10 Social Media Campaigns that Failed! Avoid their mistakes!

What truly defines a failed social media campaign? What are the factors and elements that drive a social media campaign to its doom? What are the worst social media campaigns online? What can be learned from the mistakes they have made?

Success is 99% Failure - This is why we like to also learn from the failed campaigns!

Success is 99% Failure - This is why we like to learn from the failed campaigns!

In my previous post entitled “10 Social Media Campaigns that Rock…“, I listed and discussed, in details, the 10 best social media campaigns that I was able to find online and that had a great the ability to grab my attention and gain my interest. Furthermore, and in the same post, I added a list of elements and advices that should be considered to ensure the success if any social media campaign.

For this post, as promised, I will be mentioning 10 social media campaigns that failed with a few following tips of how to avoid falling into the same trap!

10 Social media Campaigns that Failed:

  1. Wal Mart‘s Facebook Campaign – Wal Mart here tried using Facebook pages feature to market itself in a different image, “practicality” vs. “style”, and failed miserably as opposed to Target, the company!
  2. Skittles Twitter Campaign – Although it should have worked out in their favor, skittles underestimated the power of tweeting when it utilized Twitter, which in turn turned what could have been a great campaign against them through the attacks they received about their product through the Twitter community!
  3. Kiva.org‘s Twitter Campaign – By applying a the “#followfriday” concept, Kiva.org tried to tremendously increase the number of followers and sadly, they failed (we think it’s due to choosing the wrong audience).
  4. Starbucks Social Media Campaign – Though their idea to leverage the customer community to drive co-innovation is a great one in theory, Starbucks less than planned or integrated campaign failed to gain the feedback sought.
  5. Advani‘s Political Social Media Campaign – Though his people were on the right track utilizing a blog, a Facebook page, a Youtube channel and others, there was too much emphasis on advertising rather than communication which lead to a less than desired outcome.
  6. Molson Canadian Facebook Photo Contest Campaign – The photo required to enter the draw for a trip to Cancun promoted irresponsible drinking and lead to the plummet of the campaign!
  7. Target Rounder‘s Facebook Campaign – One which utilized a lie created just to gain more fans and a larger community!
  8. Brinpopcorn.com‘s Social Media Spammer – They tried to bribe top diggers to place them on the first page!
  9. General Motor‘s SUV “create your own advert” Viral Marketing Campaign – The problem was that the environmentalists created negative ads!
  10. Resident Evil‘s Viral Marketing Campaign – Sony’s Resident Evil mobile marketing campaign backfired when people thought they are receiving actual mobile viruses!

Things to do & things to avoid!

  • Revise your marketing message once, twice, three times and even more to make sure you will get the least amount of attacks or negative feedback from your audience.
  • When using Facebook for your social media campaign, try  not to restrict comments and feedback to your Facebook page as “Wall Posts” instead, create a discussion board for more effective and dynamic two-way communication.
  • Never stray from the core or try to be something that you’re not. Being authentic, transparent and sticking to your overall image is very important.
  • Do not try to sell yourself too bluntly. If you feel you have a need to do so, do it through communication and involvement with communities and individuals on different suitable social media channels.
  • Be ethical; lying or purposely deceiving will not pay off as some might suspect!
  • Use Facebook techniques that are sure to pay off because not every Facebook feature or tool will fit into your image, vision or goals.
  • Learn when to stick to the “old school style”. The “more the merrier” concept does not always work. Remember: sometimes less is more!
  • If you mess up by mistake, always have a “damage control” plan. Luck is overrated and you need to be prepared in case anything goes wrong.

If almost 50% of social media campaign will fail, is it wise to keep spending resources to try to create campaigns that rock? I do believe so!

Finally, I’ll leave you to think about the following questions: How dangerous do you think social media and viral marketing campaigns can be? And do you have any more advice or experiences that you’d like to share?

Comments and Reactions

54 responses to “10 Social Media Campaigns that Failed! Avoid their mistakes!”

  1. FadiPick says:

    Social media marketing campaigns are marketing campaigns. There is always the potential of a backfire like in any other Ad. Companies should study their marketing campaigns very well and make sure to cover all the angles so that to avoid offending anyone. They even need to be extra careful when using social media tools, but it allows for a wider and faster spread. Today, when things backfire, fire spreads so fast, and thus an immediate action should be ready to run.

    I love the tshirt!

  2. Beiruta says:

    I love the point you mentioned about the fire spreading too fast and I agree! In the old days, it was much easier to control the damage done due to the limited level of exposure. Nowadays, everyone is being closely watched, especially the big brands. It feels like people are just waiting for them to make a mistake to attack them though in reality, we are just becoming more aware consumers who do not allow anyone to take us for fools or underestimate our power!

  3. Besides traditional marketing, every business should engage in social media. However, the same attention should be given to every marketing campaign. FadiPick made a good point, one of the advantages of online campaigns is that you get your feedback on the spot and can take the adequate actions to repair the damage just as fast.

    Monika Lorincz
    monika at surchur.com
    Blog: http://blog.surchur.com/
    Twitter: @surchur

  4. Emory Cook says:

    Great post! Thank you. I'm just out of college and trying to get my new business off the ground, and I've found social media to be an effective, if not frustrating, tool to increase followers and interact with clients. I think social media can be dangerous when a company is disingenuous with its followers. Customers can see right through a phony campaign or plastic words and phrases. Otherwise, I see enormous potential in social media, and I look forward to the ups and downs of trying to master it for my own business.

  5. Amer Kawar says:

    Indeed, it's got it's pros and cons. If you treat your readers/followers transperantely, and honestly, while making sure that you always provide the value they're looking for, then you should be on the right track!

    So, what new business are you starting? Anything online that we can have a look at?

  6. Magnus says:

    Hi and thanks for an interesting post.

    I am just a young and inexperienced student with a thriving interest for social media and how companies can use this in their marketing efforts, and I have a question: you are listing My Starbucks Idea as a failure. What's the rationale behind this?

    I have been studying the case a bit and from my point of view it seems like a quite good initiative. Of course, I could be brainwashed after reading all kinds of interviews with Wheeler and Bruzzo, but to me 75,000 ideas seem like a lot of feedback…

    Also they participate openly and polite in blog discussions (like the one you are referring to for critics of My Starbucks Idea) which I feel indicate a culture that seem to get comfortable with the social media sphere.

    From my point of view the My Starbucks Idea seem like a quite successful initiative where ideas are generated, feedback are provided and dialogue is thriving. Starbucks seem to have taken it seriously and brought the whole corporation behind the website (it was top leader involvement in selection of idea partners for example).

    However, I am here to learn from other people so if anyone can give me some good arguments against – please help me out :) The point is that I am writing a case study on the initiative and want both sides…

  7. Amer Kawar says:

    Hi Magnus,

    This was just one of the failures (as backed by the posted linked-to) we spotted surfing the blogosphere. I'm not going to defend that it was really a failure, but I do agree to a certain extent with C Brice from Social Media Today; a “frequent buyer program” leading to a free cup of coffee is the first example that pops to the mind of any non-marketing person, and does not need a social campaign to come up with such an idea.

    On the other hand, I agree with you, it's not really a failure if they were able to get 75k ideas & thousands of comments all surrounding their brand and focusing on how passionate people feel to make Starbucks an even better brand!

    At the end of the day, we present opinions, and we back them up with facts or other people's dedicated posts. This one is quite controversial. I mean can we really judge without knowing how much it cost and how much increase in revenue it made Starbucks?

  8. magnusfs says:

    Hi Amer,

    of course, the ideas generated have been and will be of various quality. But if some brilliant ideas can be generated, this could yield significant value usually provided by other, and I guess more expensive, research methods. Having said this, the idea generation is also just one of several dimensions of the initiative, some of them elaborate further by one of the Starbucks representatives on Brice’s blog. He mentions keywords as prioritization, contextual feedback and dialogue. Personally I think the social media training Starbucks gets with this initiative is of severe importance for future social media initatives.

    I agree that the cost / benefit perspective is very important to have; one should not be doing this just because it is possible or because it is expected of you as a marketing director. This should in the end create economic value. We don’t know this, and therefore will our opinions judging the success of the campaign be based on other factors accessible for us like for example participation (me) or quality of the content generated (you). And these are just opinions as you say.

    For Starbucks the costs are probably easy to have an overview over, but I think it can be extremely difficult to isolate and measure the revenue generated from this kind of initiative. This focus can lead to short term thinking, neglecting the brand equity perspective; I mean what has / will this generate in increased loyalty, emotional connection and maybe positive word of mouth? This is not easy to pick up by looking revenue streams first or the second year.

    Well well. It is an interesting case, and it will be interesting to see how it develops further, to which extent it will continue thriving.

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  12. David Iwanow says:

    It also has to do with the brand, if it is a loved brand I believe it can help but if it is hated might not be the best idea. The other point about straying from your core is very important as to if your company fails at customer service offline dont expect to get a clean slate online unless you work hard.

    Damage control seems to be the biggest area of failure for any social media campaign or any issue that turns viral. Working around the damage control issue correct measurement to understand the true magnitude of the issue and is it something that people are working to encourage others get involved in the issue or is it just 10 angry consumers talking amongst themselves.

    It is very clear very soon by charting social mentions of your brand or the issue if it looks to be a problem that will amplify the issue should be examined as to the root cause of the problem.


  13. Stuart Flatt says:

    I think Skittles was the MOST successful social media campaign I have ever seen. It still sticks in my mind. And no publicity is bad publicity ;-)

  14. kurtevans says:

    We all saw how powerful a tool twitter was when they had the Iranian elections. Social media is a powerful tool because it gives power back to the people. There are always the few who corrupt the system but if the people really pressed on, it would force positive changes to take place. In the end, it all comes down to the power of the individual and that's something that social media provides.

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  16. Em says:

    I am seriously considering 'shopping' the terrible SM company I work for. I have been treated awfully by them, and am getting to a point where I am willing to put my name to it. This video is basically my boss:


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  25. These are good warning for those who want to join social media marketing campaign they should learn how to avoid this as well as possible for the benefits of their business.

  26. Social media is really nice to use in promoting business as long as you know how to do it. A wrong strategy may create a worst marketing.

  27. scarlettpencilpoint says:

    Not every sentence needs to end with an exclamation point.

  28. Hi. Great write up. Interesting observations on how to assess their failure, even if it is entirely out of their control or beyond their intended plan.

    The irony of social networking seems to be the double-edged sword of success vs. failure in it's rawest form. If it works, it works well. On the other hand, if it fails, it plummets.

    The one thing all social media giants are tell us (coke, starbucks, cisco, etc) is that there is no defined science because it is a new frontier, but more importantly it depends on immediate reactions from people. Nevertheless, I agree that you can only keep trying. Something that works for companies and consumers in Europe may not do so well in Asia.

    It's low-cost so keep at it and make sure to document case studies.

  29. Beiruta says:

    True, but I enjoyed writing this post this way :) Check out my other posts, they don’t share the same sentence endings :)

  30. I don’t see why Skittles would be hated on so badly by the Twitter Community. I wouldn’t expect that at all.

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  34. Thanks for the wonderful article!! I unquestionably loved every bit of it. I have your blog bookmarked to keep up with any fresh posts.

  35. Beiruta says:

    I’m glad you did :) Stay tuned for our social media by example section for more analysis and lessons.

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  40. I don’t understand why the social media campaign for big companies such as Wlalmart and Starbucks could fail they have such deep pockets. On the second thought, it might be good for the smaller business because it allows them to compete with bigger corporations.

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