4 retailer fails at social media and what we can learn from them

Written by LS Retail | 08 June 2015

4 retailer fails at social media and what we can learn from them Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram have become the center of brand-customer interaction. There brands are being discussed, and their stories are being subverted and reinterpreted. That's why, entering the social media game and engaging with customers directly can be a great opportunity for retailers, but it can also be a big challenge, if not handled properly. The internet is full of cautionary tales about social media campaigns that went horribly wrong. We have taken 4 exemplary social media meltdowns by retailers to compile a 4-point list of retailer don’ts – follow by some tips, so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

1. Don’t use a hashtag unless you know its meaning

Using a trending hashtag on Twitter can be a fast and inexpensive way to send your content to many people. Make sure, though, that you use a tag only if know its meaning. The case: In 2012 Celeb Boutique, an online fashion retailer based in the UK, decided to ride the trending tag #aurora to promote its Aurora dress. If they had done the due research, they would have known that the trending tag referred to a tragic shooting which had just taken place in Aurora, Colorado. Celeb Boutique receive a lot of negative attention for their social media blunder – and not much positive one. The lesson: do your research. Before you use a hashtag, find out what it refers to, and how it has been used. You do not want your brand to be tied to insensitive usage of current events.

2. Don’t lose control over your campaign

User-generated content campaigns are now very popular – and understandably so, as by using their customer base, brands can gain authentic, original, low-cost content for their marketing campaigns. If you intend to embark into such a campaign, you however need to make sure that you maintain some level of control over the content. The case: In 2012, upscale British supermarket chain Waitrose launched the hashtag #WaitroseReasons, inviting customers to share why they shop at Waitrose. The retailer soon lost control over the campaign, as Twitter users hijacked the hashtag to produce humorous tweets mocking the upper-class image of the brand. The lesson: Know your audience, and think of the possible malicious or witty reactions. Use hashtags that cannot be easily misconstrued, and limit the customers’ ability to create undesirable branded content.

3. Don’t run away from criticism

Social media are a great platform to engage with your customers. Too many retailers, however, do not use them to full potential – for example, making the mistake of dismissing or ignoring customers’ critical comments. The case: In 2013, American chain of discount department stores Kmart tweeted that it would keep its stores open over the Thanksgiving holidays. The news was ill-received, and most customers responded by reprimanding the company for its holiday staffing policies. Kmart replied to the negative tweets with a clunky, automated answer – which only managed to further infuriate the already disgruntled customers. The lesson: Negative feedback is going to happen: do not hide your head in the sand when the time comes. Create a contingency plan, and always engage with your customers, making them know they are heard – especially when they are unhappy with your services. The way you respond to criticism says a lot about your company.

4. Don’t capitalize on tragedy

Humorous marketing campaigns can help connecting to customers. On the other hand, humor can be a double-edged sword: what is amusing to one, can be offensive to another. By erring on the side of caution you can avoid cultural faux pas. The case: In 2011 Kenneth Cole, a U.S. based fashion retailer, issued a tweet reading “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online”. Many customers felt offended at the brand’s attempt of making light of the bloody protests in Egypt, and openly criticized the retailer – to the point that the tweet was later removed, and Kenneth Cole issued an apology. The lesson: If you want your humorous marketing strategy to be effective, make sure your jokes are culture-sensitive and respectful. Capitalizing on tragedy is never a good idea.   Let another retailer’s horror story be your cautionary tale. After all, social media can be a great opportunity for retailers, at least for those of us who are savvy enough and learn from others’ mistakes. Now you know what to do and what to avoid, make sure you select the right tools that help you maintain an active social media presence. For example, LS Nav features integrated social media publishing in the system.