The recipe for a successful social media post is fairly simple. Learn what’s interesting to your target audience. Consider what topics make sense for your brand to share about. Be conversational, but do it in a voice consistent with your brand’s overall messaging. But from the annual lists of “worst social fails” of the year, it’s clear that executing this recipe is tricky.
Tune into competitive chefery shows and you’ll often hear the professional chefs who are guest judging note that they employ “the chef’s egg test.” To be considered for employment in the kitchen, an aspiring chef must perfectly prepare a dish that seems simple, yet can be a challenge to get right. As Master Chef Thomas Keller wrote once in the LA Times, “The real test of a chef doesn't come from elaborate dishes… I'm fascinated by seemingly simple dishes… because they not only showcase the quality of their ingredients, but, more important, they also demonstrate the skill of the cook who prepared them.”
Simple. Beautiful. It’s garnered 2.4 million Likes and 57.1 thousand comments on Instagram, making it the most popular post on the platform to date and a success for brand Kimye.
Minions + Holiday Video = Record-breaking Share Rate. Posts with videos and photos outperform those without. What happens when you add the popular minions from Despicable Me? You win 3.2 million shares of that post on Facebook. Reinvigorating brand AMC, this post took the offers of a gift card and free popcorn to new heights.
Ellen’s ability to connect with the audience – speaking directly to them and making them feel part of the event – and enlisting Hollywood A-listers for a fun group shot made for a record-breaking tweet with 3.4 million retweets shared in 151 countries. Not only did people engage with the tweet itself, but it was the most talked about tweet of the year, inspiring 254,644 Tweets per minute about it during the Oscar show. This simple, but highly effective tweet promoted not only the personal brands of the actors and the Oscars, but was also a highly effective strategic product placement for the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.
1. Content Marketing Done Well
The Influencer post on LinkedIn that was viewed the most (at 3.5 million views) was advice from Dr. Travis Bradberry – the co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and president at TalentSmart – on how to manage emotions and remain calm under pressure. How Successful People Stay Calm also garnered 32,612 likes and 4,221 comments. The title is just the right balance of simplicity and the promise of useful advice everyone can benefit from.
Graphic from How Successful People Stay Calm.
What this post does well is feature TalentSmart’s research in an effective inbound marketing piece, strategically positioning Bradberry and TalentSmart and bringing the audience to them. As EGC’s Managing Partner Nicole Larrauri explained in The NSFW State of Advertising 2014-15, inbound marketing is a critical tool for brands today. What this post also does well is offer brand utility with content that people need and love. As Larrauri writes: “It’s about out-thinking and out-teaching.” And this post captures that. It isn’t fraught with obvious signs that it’s trying too hard to be either very brief or fill up a word count quota. The language is clear and accessible and demonstrates that content matters.
In spite of these great examples of successful social content, there were so many examples of that simple recipe’s execution gone awry. It was hard to narrow the field. But here are our picks for the frighteningly bad posts of 2014.
The 4 Most Cringeworthy Posts of 2014
4. American Apparel’s Challenger Post
In a classic example of a post gone wrong thanks to lack of research, American Apparel tweeted an image of the Challenger disaster on the company’s Tumblr site. Tagged #Smoke and #Clouds, the image was of the moments following the explosion on January 28, 1986 that killed the seven people aboard the shuttle. The post was swiftly removed and the brand issued an apology.
The lesson for brands? A little desktop research can spare everyone that mortification moment. Take a beat before posting. Everyone wants to be quick and nimble in social, but taking an extra moment to learn more about the content you’re about to share is a must.
3. DiGiorno Pizza Uses a Trending Hashtag
Following the revelation of Janay Rice’s experience with domestic violence, conversations on social started up around this serious topic. Many began sharing their own personal stories using the hashtag #WhyIStayed to discuss the complexities of their own experiences and choices. Seeing the hashtag was trending, but apparently without looking into why and what it meant, DiGiorno attempted to use the hashtag “humorously” to promote pizza.
Lesson for brands? Click on a hashtag and read through the story it’s telling before using it. Again, it’s about taking that beat to get your bearings and make an informed decision before hitting Share.
2. Dave & Buster’s Taco Tuesday Post
Brands often look to incorporate the right balance of humor in their posts as a way to help boost engagement. Dave & Buster’s attempt at ‘taco humor’ was decidedly unamusing. It may have yielded plenty of attention, but none of it was positive. Tim Herrera of The Washington Post captured the moment and predicted an apology was forthcoming in less than 45 minutes. Sadly for the brand, it wasn’t in as big a rush to apologize as it was to post – and the apology post appeared about an hour and a half later.
Lesson for brands? Steer clear of stereotypes. Humor can work for brands, but offensive humor is just a bad idea.
1. Best Buy’s Murder Case Joke
Attempting to tap into the buzz around the podcast Serial, Best Buy recently tweeted a reference to a 1999 murder of a high school senior. A key component of the prosecutor’s case was whether or not the alleged killer used a payphone outside of a Maryland Best Buy after committing the murder. While it seems, according to this Huffington Post article, that the store location has become a bit of a tourist attraction because of interest in the podcast, the brand’s decision to promote itself through a joke about the murder was met with understandable criticism.
Lesson for brands? Be careful piggybacking on something just because it’s popular. Exploiting a real murder for brand messaging is just such a bad idea, it’s hard to believe we’d actually have to explain why…
From honest accidents – like US Airways posting a graphic photo – to deliberate attempts to control the social conversation against best practices and damaging its reputation – like Smuckers deleting negative comments about GMOs – sadly, there were plenty of runners up this year. Most of these were cases of just not thinking things through.
The best strategy is to implement procedures and protocols that avoid these kinds of social fails in the first place. But if your brand should face a disaster moment, the next step is the crafting of an appropriate apology.
All of the brands listed here issued apologies. But some were more effective than others.
American Apparel simultaneously blamed the employee’s youth and apologized. “We deeply apologize for today’s Tumblr post of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The image was reblogged in error by one of our international social media employees who was born after the tragedy and was unaware of the event. We sincerely regret the insensitivity of that selection and the post has been deleted.”
Dave & Buster’s apologized, but without fully acknowledging that their remark was offensive. The brand instead noted: “…our intention was never to offend anyone, please accept our apology.”
Best Buy took a stronger stance in its apology, tweeting: “We deeply apologize for our earlier tweet about Serial. It lacked good judgment and doesn’t reflect the values of our company. We are sorry.”
DiGiorno initially offered a somewhat flat apology: “…that our comment may have been perceived as offensive.” But the brand earned some points with critics when the account then personally began responding to the criticism with tweets such as: “It was late and I got sloppy. A rare mistake, I promise you. Never again. I’m so sorry Kim.” and “It was. And I couldn’t be more sorry about it, Emma. Please accept my deepest apologies.”