Social Media Self-Sabotage

Conservative estimates of the total amount of spending on social media advertising in the U.S. is in excess of $8 billion. It is an industry that continues to grow rapidly and is constantly innovating. As businesses continue to seek to engage with customers in novel and substantial ways, some campaigns inevitably fall flat on arrival. Haven’s Social Media Director, Brie Wristbridge, states, “In recent days, we learned that one single tweet cost Elon Musk 40 million dollars and forced him to resign as Chairman at Tesla. If that doesn’t prompt you to evaluate the content you’re pushing out on behalf of your brand then I don’t know what will.” The tweet Brie is referencing snowballed into a full-blown SEC investigation resulting in a settlement that allowed Musk to dodge an even heftier punishment – believe it or not.

When considering your corporate social media accounts, taking a look at failures and follies can be just as constructive as highlighting the positive and the successful. Below, we’ll look at two more recent examples of posting gone wrong.

Twitter Trends Don’t Fly with the Air Force

Adapting your marketing strategy to accommodate the latest trends from the news and pop culture, done cleverly, can be an easy way to endear your business and brand to your social media followers. In May of this year, Internet users waged a heated debate on the word being generated by a computerized voice in an audio clip. Some heard “Laurel” in one pitch, others heard “Yanny” in another. Celebrities, influencers, and corporations quickly cashed in, weighing in on the matter in fairly innocuous ways, that is, until the U.S. Air Force threw their hat in the ring:

“[T]he deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10” referencing the sound of an airstrike, was viewed to be in poor taste by many. The tweet was promptly deleted, following criticism that it was inappropriate.

Dove and Pepsi Miss Their Context Clues

Self-awareness is a key virtue when it comes to content marketing. Taking the issues and political climate of the moment and crafting a campaign with the right message at the right time can be a homerun for businesses. In 2017, Burger King released a video explaining Net Neutrality, a major tech-issue-turned-political, in a fresh and unique way. The same year, General Electric announced, in a popular advertisement of their own, an ambitious goal of getting 20,000 women into STEM positions by 2020. Both corporations captured a moment in time and led successful campaigns to address each timely issue. However, in the same year, brands like Pepsi and Dove dropped the ball.

Dove U.K. drew ire for rolling out a collection of body wash in different shapes meant to represent a variety of female body types. Pepsi faced controversy for releasing an ad where Kendall Jenner defuses the tension of a large protest by sharing a can of soda with a police officer.






Both Dove and Pepsi received considerable backlash for their campaigns. Dove was accused of misreading its customer base. Pepsi received backlash for what was perceived as tone-deafness to the larger political climate. In either case, it highlights the importance of knowing your audience and what’s likely to be on their minds when formulating how best to market your brand.

Effective marketing espouses empathy from its audience. When done right, it taps into consumers’ emotions. Best for both parties, however, when emotions like confusion, disgust, and anger, are kept to a minimum.­­