Social media gives another dimension to the way we communicate, persuade and advertise, but that’s not to say that everybody always gets it right.
Barely a week goes by that we don’t see an example of how not to do social media, sometimes from an innocent but misguided individual, and other times from large companies that you’d think would have specialist teams that should know better. Even the social media sites themselves can cause trouble with their design and algorithm flaws.
October is the month most associated with autumn and spookiness, and we’ve certainly seen some social media exploits ‘fall’ short of the mark in frightful ways in the last few weeks. Here are three examples that have stood out:
1. Misspelling of U.S. city trends
The month began with the tragic news of a major shooting incident in Las Vegas, Nevada. Unsurprisingly, it got a lot of people talking and sent Twitter into meltdown, but the incident also exposed how easily a mistake can turn into a trend.
At one point on Tuesday, October 3, #LasVagasShooting was listed as a trending item on Twitter, with many users of the site obviously not noticing the misspelling of ‘Vegas’ in the hashtag. As you can’t spellcheck a hashtag, and because Twitter suggests hashtags for you as you type, enough people were repeating the typo to allow it to trend. In view of this, Mashable has accused Twitter of having algorithm weaknesses.
The incident is not dissimilar to the ironic #grammerschools hashtag that trended in September 2016.
2. Dove gets in a flap
Sometimes a social media campaign is so poorly thought out, you wonder how the company behind it could possibly have made such a misjudgement.
Cosmetics company Dove ran some ads on Facebook to highlight how people could use its products to improve their appearance within seven days. What caused some understandable controversy though was that the ads showed a black woman transforming into a white woman, which could be interpreted as “washing away” her colour. Many social media users asked whether the intended message behind this was that white skin was more beautiful than black.
An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.
— Dove (@Dove) October 7, 2017
Dove issued the above apology and removed the ads, but really, what were they thinking?
3. New Zealand Police misses the beat
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using humour in social media, but it’s a subjective area and should be handled carefully – something the New Zealand Police horribly failed to do on October 9.
Newshub reports that a quickly deleted tweet from the country’s police force depicted actor Steve Carell playing The Office (U.S. version) character Michael Scott. He was shown smiling sheepishly with the caption “This is the worse” at the bottom. The tweet itself read:
“When we have to tell someone their family member has died in a crash.”
Perhaps it was an attempt to introduce a human and empathetic side to the police, but many saw it as flippant and inappropriate. The backlash prompted the NZ Police to delete the tweet and issue an apology.
We apologise for the recent road safety tweet. We quickly realised it was wrong & insensitive & it was immediately deleted. Thx for feedback
— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) October 9, 2017
With business social media, if you’re planning a campaign, it’s wise to get some feedback on it before it goes live. What seems a good idea to one person can come across as kamikaze content to another, meaning many heads are usually better than one.