You would think that, with their massive budgets and global branding, social media marketing would be an easy thing for big companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s. But, as both learned this year (through the ill-conceived Twitter hashtag campaigns that backfired), there is more to the game than meets the eye.
We’ll spare you all the details (that’s what Google is for), but both companies tried to engage customers in a light, spirited way with the use of creative hashtags. It didn’t take long, though, for disgruntled followers to start using the hashtag sarcastically to slam the brands. What started out as a neat idea turned into an ugly public shaming – not to mention a big waste of heavy marketing dollars.
Although most of our clients don’t have Fortune 500 budgets to burn, and thus can’t really produce such spectacular failures, they can learn an important lesson from both brands: Social media can’t fix bad perceptions of your company, but it can enhance them. In other words, customer satisfaction is important to social media marketing, whether you are a multinational firm or a mom-and-pop store on the corner.
Here are a few quick ways to take that lesson to heart:
• Be very aware of dissatisfied customers, and watch out for negative posts or reactions on social media sites.
• When trying to launch a new social media campaign, think ahead to any potentially ironic or damaging uses for your message.
• And finally, use social media to engage customers and deal with their questions and complaints directly, so that you don’t have to deal with ugly opinions later.
To be sure, there are millions of people who are perfectly satisfied with Starbucks and McDonald’s, but it only takes a few people to start a negative social media campaign, or ruin a perfectly good one. So, take a cue from these high-profile blunders and be careful in the way you use your Twitter account to find new customers.