Lessons Learned from Brands’ Social Media Mistakes

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 12.59.02 PMCloaked by relative anonymity, the social media sphere fosters what is often a harsh and unforgiving environment. The demand to deliver quality content constantly is a daily one for brands. With such demand, a number of messages fall through the cracks of social media best practices and become fodder for criticism. These careless mistakes in the creation and implementation of content can range from embarrassing to downright offensive, vastly diverging from the brand’s intent. According to Henry Ford, “the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing,” so let’s take a look at some recent fiascos that remind us of some of the best ways to save your message before it becomes a sinking ship:

New England Patriots

Human error is not the only kind of misstep that leads to social media failures: Recently, the Patriots created a Twitter campaign in which, thanks to its 1 millionth follower, the team would create “digital jerseys” for everyone who retweeted the announcement. This simple idea of creating a jersey through an automated algorithm is where things went wrong: Patriots 1 Even though the tweet was unable to be seen by non-followers of this account, it was only a matter of hours until the message received over 1,000 retweets. Although the Patriots didn’t mean to support such a blatantly offensive tweet, this is a prime example of why automated messages—though easy and time-efficient—can often produce outrageous, insensitive messages and unwanted attention.

Lesson learned:

Right idea, wrong implementation: with social media platforms, human interaction and messages always win. Though the Patriots most likely used an automated system to produce as many responses as possible, its lack of content scanning for online trolls created a tweet that will definitely have people talking about the team—and not in a good way.

Dave & Buster’s

Are you banging your head against your desk? It’s probably because you just saw Dave & Buster’s racially-charged tweet. The brand thought it would be funny to create a message for the franchise’s Taco Tuesday that clearly overstepped the boundaries of what is appropriate. Though someone in Dave & Buster’s social media department probably thought this audacious tweet would earn the brand a few laughs, Twitter users were not amused. Dave and Busters 1 The brand quickly apologized, but it was too late: Twitter followers were already urging the company to “just deactivate now.”

Lesson learned:

If your tweet sounds like it might cross a line, it probably will. Think about what your message is implying before producing possibly offensive messages that could cause a great deal of regret.

J.P. Morgan

This example is truly one for the ages: J.P. Morgan Chase recently passed the one-year anniversary for its #AskJPM twitter failure. Six minutes after JPMorgan Chase offered Twitter’s initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, the company tweeted, “What career advice would you ask a leading exec at a global firm? Tweet a Q using #Ask JPM.” The call-to-action seemed enthusiastic, inviting and well intentioned. What could go wrong? Considering the bank’s past reputation, a lot. The company had just been fined $920 million over a trading loss that stemmed from bad mortgage loans. Jimmy Lee, who helped to launch the Twitter offering, was chosen to answer the questions on behalf of the bank. Needless to say, the corporation was not ready to handle the barrage of attacks that quickly followed: Though the bank had worked with brand giants like G.M. and Facebook, the company was quickly overwhelmed and underprepared to deal with the wrath of Twitter users.

Lessons learned:

The premise of Twitter is to create a space that allows individuals an equal chance to voice opinions, whether positive or negative. Before creating a call-to-action, consider the full possibilities of what it can be used for in relation to external circumstances. As the saying says, “Timing is everything.”  

Leading by Example: Gillette

The shaving company eagerly shared with Facebook fans a comparison of its first and latest razor designs to celebrate the brand’s 110th anniversary. Gillette 1 Gillette 2

Lesson learned:

Even when social media messages go awry, there are ways to handle the situation in a professional, controlled manner. Gillette shows that being placed in a horrible position doesn’t need to incite an equally horrible response. The brand stayed upbeat, involved and helpful. Social media is a powerful tool, and with power comes responsibility and awareness. Many of these mistakes could have been avoided with clearer insight, sensitivity, resources and safeguards. Still, the rules of social media are that there are none—any message can be placed online, and it can be met with an equally variable response. When these calls-to-actions go wrong (as they often do), take a page from Gillette: A brand will not be able to beat thousands of fans’ agitated, hurt or confused responses, so join them in the conversation. Listen to what’s wrong and act as a resource for sharing positivity, offering explanations and alternative solutions.   **Written by Elise Yancey, Public Relations major at Boston University (2015)

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Snapcash, Fontus, Uber Under Fire, Boston Holiday Season

labs   Top Story: Snapcash This week, I received another snap announcement from Snapchat: Snapcash offers the same peer-to-peer payment service as Venmo. The simplicity of its service and rampant word-of-mouth tactic catapulted PayPal’s Venmo to $1 billion in annual consumer mobile payments this year. The service launched publicly in 2012. With 100 million active monthly users, Snapchat is very well positioned to beat Venmo at its own game. Powered by Square, Snapcash allows users to transfer dollars to other users after they upload their debit card information simply by typing a dollar sign before the amount they wish to send in the chat window. pay-with-snapchat Another feature is “swipe-to-send,” activated by typing three dollar signs into the chat window, which allows you to do this: Announcing the service through its blog, Snapchat explains:
We set out to make payments faster and more fun, but we also know that security is essential when you’re dealing with money. Square has a ton of experience in this area and our teams have been hard at work to make Snapcash a great experience for everyone.
Users can view their transaction history and manage their settings from the Snapcash menu. The app also limits usage to a $250 weekly sending and $1,000 monthly receiving maximum – though both can be raised once you verify your identity through Square. What do you think of Snapchat as more than just an app for sending “ephemeral” messages?   Tool of the Week: Fontus fontus Design student Kristof Retezàr has created a bike-mounted device that will never leave cyclists thirsty. This simple but effective technology uses solar power to transform air moisture into perfectly drinkable water. Retezàr used thermoelectric mechanization, a way in which energy is converted into electricity that cools the top of the device, which makes moisture condense. The design student said he got his inspiration from the rapidly growing concern of water scarcity. In 15 years, 47% of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress. “My goal was to create a small, compact and self-sufficient device able to absorb humid air, separate water molecules from air molecules and store water in liquid form in a bottle,” Retezàr said. “Every measure to ease this upcoming crisis is a welcome one.” diagram Though the technology only creates 17 fl oz of water in one hour, it would be just enough for a dehydrated bicycler to make it to the nearest gas station or river. Retezàr’s Fontus is only a prototype, but he is hoping to gain crowdfunding and investors to make more of these cost effective water bottles (they cost less than $40 to make). In the future, he hopes to push the accessory’s idea beyond sporting purposes to tackle the wider issue of worldwide water shortages.   Under the Radar: Uber Falls Under Fire uber Though uber might be the hot new way to get around in the city, the company is about to get burned: the app has accumulated criticism for an executive’s scathing comments about journalists and the ethical barriers of surveillance. A highly ranked Uber employee recently suggested the idea of looking into the private lives of journalists who are critical of the app. The comment came from Emil Michael, Uber’s senior VP of business, who was speaking at a dinner in New York. Michael claimed the company was willing to invest up to a million dollars to investigate journalists’ private lives. Up until this point, Uber has had widespread success and acclaim. The company, which received $17 billion in funding in June, has expanded across 220 international cities. Since 2009, Uber has completely transformed the ride booking industry, placing taxis, limos and private cars at a large loss of business. It wasn’t long after Silicon Valley heard of the remarks that Uber went into damage control. The statement was “borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company,” Mr. Michael said. Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, took to Twitter to address the issue. A 14-tweet long apology directly criticized Michael for his remarks and reassured customers of Uber's commitment to its community:
Emil's comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company. His remarks showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals. His duties here at Uber do not involve communications strategy or plans and are not representative in any way of the company approach. Instead, we should lead by inspiring our riders, our drivers and the public at large. We should tell the stories of progress and appeal to people’s hearts and minds. We must be open and vulnerable enough to show people the positive principles that are the core of Uber’s culture. We must tell the stories of progress Uber has brought to cities and show the our constituents that we are principled and mean well. The burden is on us to show that, and until Emil’s comments we felt we were making positive steps along those lines. But I will personally commit to our riders, partners and the public that we are up to the challenge. We are up to the challenge to show that Uber is and will continue to be a positive member of the community. And furthermore, I will do everything in my power towards the goal of earning that trust. I believe that folks who make mistakes can learn from them – myself included. and that also goes for Emil .. and last, I want to apologize to @sarahcuda
Even with emotive pleas for forgiveness, Uber might not be back in good graces. The company is especially vulnerable due to its reliance on culture and reputation. With at-will contractors driving cars that don’t belong to the company, Uber has placed itself at high risk for drivers to join rival services and clients to follow suit. From options ranging from taxis, other ride-sharing applications and public transportation, will people still be willing to choose an increasingly controversial company? Only time will tell if Uber will be able to adapt to large growth or buckle under the pressure of public scrutiny.   Around the Hub: Holiday Cheer Too early to start thinking about Christmas? Possibly, but it’s never too early for holiday cheer. The Boston Common Christmas tree, arrived from Nova Scotia this morning, at 55 years old and 43 feet high. The lighting ceremony of which is slated for Thursday, December 4. On the subject of holiday lighting ceremonies, another Boston winter staple marks the season this week. Blink! the free light and sound show featuring the music of the Holiday Pops begins tomorrow night. The show will run every half hour from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. until January 4th. For a full list of holiday events at Faneuil Hall, take a look here>>

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#OzsInbox: A Case in the Perils of Social Media Conversation

image001 (2) Last week, celebrity surgeon and television host Dr. Mehmet Oz tweeted to his followers asking them to reply with their "biggest question(s)". It was not long before twitter users began flooding Dr. Oz with questions- many of which were not health-related. Many twitter users began harshly expressing their discontent with Dr. Oz's promotion of alleged weight loss scams. Dr. Oz suffered major criticism from the media in recent years over his backing of weight loss products. For example, Dr. Oz centered one of his episodes on the Green Coffee Bean Pill for weigh loss. The supplement came under scrutiny soon after by the Federal Trade Commission, and the results of the study were retracted. Applied Food Science, the company responsible for marketing the Green Coffee Bean Pill, settled with the FTC for $3.5 million, after they raised questions regarding the validity of the study. green-coffee-diet-pillsgreen-coffee-bean-extract-axondxu1 Dr. Oz enthusiastically featured the supplement on his show, and asserted the study's "proven" weight loss results- with participants losing 16% of their body fat by simply taking the pill, no diet or exercise required. "You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they found a magic weight loss cure for every body type… This miracle pill can burn fat fast for anyone who wants to lose weight. This is very exciting and it's breaking news." The study, previously posted on a public scientific journal, was retracted and replaced with the following message: "The sponsors of the study cannot assure the validity of the data so we, Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham, are retracting the paper." Following the posting, the Green Coffee Bean Pill episode was removed from their YouTube channel (due to a "copyright claim"), and all references to the supplement were also removed from his website. The study, conducted in India and written by researchers from the University of Scranton, was one of many weight-loss programs/supplements publicized by Dr. Oz. His controversial claims regarding weight loss products let Dr. Oz to testify to the Senate Commerce Committee this past June. 2013 Federal Law Enforcement Foundation LuncheonControversies similar this have accumulated widespread public disapproval toward the Dr. Oz franchise, which was reflected in the responses to Dr. Oz's twitter request for questions last Tuesday. .@DrOz Please save yourself and apologize to the public. Move forward from this and do no harm. #OzsInbox #RareDisease Kari Ulrich (@FMDGirl) November 12, 2014 .@DrOz What has been your most profitable lie for money so far? #OzsInbox Robbie G (@Gruntfutuck) November 11, 2014 .@DrOz what kind of fruit juice do you recommend as an alternative to chemotherapy? #OzInBox Jaytheist (@jetdoc10) November 11, 2014 .@DrOz how are you still allowed to practice medicine you lying fear-mongering opportunist? #OzInbox — Foodmancing® (@Foodmancing) November 11, 2014 The hashtag hijack suffered by Dr. Oz can serve as a testament to the power of social media conversation. This has been seen before, in the cases of McDonalds, and the Washington Redskins, where a sponsored or promoted Twitter call to action resulted in an embarrassing backfire. This should serve as a warning to brands, to carefully assess their public standing before creating an open forum for queries on social media. You can never be sure of what people will say.   **Written by Marketing intern Aneesha Joshi, International Relations intern at Boston University (Class of 2015).

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Google Analytics’ “Direct Traffic” Eats Leftover Traffic

Don’t get us wrong, we ♥ Google Analytics.  It is an instrumental tool for helping us understanding the ins and outs of our clients’ websites in a variety of industries.  Without it, we would basically be blind. However, despite our love for GA, there are some shortcomings that sometimes test the waters in our relationship.  More specifically, the Channels report that is found under Acquisition. The report itself is supposed to show how people got to our clients’ websites.  Most of the definitions are clear: Search Traffic comes from visitors who find your website through a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing, or, click a Paid Search (PPC) ad.  Referral Traffic comes from visitors who arrive at your site by clicking your link on another website.  Direct Traffic comes from visitors who have your website bookmarked or type your URL directly into the address bar… or does it? Groupon recently performed a study and found that up to 60% of their traffic that was being reported as “Direct” was in fact “Organic Search” traffic.  The company took a radical step of deindexing their site for 6 hours in order to compare the traffic channels.  If GA was reporting accurately, there should have only been a drop off in Organic Traffic.  However, Direct Traffic dropped off nearly as much as the Organic Traffic, proving the long-known misreporting suspicion in our industry. Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 12.59.26 PM So, what is Direct Traffic? Two possible sources of Direct Traffic are normally explained as “those people who type in your domain name” or “those people who have bookmarked your website.” True, however, those behaviors aren’t always (and in most situations) the case in summing up Direct Traffic. The true definition of a direct visit is any visit that lands on your website without a referrer.  Direct Traffic is a “catch-all” bucket of Google Analytics.  And therefore “Direct Traffic” is not always “Direct Traffic.”  Confused?  We were too. In 2012, Apple released IOS6 and with that update, Safari began using Google secure search by default.  Google secure search uses the HTTPS (encrypted search) which didn’t allow referral data to be transmitted.  Because of this, a large percent of Google organic search traffic from IOS6 showed up as Direct Traffic.  When Apple fixed this in July 2013, the shift from Organic to Direct largely corrected itself in about a week. So what has been causing this influx of misreported Direct Traffic data in most recent months?
  1. Links sent through SMS, Whats App, MSN Messenger, AIM, Skype, Gchat or any other type of instant messaging platform do not provide a referrer and will show up as direct.  The exception to this is web-based chats which are not done through HTTPS or running through Java, Flash, or Silverlight.  Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 1.02.13 PM
  2. Clicks on untagged links within Outlook and other desktop email clients show up as Direct Traffic.  For the web-based email clients (Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc.) who use secure browsing (https://) the referrer is lost and the click is attributed to Direct Traffic.
  3. Opening a link in “Incognito Mode” or “In-Private Browsing” loses the referrer data and therefore looks like a Direct Traffic visit.  This could be why some tagged PPC campaigns URLS are showing up in the Direct Traffic report.Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 1.04.09 PM
  4. Type-in traffic might be accountable for “Long URLs” showing up as Direct Traffic landing pages.  These are usually your existing customers. If someone visits your site and clicks through to a long URL page that page will then be saved in their browser history.  The next time they go to type your URL in their browser the saved URL should populate.  If they click it, it accounts for Direct Traffic.Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 1.05.31 PM
  5. Fake robot traffic (bot attacks) may also contribute to Direct Traffic.  One of our eCommerce clients recently saw a huge increase in Direct Traffic between June 26 and October 30.  When we narrowed it down, mostly all of the Direct Traffic was coming from the OS IE7.  After further research, we found out that a remarketing scheme had caused this spike and many other companies who have used remarketing services saw duplicate traffic patterns in the Direct Traffic report.
The conclusion is simple.  If Direct Traffic is one of your business’s highest performing channels, your other channels (Paid, Organic and Email for example) are probably performing better than they appear and some traffic is being misreported in Direct Traffic.  Check out your landing pages in the Direct Traffic report to see if there are long URLs or what appear to be Paid Search URLs.  Also check out the Technology section under Audience to see if any specific Browser or Operating System is bringing in a large portion of Direct Traffic.    

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#Rokerthon, Twitter Improved Interface, Raise.com & DigiRevCon

labs   Top Story: #Rokerthon B2Z2r1uIYAAb7-E Al Roker, well known weather anchor on NBC Today, completed an incredible feat this morning. He successfully beat the world record for the longest uninterrupted weather forecast-an awe-inspiring 34 hours. The Guinness World Record was officially established this morning, during the Today show forecast. The previous record holder was by Norweigian television host Eli Kari Gjengedal, who forecasted for 33 hours straight. Roker managed to garner a tremendous amount of public support and attention during this 34 hour period. The incredible television broadcast began to be compared to a marathon, which led to the coining the creative tagline #rokerthon. Various social media platforms are trending the hashtag, and television stations around the world streamed his forecast. Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 11.22.47 AM Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 11.23.13 AM Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 11.23.39 AM Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 11.47.23 AM Roker kept audiences entertained with jokes throughout. During his first bathroom break, he suffered a microphone malfunction where the audio was kept live. He joked to audiences by mentioning, "live streaming has a new meaning". His hilarious one liners had the viewers engaged- for example at 12:05 am he said,
"Im sorry, I just napped there" or at 5:18 am-"If I see the groundhog, I'm slapping him."
Roker's wife Deborah Roberts dropped off hot chocolate in between, and many other celebrities (including Aaron Sorkin, Diego Klattenhoff, Nick Lachey, and more) showed their support by visiting the studio. The 34 hour challenge left Roker with an incredibly raspy voice, but unhindered spirit. His accomplishment was celebrated by everyone in the studio with confetti explosions and hearty congratulations upon his receiving the world record. He mentioned, in an exasperated voice, "I don't feel that tired". When asked if he would attempt to beat the record again next year, he replied by saying,
"I've done this once. That's it". B2aG__CIUAArywZ
Roker managed to raise $70,000 for the United Service Organizations (USO) by beating the world record, and even get accolades from US Vice President Joe Biden, who called in to congratulate Roker on the Today Show.
"You never cease to amaze me, man! All that money for the USO! Thanks, Buddy!"
  Tool of the Week: Raise.com creates the ultimate app for your inner bargain hunter raise The app lets users buy discounted gift cards for instant rewards and savings. Raise.com’s website has just gone mobile. The tool, which lets users buy unused gift cards at a discounted price, reveals a barcode for scanning within seconds for point-of-sale moments when a shopper is in need. Raise.com initially raised $18.1 million last December for series A funding. Although CEO and founder George Bousis wouldn’t disclose exact numbers, it seems as if the company’s recent expansion onto mobile devices indicates increased revenue, which is most likely due to the company’s 500% growth since last year. Bousis claims
“hundreds of thousands” of users have bought gift cards from the site, which boasts over 750 to 850 brands at any given time.
raise-iphone If you’re unfamiliar with how the site works, here is a quick rundown:
“The website, for those unfamiliar, is a typical online marketplace. Sellers can list their gift cards without any selling fees, and then Raise.com takes a 15% commission on gift card sales. The idea is that, for sellers, their unused or partially used gift cards are items they’d rather sell for a little less than face value in order to receive cash or put the funds toward a gift card of their own choosing. For buyers, Raise.com is an even more appealing – you’re basically getting free money when you buy a gift card for less than what it’s worth.”
Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 6.16.10 PM The service’s online presence called for a little bit of ahead-of-time planning, but with the app, shoppers can now receive on-site saving. In the future, Raise.com hopes to launch push notifications that alerts users when a gift card is available for the store they are visiting. Whether for $100 or $10, Bousis hopes the application will create a mutually beneficial relationship for the holders of unwanted gift cards and potential buyers.
“For us, it’s opening up that spectrum to allow anyone to save money at any store.”
  Under the Radar: Twitter aims to welcome all with an improved interface twitter-analyst   Twitter recently held a 7-hour Analyst’s Day conference call that outlined modifications that will fundamentally change how all users interact with the social media site. CEO Dick Costolo held the meeting to discuss specific, attainable advancements that would ease the initial challenges for new users to adjust to the twittersphere. The company will also aim to re-engage the 500 million of its monthly logged out visitors that are intrigued but not completely sold on the social media platform. Here is a list of some of the (many) transformations that Twitter will implement within the coming months: Instant Timeline There’s no need to feel lonely on Twitter as a new user; The social media platform has launched a timeline pre-filled with interesting and engaging content. In addition, users’ feeds will also be changing with a new “While you were away” feature, which shows the best tweets since your last visit on the website. This new component shows a shift from Twitter’s traditional unfiltered feed to a decidedly more pointed and sorted list. screen-shot-2014-11-12-at-10-40-07-am New Initial Set-Up Interface When users first join twitter, they often feel marooned on a lonely branch with few friends or interaction. Luckily, the new onboarding process is noticeably shorter, easier, promotes the significance of joining, and quickly generates a welcoming timeline. twitter-onboard A series of steps guides users through a tutorial of Twitter’s benefits, shows options for selecting categories of interest that can be added to their timeline and prompts new members to upload contacts so they can instantly connect. At the final step, Twitter uses this previous information to suggest additional accounts to follow. Additional Tools All the fun new features weren’t just saved for new users. Twitter users will now have the added function of uploading, editing and sharing videos in real-time. This new option will counteract Vine, which is not able to open from within the app. dm-tweets Messages will now be available for only a select few with Twitter’s new ability to privately share a tweet. Direct messaging will be easier due to the added function of a button that instantly shares a tweet. New Ad Pages The Card platform, a new interface within the tweet that allows brands to create numerous numbers of formats, will allow almost every piece of information to be turned into paid placement. New layouts including interactive configurators, instant dialing to companies and polling cards will create canvases that allow brands to generate personalized, direct messages to its most engaged followers. car-configurator Twitter for All  These improvements will allow Twitter to forge stronger brand-to-consumer relationships, expand user sign-ins and create inviting, easy interfaces. With these changes in mind, it looks as if the social media platform is fully committed and eager to reach its goal of 1 billion users. Lets hope in the midst of making the company more marketable to brands, Twitter continues to provide an engaging online community that serves all voices. For more information about additional updates, changes and additions, here’s a full list of what Twitter has in store.   Around the Hub: 451 Marketing Hosts DigiRevCon DigiRevCon On Tuesday, 451 Marketing hosted DigiRevCon, a conference centered on the digital marketing revolution. Thought leaders from all aspects of marketing joined together in discussing the new age of digital marketing, and how to best serve brands and consumers. Here are a few takeaways from Tuesday's conference:
"Focus on quality- Jeff Avalon", IdeaPaint "Do something that challenges you. Don't create something easy to create"- Robin Ruttle, Wagamama "Humanize your brand. Don't dwell on the negativity- Damien Smith", Yelp Boston
Explore these insights and more on the DigiRevCon roundup on 451Heat, written by Pampan Zhang!  

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