Bad advertising with social media

Just when you thought it was settled that your business should leverage social media, someone goes and makes you think twice. On Friday, , Partner/Chief Customer Experience Designer at, published a post entitled “” that is sparking discussion among digital marketers.

In the post, Wilson argues that social media equips the average person with four “factors empowering bad behavior, particularly against companies:” (1) No Guilt (2) The Mob (3) Relative Anonymity and (4) No Accountability. He points to the disaster, when customers shared negative stories about McDonalds on Twitter, as an example of how social media is having this negative effect.

While the risks Wilson highlights are real in some cases, the risks of not using social media are even greater. How did I find Wilson’s post (and consequently Sensei Marketing)? I saw a tweet from, another Partner at the firm and marketing guru, who shared it.

As Fiorella adds in the comments stream of Wilson’s post:

“A successful business cannot lay in fear of risk but embrace the rewards it can achieve. Brand negativity by those few you speak about will occur even if your business never logs into a social network. In fact, there’s a greater risk since that negativity will be the only content feeding social proof around your brand. Social media does embolden haters but it also provides a new soapbox for great experiences. If anything, social media has increased the importance of building positive customer experiences online and off.”

Social media does have a powerful amplifying effect. But just like any technology, it can be used for good or evil. The key is building the right social strategy for your brand. It’s not a “one size fits all” marketing solution. It has to be adopted in strategic, tailored ways. As Wilson points out, the #McDStories story was the result of “poor planning combined with outright naivety about the their own brand perception.”

Building a social strategy takes time and careful attention, but the point is: you need one. Many of my friends don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines or newspapers, and get most of their news from Twitter and Facebook . So where will brands have the best chance of engaging my friends? On Twitter and Facebook. Social media builds brand awareness in ways that no other form of media can and reaches customers who would be otherwise unreachable.

Wilson warns that social media can create “bad customers” because it builds a guilt-free, relatively anonymous environment with no accountability. But social media is increasingly an “online extension” of personal identities. We still experience guilt and accountability online; our friends, family and colleagues are on social media, too. For most people, social media is not anonymous at all.

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FCA guides on use of social media for financial promotions  — Financial Reporter
While the FCA has made clear that it does not wish to curb the use of social media, it has suggested that firms make clear when they are advertising using social media platforms - for example, using the hashtag #ad on Twitter.

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Good Intentions Make Bad News: Why Americans Hate Campaign Journalism
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