How to avoid a Twitter fail


We recently contributed to an article in B&T on the notorious hashtag and Twitter fails we often see plastered across the industry press.

We thought we’d share a more detailed viewpoint on terrible Tweets, together with some tips on how to avoid the downward spiral into the social pool of ridicule.

Basic common sense should dictate that, in the very least, reading the hashtag before using it (see poor SuBo below) would be prudent. Just in case, here are a few more acid tests to run before your 140 characters see the light of day:

1. Research your hashtags and any new handles to ensure you’re not chiming in on the wrong conversation, or that you haven’t overlooked any unfortunate connotations.

2. Ensure you’re not so eager to communicate with the world that you neglect communication within your business.  Many fails are the result of conflicting or poorly timed messages from different channels or departments.

3. Stay in touch with the news and trending topics, and resist the urge to ‘set and forget’ your tweets.  It allows you to take advantage of the topical and avoid major faux pas.

4. Be strict with your social log-ins and ensure that access is immediately cut off for those who should no longer have access privileges.

5. Understand that 140 characters is very difficult to nuance.  People will read between the words and interpret your message in their own way.  Interrogate what you write, consider all the angles, and always have someone else read it too.

6. Be genuine.  Never try to manipulate or heavily influence (unless of course you are a politician – if that’s the case, then as you were).

7. Read ALL the responses, comments, re-tweets. Carefully choose what to acknowledge and how to respond.

8. Take a big DEEP breath before responding to negativity.  You simply cannot win a fight with your customers.

We can also learn by example – and unfortunately there are plenty of these. Here are some of our team’s picks of the worst Twitter and hashtag fails out there.

The most recent example of a Twitter fail occurred when already controversial pop star Robin Thicke decided it would be a good idea to invite people lambast him via Twitter, complete with a hashtag to follow the online community’s wrath towards him. Thicke’s PR company clearly didn’t learn any lessons from #AskBG (that lesson being, Twitter Q&As and controversial figures / businesses are not a good match).

Strategist Amaury Treguer chose an old classic – #McDStories. McDonald’s launched this hashtag back in 2012 to generate positive user generated sentiment and tweets about McDonalds. Unfortunately, #McDStories had the reverse effect and it ended up trending with negative stories surrounding obesity and hygiene.

Kelloggs’ ‘Give us a retweet or our children will go hungry’
Kelloggs committed a pretty big social media gaffe with its ‘give us a retweet or children will go hungry’ campaign back in November 2013.

As our strategist Luke Ryan comments:

Basically what this says to the consumer is: we are going to hold food hostage from the hungry kids that need it until you help promote our cause.”

If you are a company and want positive word of mouth around charitable actions (or social good) then just perform the task without asking for something in return. Consumers will respond to the authenticity of the act and your brand’s sentiment will be elevated as a by product.

Kelloggs, evidently, apologised for the tweet.

The unfortunate choice of hashtag #Susanalbumparty to promote the singer’s new album event spiraled into a plethora of mock invites to the party and complete humiliation.

Account Director Suz Koch thinks the picture below says it all.