When Social Media Backfires

Social media promotions can be risky business.

Every brand wants to make a splash on social media. Whether your new product goes viral either through a game, a video or putting a terrorist’s picture on the cover of your magazine -- it almost doesn't matter to most companies. Everyone wants to generate major buzz. But where do you start?

Having a strategy is a good place. And it helps to make sure that your buzz-worthy idea is right for your brand. Otherwise, you might find yourself with a lot of clicks and no cash. Here’s what I mean.

For one personal care brand with a very old lineage, the mission was to get a younger consumer to buy their product. So they created a sensation with a buff body; a sexy guy wearing not much but a towel and looking muscly hot.

This was purely a social media play, and it worked. The reaction was instantaneous and resulted in lots of clicks to their site. But the problem was that it didn’t drive many new consumers to the store shelves. And even if it did, the product hadn’t changed at all; same packaging, same look, same smell. Nothing was done to make the product more appealing to a younger audience. Without sexy new packaging and a hipped up product experience, it’s just an idea without a payoff.

Another thing; if Twitter is part of the plan, consider all the things that people can post; things you have no control over. One marketer I know thought it would be fun to ask people to tweet pictures of themselves using his product. Nice idea, but we cautioned against it. You never know if there’s a potential Anthony Weiner on your prospect list.

So if you are thinking of ideas that will go viral, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Make sure the product lives up to the hype.

Have a strategy that is in keeping with the brand; in other words, if you put a hot image out there, make sure the product doesn’t disappoint.

  • Shoot for long-term results; not just the one-off promotion.
  • Pick a social media environment that is not hostile to marketing.
  • Post your results; others will want to learn about your success!

Brooke Lighton is a principal at Connascent, Inc., a branding and sales consulting firm based in Chicago. Brooke is a native New Yorker who started her career as a science writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She segued into advertising, working first as a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather and later as a Group CD at Foote Cone & Belding. In 1988, Brooke launched her own agency, Lighton Colman. She is a principal and heads creative services for Connascent, a branding and sales consulting firm. You can see their work at connascent.com.

Contact Us