As 2011 draws to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year and see what we can learn from it. Unfortunately, other people’s mistakes often make for better (or more well-publicized) learning experiences. Here are four Twitter marketing strategies that we strongly advise you not to emulate.
1. Qwikster and @Qwikster
If you didn’t hear about the Netflix and Qwikster debacle unleashed by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, you may want to start with this blog post. In short, Hastings decided to spin off the DVD rental half of the service into a site called Qwikster, while keeping the Netflix site for DVD streaming. Almost every single part of this decision was awful: two different sites, the name, the opening sentence of Hastings’ blog post, and – most important for our purposes – the fact that the @Qwikster Twitter handle was already taken.
Enter Jason Castillo, the original @Qwikster. Castillo is a big fan of dropping letters from words and talking about drugs (that he claims he does not use) and homework, because he’s in high school. Castillo now has 8,700+ Twitter followers from this mess, and reportedly had three different offers to purchase his Twitter handle. It’s a shame for Castillo (but not really anyone else) that Qwikster didn’t pan out, because he probably could have made a nice chunk of change and then wouldn’t have had to ask his dad for food money anymore.
What you can learn from @Qwikster: If you’re launching a new company, securing your name on social media profiles is one of the first things you should do. Also, pick a name that’s better than Qwikster.
2. @KennethCole’s Egypt tweet
I’m sure you remember the protests in Egypt from very early this year. After almost 30 years, Egyptian citizens finally rose up to overthrow Hosni Mubarak. Much of the world watched, understanding the seriousness of the unfolding events…
But not Kenneth Cole! Kenneth Cole tweeted this joke to promote his new spring collection, and the backlash began almost immediately. Although he removed the tweet and issued public apologies on Facebook and Twitter, the screenshots and stories live on.
What you can learn from @KennethCole: Don’t try to make light of serious events for marketing benefit. It makes you look bad. Also, sometimes it’s not the best idea to let your CEO tweet, especially if he has a history of saying insensitive things in the press.
3. @ragusauce spams dad bloggers
Yes, that Ragu, the supermarket pasta sauce brand. They decided to make a video with some mommy bloggers detailing what it’s like when the men at their houses cook dinner. They then…well, see for yourself:
Neither the spamming nor the linked YouTube video were well-received by dad bloggers, who were annoyed by the spam tweets and offended by the video. “Thanks for assuming that all men are bungling idiots in the kitchen! Way to sell to your audience!” says one YouTube commenter.
What you can learn from @ragusauce: Playing into stereotypes is a risky move, and will often anger more people than interest them in buying your spaghetti sauce. Also, nobody likes to be spammed.
Australia-based Qantas Airlines has had a bumpy year. Following a struggle to negotiate with three different major unions, the company locked out their employees, grounded all their planes, and stranded tons of customers – both domestic and international. On November 21, Qantas officially broke off all union negotiation. On November 22, they launched the #QantasLuxury Twitter contest. The prize? A first class amenity kit and a pair of Qantas pajamas.
If you can’t guess what happened next…Australian Twitter users hijacked the hashtag and turned it on its head. At its high point, users were reportedly sending 51 tweets per minute using #QantasLuxury, most of them making fun of the idea of Qantas and luxury together in the same phrase. For example: “#qantasluxury is getting a pilot, a plane, engineers and baggage handlers.” Almost a month later, people are still using the brand’s own hashtag to shoot off complaints and insults.
What you can learn from #QantasLuxury: Think of all potential consequences before proceeding with a social media campaign. For Qantas this would have been something like. “Is the entire country of Australia mad at us? Is this campaign very, very likely to backfire?”
Twitter definitely has a wealth of online marketing benefits, but you are also prone to a whole new world of downfalls if you aren’t sure what to do. When in doubt, get social media marketing help. = )