There are many success stories of businesses enjoying the benefits of social media, but there are also plenty of examples of companies gaining publicity for all the wrong reasons and creating problems that are difficult to recover from.

These issues can stem from over-eagerness to be part of a social media trend, poor market research or simply plugging a bad product or service.

In the second part of this series, we will explore the bad side of social media and provide examples of major marketing fails from some of the world’s most well-known brands.

The Bad

DiGiorno Pizza #WhyIStayed

Social media is the perfect environment for businesses to engage with customers, whether that be on professional level through complaint and query or in a casually through light-hearted banter. The lines tend to get blurred however when corporations get involved in political or social issues, and they are totally crossed when said corporations get involved in topics for which they have no context; enter stage left, DiGiorno Pizza.

DiGiorno previously had a sound social media track record but in September 2014, this was quickly forgotten when they nonchalantly used the hashtag #WhyIStayed without understanding its origin. If they had even conducted a minimal amount of research, the frozen pizza company would have realised the hashtag was in response to a video of NFL star Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancé Janay Palmer. The hashtag began to trend nationally five hours after its creation and was used more than 46,000 times the same day. Women used the hashtag on Twitter to share their reasons for staying in abusive relationships and to discuss about their experiences; DiGiorno’s tweet “#WhyIStayed you had pizza” was understandably not well received. Although the company did remove the tweets as well as apologise for not conducting proper research, the damage was done.

Bic: Act like a lady, think like a man

There is little explanation needed to reveal what is wrong with this advertisement from pen manufacturer, Bic. After this most recent high-profile blunder, it’s likely that the company had a series of extensive social media marketing courses high on the agenda for their marketing team. The South African firm bafflingly thought it would be a good idea to empower women on National Women’s Day by telling them to think more like men. Needless to say, the promotion was as popular as a liberal at a Donald Trump rally.

Although Bic quickly removed the Women’s Day ad and apologised on Facebook, the public were not forgiving as it has happened before. While Bic insisted that the quote was from a popular businesswoman blog, designed to uplift women, many did not see it this way and were quick to highlight that this was not the first time the company was in hot water over accusations of sexism. In 2012, Bic unveiled their pens ‘For Her’ line, which were met with scorn and famously ridiculed by Ellen Degeneres.

Microsoft: TayTweets the racist chatbot

In March 2016, Microsoft introduced the world to Tay; an AI Twitter chatbot that was an experiment in human interaction and conversational understanding. Essentially, the more users that conversed with Tay, the more the AI would learn and the better it would be at interacting with humans…at least that was the idea.

Initially, Tay answered innocent questions and was working under typical parameters but things quickly changed as the bot was subject to vile racist and misogynistic rhetoric from Twitter trolls. It is unclear whether this was an oversight from Microsoft or the tech giant simply wanted the AI to be pure and unrestricted; nonetheless the outcome was the same and the offense was rife, with Microsoft deactivating Tay after only 16 hours after its initial launch.

The majority of Tay’s tweets were deleted by Microsoft and the company admitted fault with how things turned out with this statement: "The AI chatbot Tay is a machine learning project, designed for human engagement. As it learns, some of its responses are inappropriate and indicative of the types of interactions some people are having with it. We're making some adjustments to Tay."

Microsoft upgrading the software and learning its lesson would be a good end to this story; but that is not what happened. One week after the initial launch, Tay was back but this time spam was the weapon of choice. Microsoft removed Tay again for upgrades but the bot has yet to make a return, which is probably best for the company as the embarrassing situation turned from bad to worse very quickly.

Want to avoid these mistakes? Learn more about social media marketing strategy with our Dual MA and MSc in Strategic Marketing programme and get a step up in the business world.

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