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Social Media: The good, the bad and the ugly - part I

In the twentieth-century, businesses primarily communicated with their consumers and target audiences through word of mouth, television and print advertisements. While these are all still major avenues of communication today, the twenty-first century landscape is dominated by social media. Online platforms like Facebook and Twitter give companies a direct line to their audience. Through social media marketing, much of the guesswork of advertising has disappeared, with major businesses having a front-row seat to witness real-time how their product, marketing campaign or brand is being received.

If a company strategises correctly, social media represents the perfect outlet to connect with audiences and expose their brand. On the flipside, while there are plenty of benefits for using social media, there are also many potential hazards and pitfalls. Regardless of the size of the organisation, all brands are vulnerable to online mishaps; making a mistake can gain publicity for all the wrong reasons and create a problem for the organisation that is difficult to recover from. 

In the first part of this series, we will explore the good aspects of social media and provide examples of clever marketing from major brands from around the world.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

The Good                                                                              

Cards Against Humanity Does Black Friday

Cards Against Humanity Does Black Friday

Black Friday traditionally conjures negative images of frantic shoppers bludgeoning their fellow man for the latest electronics at bargain prices. The day is meant to favour the consumer by offering high-end products for low prices, however, Cards Against Humanity, decided to turn the concept on its head. Rather than try to sell a product on the biggest consumer holiday of the year, the novelty party game company offered to sell absolutely nothing for $5. Interestingly, Cards Against Humanity never mentioned what they intended to do with the money generated from this campaign. 

Cards Against HumanityCompany co-creator Max Temkin admitted afterward that the promotion was a huge risk as he had no idea what reception it would get, however those reservations turned out to be unjustified. The campaign received plenty of media coverage and the company collected an astonishing $71,145! In the past, Cards Against Humanity would donate money to charity but on this occasion they brazenly decided to share the profits amongst their 17 employees and subsequently share the interesting things they purchased. The novelty of this campaign was very well received by the consumers who saw the funny side of the campaign and lauded the company for its honesty.


JCPenney Needs a Spellcheck?

JCPenney (Twitter)     JCPenney Social Media

Social media is a great way for the public to offer real-time opinion of a sporting event, with Twitter being a particularly popular platform. With any major sport event, Super Bowl XLVIII was an opportunity for corporations to join in the fun with some informal interaction with sports fans to subtly get them onside with their brand. During the game, many Twitter users were convinced that the JCPenney Social Media Manager was enjoying the event festivities a little too much after a series of incoherent tweets. Later on the same day, it was revealed that typo laden tweets were not drunk ramblings of a soon-to-be-fired Social Media Manager but rather part of a marketing campaign to sell Team USA mittens for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

While some considered it to be a failure for the brand as many people did not understand the concept, it importantly got people talking about JCPenney, and the brand was quickly trending on Twitter. Even major brands like Snickers took the bait tweets, criticising the company for its poor social media etiquette. JCPenney provided a series of sharp retorts highlighting what a clever social media move this turned out to be for the company.


Make-A-Wish Foundation & Disney #ShareYourEars 

ShareYourEars in social mediaWalt Disney Parks and Resorts and Make-A-Wish Foundation joined forces to encourage their respective audiences to share images of Mickey Mouse ears on Twitter and Instagram, accompanied with hashtag #ShareYourEars. The concept was simple; for every social media post featuring the hashtag, Disney would make a $5 donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, capped at a total of $1 million.

The campaign started off strongly but was sent into overdrive with a celebrity endorsement from Neil Patrick Harris, giving the campaign a huge boost. #ShareYourEars started trending all over social media and the original goal of 100,000 participants was more than doubled with over 200,000 social media users. Disney was so impressed by the massive audience interaction that they donated $2 million to The Make-A-Wish Foundation, doubling their original donation guarantee. The social media marketing campaign was ultimately an amazing success for Disney in that encouraged high levels of consumer engagement, showing that investment into a strategy of generating a positive brand image will work wonders for the long-term health of corporate reputation. Most importantly, it was all for a good cause.


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Read more:

Social Media: The good, the bad and the ugly - part II

Social Media: The good, the bad and the ugly - part III