yes. 101 examples of ROI: no.

What are the social media successes and failures that you remember the most? I’d love to hear your stories.

So Is It a Success or a Failure for most Companies that use Social Media?

A study published by the Social Media Examiner “2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report” unveiled several interesting statistics.

  • 58% of marketers who have been using social media for more than 3 years report it has helped them improve sales.
  • Even with a minimal time investment, the vast majority of marketers (85%) indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their business.
  • By spending as little as 6 hours per week, 61% of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media.
  • Nearly half of those who spend at least 11 hours per week on social media efforts saw a benefit of reduced marketing expenses.
  • A significant 74% of participants found that increased traffic occurred with as little as 6 hours per week invested in social media marketing. And those who’ve been doing this for 3 years or more reported substantially
  • Nearly 65% of marketers found social media to be a helpful tool in understanding the marketplace. Of those with at least 1 year of experience, 70% or more found benefit.
  • Of those who have been using social media for at least 1 year, 65% found it useful for building a loyal fan base.

Want to know How You Are Doing?

Check 4 Ways to Measure Your Social Media Success on
Toughest to track: How to measure social media success on
How to Perform a Social Audit [Infographic] on

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