6 Social Media Marketing Failures & What We Learned From Them

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Roger | May 10, 2019

Social media marketing matters - it’s the understatement of the year.

For marketers, it’s our bread and butter, where we score our largest return on investment.

social-media-marketing-failures

But it’ll only happen if you have a killer social media campaign. And in today’s digital world, it’s hard for your marketing campaign to stick out. You’re missing out on the chance to reach hundreds of thousands in your market each day.

It’s time for a social media strategy makeover.

Don’t fret - even the largest marketing agencies and brands struggle with revamping their social media strategies. But they follow simple tips to help transform their campaigns into eye-popping and engaging content.

In this post, you’ll see the social media strategies that flopped. You’ll learn what didn’t work and how it turned around. Through these strategic examples, you’ll know how to revamp your social media campaigns.

1. Assess Your Target Audience

Digital marketers shouldn’t make assumptions. It’s a dangerous game you’re playing. But social media analytics tools make it easier for you.

What you need to know is already out there. Make sure to use tools like SocialPilot to look at your social media demographics. These numbers will tell you exactly which networks your brand should approach and what types of content to publish.

So, let’s say you want to run some ads for a product. Facebook and YouTube are typically a better place for ads. What if your goal is to build brand awareness for a product targeted towards teens? Instagram is the way to go since most users are under 30. Maybe it’s a product geared towards women - try Pinterest since women far exceed men on the platform.

So, ask yourself where your target audience would follow you. Some audiences won’t follow you on each social network. And make sure your content doesn’t exclude half your audience with the message you are sending out and where you are posting.

Take a look at this Instagram post from United Colors of Benetton and see if you spot a massive failing.

Align content with audience’s interests

Benetton isn’t a boys-only line, is it? Well, you wouldn’t know by looking at this post. Girls not allowed? This simple line takes away half of your targeted audience, worse when you look at Instagram statistics geared towards under-30s.

Even Benetton knew it’s too hard-lined, and pivoted with their newest Instagram posts. Here’s an example.

Know your target audience well

Key Takeaway: Research your target audience and don’t exclude any of them through your social media content. If you find you don’t have many followers on one platform, understand why it’s the case. Chances are your brand does better on a particular social media platform. Research allows you to set more time, energy, and resources to building a campaign centered on that particular platform.

2. Cater To Your Audience

So, you found your target audience. You know which social media channel they are on. The first step is done. All you have to do is post content to grab their attention. Sounds easy, right?

Wrong.

Think about what value you give to your target audience with your brand. Let’s say you’re Reformation, a brand offering an ethical and sustainable fashion line. People buy your products because they want to wear a brand that upholds these values. They find value in what you stand for.

But then, you post the following as part of a recent collection entitled “Get Your S@!t Together”.

Stick to your brand values

In what way does this match your target audience? There is a white, young, tall model towering over a poorly dressed adult who seems to be of less economic means and is African-American. Doesn’t scream ethical, but more classist and possibly racist.

After being called out for such material, the brand had its own reformation project for its social media campaigns. Check out one Instagram post from their latest campaign.

Show that your brand cares

A simple message, catered to their target audience. It gives value and shows what the brand cares about.

Key Takeaway: Make sure all your content is curated through the lens of what your target audience would find valuable. Don’t steer too far from this targeted campaign based on your values. And if you want to be riskier, know in advance you will ruffle some feathers and have the chance of losing some of your loyal followers.

3. Integrate Core Values With Brand Messaging

With Reformation’s mishap, brand messaging is an important point to emphasize. If your brand or company wants to take a stance on social issues, make sure it’s in sync with your values.

There are virtues and vices of this approach. You’ll attract more people who share similar ideas. But a bold stance risks losing some followers. What’s more, some brands might not want to be labeled this way.

Still, if you support a cause, you are building your brand’s personality as well. Just make sure you are sending the message that your brand is socially conscious.

So, let’s say your brand is a beauty product. It’s a fickle area. You don’t want to emphasize one physical type over another. You want to build brand awareness and be acceptable to all. But it’s an area where you can truly connect with your audience.

This is what the Dove did with its “Real Beauty” campaign. It widened the definition of female beauty and refused to promote unrealistic expectations. A great ad ran on different social media platforms where participants were asked to describe their appearance and have an artist illustrate them. Other participants were asked to describe the individual and the artist drew what they said, and the results were outstanding.

Tackle a social issue sensitively

But Dove also missed the mark with this campaign. They changed the shape of their lotion and shampoo bottles to reflect different body types. The results weren’t so great for many of their customers.

Align brand message with social values

Not the best move, as customers were wary of such representations of their body type in bottled form.

Key Takeaway: Think about your values and be mindful of them when crafting a social media campaign. You’ll have to make a choice on whether you want to be known as the brand who comes out in support of a certain cause or who plays it safe. Be mindful if you do support a cause, your brand must treat it as their own Khaleesi.

4. Make Your Content Fit the Brand & Social Platform

You’re pressed for time. But you need to get content out across all your social media channels.

To save time, you publish the same content on all your platforms. And social media platforms make it easy for you since they are interlinked. You think, great, this cuts time and resources.

The problem - only one gets a good ROI.

Why? Because you didn’t personalize your content to fit the social media platform. You’re missing out on a ton of monthly active users available to you on each platform.

The solution - customize your content for each social media platform.

Research shows there is a different subculture to every one of the social media platforms your followers are on. It won’t cut it just to be present. You must adjust your content to fit the platform so followers will engage with it.

Think about your product and who its catered to. Then think of your platform. Take Twitter for instance. Tweets are fast. They happen a lot. And often, it’s about what’s happening this minute or this day. Take a look at this failure by Diet Coke.

Content must be relevant to what you’re selling

Is this really the best use of Twitter for Diet Coke? It doesn’t tell us much. It has nothing to do with the product and it’s not even a creative twist on it. It’s a different story with Coca-Cola’s main Twitter account. Check how they weave in Star Wars and the new release with their product and tailor it perfectly for Twitter.

Tailor content to the product & social platform

See the difference? Same goes for other platforms. Put your product first. Then think of the platform. Let’s say you are starting a home cooking channel. You want to build awareness. Instagram seems the most likely because you can upload mini cooking videos and follow influencers who do the same.

You wouldn’t then post the same content on Reddit. But you could do an AMA or ask an open-ended, debatable question in your ad. Just remember you’re missing out on a ton of value by not catering your content to the platform.

Key Takeaway: Don’t skimp on publishing or scheduling the same content across all your social media channels. Make sure you cater all your content specifically for that social media platform. Tailor it in a way where those users will engage with it. Mini videos for Instagram, open-ended questions for Reddit, pictures on Facebook and Pinterest, and cool quotes on Twitter, for instance.

5. Know What You’re Selling

To illustrate the next point, let’s play a game.

Take a look at this Instagram post and tell me the brand or product.

Don’t waver from your brand purpose

Did you guess Spotify?

Wrong.

You’d never guess it was for Audi. It’s part of a different strategy they took by profiling some Audi drivers rather than feature different car models. It backfired. Just look at those comments. People are there to see cars, not drivers.

But Audi’s case is a safe experiment. It wasn’t offensive to anyone. It wasn’t a social media disaster. But overall engagement dropped. It distracts users from their main purpose - checking out great cars.

And think about those who you want to attract. You have a split second to get people to stop scrolling through their social media feeds and look at your content. Do you think it’s best to confuse them in the process? Chances are, they’ll continue to scroll.

Audi changed their ways. Head to their Instagram page and you’ll see dozens of posts like this one.

Know what works for your audience

If you are blessed with crafting a marketing campaign for a product as noticeable as Audi, you better stick with the iconic image.

Key Takeaway: Stick with what your product is known for. If your product isn’t as shiny and you want to engage, you’ll need to get a little creative with the way you share your posts and how you tweak your captions. Try an intriguing quote or link it to something trending on the news. Don’t steer too far from what works for you and how your audience responds to your previous campaigns.

6. Share the Social Media Limelight

No one likes a lone-wolf.

Social media branding isn’t just about creating content and your audience consuming it.

Most upscale fashion brands don’t have the possibility to have user-generated content. Same goes for most luxury beauty lines. They tend to have celebrities be the face of the brand and pay them a large chunk of money to be their ambassador. But then, their social media looks like the centerpiece of a Glamour magazine.

Having celebrity faces to represent the brand

Take a look for yourself. Most luxury brands’ Instagram accounts (like the example above - Chanel) are filled only with celebrities. Often, people don’t notice the brand, but the celebrity. And it leaves the brand in the dust.

I know what you’re thinking. User-generated content is problematic. Trolls abound on social media, so be ready for them not to sabotage your efforts. But user-generated content is the way to go, with some brands seeing a 400% increase in fans from it.

You should start to encourage your audience to post more photos or videos and tag your brand in them. Why? It encourages engagement with your product. And it makes your largest advocates show their appreciation of the brand to their audience as well.

ASOS is great at sharing the social media spotlight. is great at sharing the social media spotlight.

share user-generated content from influencers

The post is all about the person and not about the brand. It’s as if the brand functions as an accessory for the influencer, not the other way around. It’s simple but effective. Branded hashtags are a must, and it helps simplify tracking posts for analytic purposes.

 

Influencer marketing is critical for ASOS. Sure, influencers are great for promoting the latest products and styles. But it’s designed to give its users more personal content, tips, and fashion advice. It’s more about building social proof and a community. The brand identity is intact, here to say, and will continue in the future.

Key Takeaway: To build a brand identity and a long-lasting community, embrace user-generated content. It’s the bread and butter of starting to build a community that forms deep bonds and relationships. Once you have a loyal band of followers, take to the social media streets. You’ll still be the director of your social media feature film, but the influencers will be your stars. Let them be the centerfold to build awareness of your brand to their followers but in a way that is personal. It’ll create ties that will carry you in both good and bad times.

Final Thoughts

Having a killer social media campaign is hard - it can feel like climbing Mt. Everest, blindfolded.

But use these simple tips and you’ll be one step closer to eye-popping, creative, and engaging content that will make others take notice.

Be sure to use the key takeaways as the starting point for your campaigns. And share with us some of your success stories, and if you’re brave enough, the failures.

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Roger

Roger is a Career Writer at Zety who specializes in the intersection of marketing and the workplace. He wants to help marketers achieve the best possible career growth imaginable. In his free time, you can catch him reading some classic American literature or trying out the latest taco stand.