While it’s important for brands to stay timely and topical on social media, that doesn’t mean they have to mention every national holiday or event. Here are three brands that failed to understand when silence can be golden.
The incident: September 11 is a difficult day for many brands. Since it was only 13 years ago, just about everyone remembers it, and many large companies (and their agencies) are based in New York, where the World Trade Center once stood. So a number of brands try to commemorate the day in some way, even if they shouldn’t. Gun-manufacturer Glock probably shouldn’t have mentioned “those who lost their lives,” and sex-toy Fleshlight really didn’t need to inject itself into the conversation at all.
This is not to say that no company should ever acknowledge the day. Some have a clear connection to the events of the day: Delta. Century 21, damaged in the Twin Towers’ collapse and closed for six months afterwards. New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which tweeted Lee Frieldander’s 1965 photo “New York City.”
But perhaps the worst 9/11 tweet of the year was from Bikram Arlington, a yoga studio about five miles from the Pentagon: “9 + 11 = 20% OFF! PATRIOT DAY SALE.”
The consequences: Bikram’s Twitter followers reacted very strongly to the sentiment. @Melissaweiss wrote, “Kind of disgusting to promote shop sales with a Sept. 11 discount. Shame on you.” The yoga studio’s response? “Its [sic] a shame some of you go to the negative.” Yet one minute later came the apology…followed by a conspiracy reference that made the company look even more foolish.
The lesson: There was no reason for the company to tie its 20%-off sale to September 11. The backlash from all corners, including the local press, the Huffington Post, and even the Washington Post, shows that brands can avoid a great deal of harm by simply not posting anything on September 11. Bikram Arlington eventually wrote a longer apology on Facebook, but critics just used that platform to further blast the studio.
The incident: When NFL player Ray Rice was released from his team after a video surfaced of him knocking his fiancée unconscious, a national conversation on domestic violence ensued. Women shared their experiences on Twitter with one of two hashtags: #WhyILeft the abuser or #WhyIStayed — the latter being a response to those who blame victims for remaining in harmful relationships. Some of the stories, even at just 140 characters, are heartbreaking. Which made DiGiorno Pizza’s intrusion into the hashtag all the more awful. Their tweet: “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.”
The consequences: The response was swift, and every comment was scathing. DiGiorno quickly realized what was happening and deleted the tweet. Then, to its immense credit, its social media manager began personally apologizing, in the first person, to anyone who complained about the post on Twitter. The sincere responses made no attempt at defense or argument.
The lesson: It seems obvious, but always check a hashtag before using it in a brand tweet. Most are neutral and available for brands to join, such as #ValentinesDay or #ThrowbackThursday (also called #TBT). Perhaps the bigger lesson here is how DiGiorno responded to its mistake, immediately and humbly apologizing on Twitter for hours. I found very little anger at the brand just a day or two later. If you screw up on social media, often it’s wiser to admit wrongdoing than to try to fight a battle with critics across the country and around the clock.
The incident: Amy and Samy Bouzaglo own a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, and appeared on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. The couple proved so awful — stealing waiters’ tips, fighting with customers — that Ramsay actually walked off the set for the first time in the series’ history. Right after the episode aired, viewers began mocking the Bouzaglos on Reddit and giving them bad reviews on Yelp. In response, did the couple learn from their actions or choose the better part of valor?
No. They posted insults of their critics on the restaurant’s Facebook page, such as “You are all little punks” and “You people are all shit…Come to here, I will fucking show you all.” Critics replied in the comments, and the couple replied to those posts, often in all caps.
The consequences: It’s difficult to say that the bad PR online was any worse than what happened on national TV, but the press used the Facebook meltdown to paint the couple as truly deranged — making famous hothead Gordon Ramsay look reasonable for abandoning them.
The lesson: The Bouzaglos knew the episode was airing and could have prepared some kind of statement, response, or discount to deflect the negative reaction. They didn’t. They could have let Yelpers and Redditors have their fun for a few days before moving on to another target. They didn’t. By posting angry remarks again and again on Facebook, the couple proved the old adage, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
It’s fine for brands to have a personality online. Taco Bell, Old Spice, JetBlue, and even the CIA have cultivated unique, compelling voices. But brands don’t have to inject themselves into every conversation, event, or holiday. Learn from the mistakes of Bikram Arlington, DiGiorno Pizza, and Amy’s Baking Company, and know when it’s actually more social to say nothing.
Need help preparing for, avoiding, or navigating your own social media disaster? My agency can help.
Jason Ginsburg is Director of Interactive Branding at Brandemix.
Marketers spend millions of dollars on Facebook, the country’s largest social network. But a little-known messaging service, Snapchat, has been quietly adding new features, passionate users, and forward-thinking brands, and is now poised as a more cost-effective platform than its giant rival. Here’s how Snapchat might actually be better than Facebook at engaging customers, fans, and even job-seekers.
Snapchat is a messaging app for smartphones with a simple twist: All messages, photos, and videos disappear in 1-10 seconds, based on the sender’s choice. The content is deleted not only from recipients’ phones but also from Snapchat’s servers. Thus, Snapchat’s content is ephemeral. It’s a sort of anti-Facebook; fans can reply to messages, but they can’t comment or “like” them, or share the content with friends.
Snapchat currently has just 26 million US users, compared to Facebook’s more than 125 million. But here, less is actually more. Facebook has now made it all but impossible for brands to reach fans without paying, and even promoted content often gets lost in users’ newsfeeds, so Snapchat’s relative quiet and intimacy becomes an advantage. The Los Angeles Times declares that “chat apps” like Snapchat are able to “place marketing messages front and center to people enthusiastic enough to follow stars and brands on them.” Because Snapchat was made for private communication between friends, most messages from brands — and especially from celebrities — seem more like personal text messages and less like blaring billboards.
Here’s an example: NARS cosmetics offered an exclusive look at a new product line only to its Snapchat friends. NARS could have posted the preview on Facebook, where it would have easily been shared by fans and the press, but the company opted for the feel of a VIP event by hosting it in the more quiet, intimate Snapchat. As Convince and Convert put it, “the exclusivity and opportunity to send personalized content for a limited time only made Snapchat the perfect forum for this announcement.”
Snapchat recently launched a video-calling feature: If two friends are logged in at the same time, they can video chat — just like Skype or FaceTime, and pointedly unlike Facebook Messenger. This offers a great opportunity for brands to show exclusive content, host a video presentation with an executive, and even handle customer service issues. Recruiters can use this feature to interview job-seekers as well.
Snapchat also enhanced its basic instant-messaging platform. Instead of a 45-character limit — the app was created for sharing photos, not text — users can now conduct a complete text conversation with no character or word limit. So brands can also host live chats with text, similar to Twitter, as pop singer Ariana Grande did recently, to great success. Facebook can also be a platform for live chats, but the post/comment/reply structure makes it difficult to follow, and prone to both off-topic tangents and spam by mischievous users. Snapchat’s simplicity gets the edge here, while its video feature handily beats Facebook.
So far, we’ve seen how Snapchat is different from Facebook, but the app recently launched a new feature that may beat Facebook at its own game. The function is called Stories. According to Snapchat’s blog: “Snapchat Stories add Snaps together to create a narrative. When you add a Snap to your Story it lives for 24 hours before it disappears, making room for the new.” So it’s sort of like a Facebook newsfeed, with a constantly changing collection of posts from within the last 24 hours.
Brands have already taken advantage of this feature. The NBA created a story in photos that led up to Kevin Durant’s acceptance speech for the year’s Most Valuable Player award. Even more interesting, GrubHub used a Snapchat Story to hire a social media intern, using Snapchat’s illustration feature to create six drawings explaining how to apply.
The emphasis on imagery over text, along with the timeline-like feature, makes Snapchat Stories a hybrid not only of Facebook but also of Instagram, a winning combination for any marketer.
They’ll definitely play a part. Snapchat is closing in on Facebook Messenger’s 43 million users, with similar apps like Kik, WhatsApp, Viber, and Line also gaining ground. And we’ve all seen the surveys that show younger people, such as Generation Z, leaving Facebook for more private social networks like Snapchat. So Snapchat should be part of any organization’s plans for marketing, branding, or recruiting in 2015.
Want to get started with Snapchat? Brandemix can help.
I’ve been talking about the value of gamification for over a year now. Adding game elements can help in all aspects of HR: Motivating employees, onboarding new hires, increasing referrals, improving wellness, and finding the best job candidates. Still not convinced? Here are some of the latest, most ingenious ways organizations are using gaming to engages their audiences.
Bluewolf’s brand emphasizes knowledge-sharing, so the consulting firm placed new importance on growing the company’s visibility and showcasing their expertise. For that, Bluewolf needed an engaged community of employees, motivated to use social and collaborative platforms. The company turned to Bunchball’s Nitro for Salesforce to gamify social sharing.
The result was an internal campaign called #GoingSocial. Employees created public profiles that revealed their interests, areas of expertise, and social activity. They were given points simply for completing the profiles, and then for sharing content on Twitter or LinkedIn (from within the Salesforce software), posting a blog post on bluewolf.com, or even just achieving a Klout score of 50 or higher. Prizes included badges visible to other employees, as well as real-world rewards like gift cards.
The campaign was a success. Bluewolf increased traffic from social media sites by 20% month-over-month and increased internal collaboration by 57%. The company’s Klout score, in the 40s at the time, is now at 60.
The world of mobile technology is always changing, so Cricket Wireless wanted a way to keep its sales representatives up to date without having to leave work for days of education and training. The company used OnPoint Digital’s CellCast platform to gamify training and incentivize employees to learn — on their cell phones, without leaving the sales floor.
Employees received points and badges for completing courses, with a leaderboard tracking not only individual achievements but also those of the entire store — in essence, giving workers two ways to compete. Finishing courses and passing tests gave employees points and badges, which could be redeemed for gift certificates and other tangible prizes.
The result? Another success. A post-campaign survey found that 18% of employees said they were motivated to appear on the leaderboard. 39% said they hoped to retain what they learned during their training. 42% said they wanted their store to win the contest. These are fantastic numbers for employee learning, which isn’t always a topic that excites workers.
St. Lawrence College needed to create a wellness program for its 1,400 workers, some of whom are unionized, who work at three campuses. The school felt that gamification was the best way to reach the different types of employees at different locations. So SLC turned to Keas for a gamified wellness program.
Keas has an interface similar to Facebook. SLC employees created profiles, joined teams, and set wellness goals. Then they shared status updates and photos that were visible to other participants. They were awarded points when they competed in challenges, took quizzes, or met their goals. Workers supported each other’s efforts; some even shared healthy recipes with each other.
The results were impressive. 280 participants reported losing weight. 52% of participants increased their weekly exercise. 38% reported reduction in their stress levels. And, to show that employee wellness overlaps with engagement, 88% said the program improved their teamwork and collaboration.
A recent survey by Zenger Folkman found that up to 41% of employees are not fully engaged with their organization; Technology Advice estimates that lack of engagement costs businesses around $500 billion a year.
In all three of the above cases, gamification helped save or make money for the companies: Bluewolf increased website visits, Cricket streamlined employee training, and St. Lawrence College saw a drop in health care costs. All three helped workers become more creative, collaborative, knowledgeable, and productive. Those kinds of savings and achievements are anything but fun and games.
Ready to add gamification to your organization? Brandemix can help.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.
The new iPhone 6 and its accompanying operating system include a number of features that will have lasting effects on your branding, marketing, and recruiting. From push notifications to slow-motion photography, here are six ways the iPhone can both challenge and enhance your efforts to reach your target audience.
The iPhone 6’s eight-megapixel camera comes with a lot of exciting enhancements for still photos, including advanced exposure, improved auto-focus, and a noise-reducing imaging chip. That probably means more people will add pictures when checking in on Swarm, posting on Facebook, or writing a Yelp review — which in turns mean your organization should have a presence on those sites so your fans can post there. These features will improve your brand’s own photos as well. It won’t matter if your office is dark or your restaurant is outdoors; the new exposure control will allow for great shots in any conditions. So you can create even better content on Pinterest and Instagram, two more social networks where your brand needs to be. Not sure about producing visual content? Click here to learn how to engage fans on the biggest photo sites.
The iPhone 6 has 38% more viewing area than the iPhone 5, while the 6 Plus offers another 36% more space on top of that. Add greater resolution to this enlarged space and it means a chance — maybe even a requirement — to improve your website’s design and interface. Your site can now offer larger buttons, brighter colors, and more information on each screen. And don’t forget to give your site responsive design, so it will appear the same on an older iPhone, both iPhone 6’s, and both sizes of iPads.
The iPhone 6 supports more LTE brands than any other smartphone and offers three times the speed when connected to Wi-Fi. If your office or break room or retail space don’t offer Wi-Fi, now is the time to change that. Your customers and employees will want to use the new iPhone’s faster speeds; don’t make then go across the street to Starbucks to do it. After all, your fans want to upload their cool photos and videos of your business — you should make that engagement as easy as possible.
Apple has also added features to its video camera. The iPhone 6 has image stabilization, making your handheld shots less jittery and blurry. It also offers time-lapse, letting you create fun, fast-paced videos like this. In the other direction, you can now shoot in super slow-motion, which is great way to make any activity seem more beautiful and poetic. These three features will allow you greater flexibility in shooting everything from employee testimonials to tours of your offices to quirky little Vine videos.
The iPhone 6’s new operating system also includes an upgraded notification system that allows apps to alert users of new content right from the notification banner itself. There’s no need to leave the app you’re in or even unlock the home screen. This integrates notifications more smoothly into the user experience. This applies to emails, texts, reminders, as well as numerous apps like Facebook. This will allow your organization to communicate more directly with your audience…as long as you don’t bother them too often. Find the perfect balance and you’ll be rewarded with more interaction from customers, employees, and job-seekers.
Perhaps the biggest boost in marketing will come from the iPhone 6’s Apple Pay feature. As VentureBeat put it: “These devices, equipped with Apple Pay functionality, will not only allow users to purchase products in physical retail locations,” but also “to purchase items easily and quickly online via their mobile device.” Apple Pay is a mobile payments service that makes credit-card swiping obsolete. It requires no contact at all, which is great for flu season but even better for quick, easy purchases, with little or no barrier. Whether your retail space allows for in-store Apple Pay purchases or your retail site is designed for Apple Pay, you should see an increase in impulse purchases at the register and less cart abandonment online.
As many have pointed out, Apple didn’t necessarily invent all of these features — in fact, they’re the last major manufacturer to create a large phone. But marketers who were engaging Droid and Samsung owners can now access iPhone users with the same strategies. It’s a very exciting time for mobile marketing and recruiting. Ready to get started? Contact Brandemix for help.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.