We all cringe, yet we cannot look away, when a brand crashes and burns on social media. We shake our heads and think, “How did they not see that coming?” The sad reality is that it does keep coming — a hijacked hashtag here, a Facebook war there, and general internet mockery or outrage everywhere. Brand fails on the internet have become a spectator sport (click to tweet). Sadly, as soon as one brand learns a hard lesson, another will be right behind it, failing in the exact same way.
Why does this happen? We think it’s because brands focus on specific moments rather than the underlying human truths behind them. Social media is nothing more than human interaction, amplified. People have been wired the same since the dawn of time. Consumers have cared about the same things since the invention of commerce. The only thing that’s changed is our ability to engage with one another on a public stage. When a single consumer can call out a brand and it has the potential to spread to millions in just a few minutes, it’s time for brands to rethink how they interact with the public.
We have examined dozens of high profile social media brand failures and extracted the most salient rules that once could be broken with little repercussion, but now can literally take your brand down in a hail of retweets.