Part of running a successful business is getting the word out about what you do. Today businesses have access to much larger audiences and can reach them at a much lower cost than would have been possible even twenty years ago. Social media, email marketing, paid advertising – basically any kind of digital marketing – has tremendous potential for opportunity, but that doesn’t come without risks.

Having access to this vast, well populated public forum is great, but as we sit in front of our screens, engaging with them on our own, it’s easy to forget that it is in fact public. For business, it has become nearly unavoidable to participate; your business likely shows up on Google Maps whether you have claimed it or not (if you haven’t, click here to learn how!), and if you have a social media page, customer service will likely happen there whether you want it to or not.

This is a double-edged sword that offers both an excellent opportunity for exposure and the inherent risk of being opened up to trolls, critics and some unsavory people waiting to catch others on their mistakes. And once something exists on the internet, it can be very difficult to “take it back” – if that’s even possible at all.

But, the opportunities available to businesses – large, small and every size in-between – are more than worth the risks. Every business makes mistakes (they’re run by humans, after all), and the good news is that you can learn from the blunders that others have already made. We encourage every business to embrace digital marketing and all the opportunities (and risks) that come along with it!

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Always do your homework (because the internet will grade you tougher than any teacher you’ve ever had).

What happened when DiGiorno Pizza used a hashtag without knowing what it really meant.

Over the past few years we’ve seen more and more cause-related hashtags sweeping across social media. Most recently, women have banded together sharing stories of sexual harassment and gender discrimination with the hashtag #metoo. In 2014, #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft were used for victims of domestic violence to share their stories.

These were powerful movements that created some much needed awareness as well as a sense of community for those affected. Being a part of or supporting that community may be important for a business– but only under very limited, relevant and appropriate circumstances.

DiGiorno Pizza’s marketing team had not done their homework, and with a considerable lack of awareness, used the hashtag to advertise their business: “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.”

Jumping on the trending hashtag bandwagon is an excellent social media strategy (we recommend it!) – if you can put them in the appropriate contexts. Even if DiGiorno had known what the hashtag meant, we can’t think of any circumstances where it would make sense for any business to market itself using a serious issue like that.

Don’t be like DiGiorno: do your homework.

 

Nobody likes a cheater; instead of ‘not getting caught’, just don’t do it (because some people on the internet are great detectives with nothing better to do).

What happened when Smucker’s got caught deleting their follower’s comments.

Scary Marketing Mistakes Big Companies Have Made Your Small Business can Avoid Social Media Digital Marketing Smucker's

Like we said earlier; customer service is likely to happen online – whether you want it or not. And when it does, it is vital to remember: that conversation is public. A BIG no-no on social media is a company interfering with freedom of speech. There is a fine, somewhat grey line that separates truly inappropriate comments from comments that a company just doesn’t like.

As reported by Inc. Magazine: “Smucker’s got a lot of flak recently for its stance against labelling genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and a lot of people turned to its Facebook page to complain.” The company’s solution was to delete the comments. But, as we also said earlier: once something exists on the internet, it can be very difficult to “take it back” – if that’s even possible at all. There are countless stories of companies who were caught with posts that were live for only minutes – if one person sees it and documents it, there’s no turning back.

If you want a clear and thorough explanation of where ‘the line’ is, you can look up rules and regulations that every social platform has. A great rule of thumb would be to treat public comments in the same way you are required to treat official reviews. On review sites, you are not allowed to delete comments, if you spot profanity, threats or any other “dangerous” activity you must request that the comment be taken down. The rest – however silly, spirited, immature or downright mean the comment is – you’re just going to have to live with.

Take the high road; demonstrate your company’s integrity (and your own) by acknowledging and addressing tough issues and questions that are posed to you. Acknowledge and apologize to unhappy customers. Acknowledge and apologize for your mistakes where it makes sense. Do all of these things carefully and tactfully… and always consider that simply ignoring the internet trolls may be your best strategy.

Don’t be like Smucker’s: because nobody like a cheater.

 

Make sure your accounts are up to date… all of them… everywhere. (Seriously).

What happened when Heinz forgot to renew their domain.

Scary Marketing Mistakes Big Companies Have Made Your Small Business can Avoid Social Media Digital Marketing Heinz ketchup

Setting up your company website is a long and involved process. But before you’re driving traffic to your site, writing blogs, filling in your company information, deciding what you want the layout to be – before you even decide what program you want to use to build and host the whole thing… you bought your domain. This is something that happens once, only takes a few minutes and is usually set up to expire years later – it’s not going to be something that’s likely to occur to you very often (if at all), but it is of crucial importance.

Your domain is your online address and so it is one of our company’s most important assets. It may not seem like a big deal – especially if it only costs you $12 a year – but it is as important as the physical building you’ve set up your business in. You should absolutely consider your domain “property”, because it quite literally is.

When you first buy your domain it clearly states that you are the “owner”, but in order for everyone else to know that, you need to make sure your domain is registered for as long as you plan to use it. It works the same way as the building your business owns; it may be yours, but only so long as you continue to pay taxes on it. If you lapse on your tax payments (and thus your right to own the building), the government can take it. If you lapse on your domain registration, the domain company can take it.

If you fail to pay your taxes, you could show up to work with the locks changed and someone else moved in. If you forget to renew your domain, you could find yourself in a situation like Heinz did: with a new owner of your URL. Can you get it back? Maybe. But not without a lot of hassle and headache.

Don’t be like Heinz: Stay on top of your accounts.

(And if you want some help getting your domains and your website set up and managed right, we can help with that).

 

 

Withholding information isn’t the same as lying (and why this is one of the worst lies that you can tell yourself).

What happened when Lord & Taylor paid for advertising without disclosing it.

Scary Marketing Mistakes Big Companies Have Made Your Small Business can Avoid Social Media Digital Marketing Lord & Taylor

There are rules in advertising – and we don’t just mean best practices and tips about how produce great ads – we mean real, legal rules that regulate marketing activities. These rules are set up to protect the consumer from false information, to protect businesses from unfair competition, to ensure that tax laws on all related transactions are adhered to and a whole bunch of things in between.

In this cautionary tale, Lord & Taylor was found guilty of “failing to reveal its relationships with paid promoters”, according to an article in AdWeek. One expert commented: “This action sends a very clear message to the marketing industry that the FTC is watching native ads and will pursue enforcement actions where necessary disclosures are not made.”

The FTC is watching… and even if they weren’t, all that talk of integrity in our Smucker’s example should already have you leaning towards keeping your marketing activities on the up and up.

Don’t be like Lord & Taylor: honesty is the best policy.

 

Dot the I’s, cross the T’s, mind your grammar and for goodness sake – click your links (and then check them again – before things go live).

What happened when US Airways accidentally copied and pasted a link.

Scary Marketing Mistakes Big Companies Have Made Your Small Business can Avoid Social Media Digital Marketing US airways

Technology mishaps happen… the email you accidentally replied all to, the entire report you lost when you didn’t save it properly, those photos you’ll never get back because you weren’t using back-ups… We’ve all been there. Often, these things are the kind of mishaps that we all learn from the hard way, as they happen. But, we suggest learning from others’ mistakes as much as possible – especially when it comes to managing your business’ public accounts.

However honest a mistake may be, businesses are often held to higher standards – big companies especially because they have teams of people in charge of managing things like their social media and the messages they put out. As it turned out, after a little investigation, what happened with US Airways really was an honest mistake… albeit, a little unbelievable (as marketers ourselves, we are knocking on wood as we say “HOW could you have missed that!?”).

The person working on social media that day for US Airways was doing a quick monitor of their social channels before they went to post. They found a lewd photo that an internet troll had posted – something that is not uncommon, a day in the life of a social media manager, really – and went through the protocol to have it removed. Sometime during the process of flagging that post to the platform, the link was copied… and when this person finally went to post, it was accidentally pasted instead of the correct one.

Don’t be like US Airways: quadruple check everything (before it goes live).

 

If you’re not standing by your brand, you can’t very well expect your customers to (make sure that you are your business’ most loyal customer).

What happened when LG tried to mock Apple, and ended up playing the fool.

Scary Marketing Mistakes Big Companies Have Made Your Small Business can Avoid Social Media Digital Marketing LG iPhone #bendgate

This should go without saying, but you should be (actually be, preferably – not just appear to be) your company’s most loyal customer. Whether you’re a restauranteur, a hair stylist, a florist, a contractor, a lawyer… know your strengths, know what your company is best at, know what differentiates you from your competition and then by golly, stand by it.

Inc. Magazine reported on this major backfire: “LG tried to make fun of Apple’s #bendgate by tweeting from the LG France account that “Our smartphones don’t bend, they are naturally curved ;).” The only problem: The tweet was sent from an iPhone.”

Yup. While mocking Apple, LG sent out a tweet from an Apple iPhone. This should give you pause – for a few reasons. First, if you weren’t already aware that posts sometimes show what they were posted from – you are now. And if you weren’t you may want to check up on some of the other information that gets included when you post – where you posted from and when may also be included.

More importantly though, this appears to be a lesson in karma (that, and an incredible lack of awareness). We could talk about the implications for the brand’s reputation, what this might’ve done to the perception of quality of LG devices, how we expect companies to set positive examples… but, really – this post was kind of mean. Want consumers to trust your brand? Speak to your virtues, not your opponent’s faults.

Don’t be like LG: don’t be a hypocrite.