2013 is not yet over—we’ve still got almost an entire shopping month before Christmas!—yet end-of-the-year lists and retrospectives have already started to pour in. Some of these are best-of lists, like the best books, movies, and songs of 2013; others take the opposite approach, counting down the biggest failures or blunders made in the past year. The lists in this latter category may sometimes seem mean-spirited, but they can also be instructive, showing the rest of us some potentially fatal errors to avoid.
Case in point: Business Insider has listed ten of the most epic content marketing meltdowns of the last year. We summarize a few of them below—certainly not to make fun of these companies, but simply to demonstrate some crucial lessons that can shape your brand’s content marketing.
Lesson #1: Being timely and relevant is ideal… except when it’s not.
One of the first lessons that any content marketer learns is that, to engage readers, it’s important to tie content to timely, relevant events. While this is certainly true, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. This year, cooking site Epicurious picked the wrong way, using the Boston Marathon bombing as an excuse to promote its recipes.
Takeaway: Connecting your content to current events or industry happenings is one thing; exploiting a tragic or sensitive issue is quite another.
Lesson #2: Know where you stand.
Earlier in the year, banking company J.P. Morgan announced that its CEO would be doing a live Q&A via Twitter, addressing whatever issues users wanted to talk about. He was probably a little surprised when most of the questions were openly hostile—many of them wondering when the big banks of America would be brought to justice for their malfeasance.
The lesson here is that it’s important to be aware of what your brand stands for, and how it is perceived. Before opening the floor for a discussion with your social media followers, make sure you have a good idea of what they think of you. This is where social listening becomes utterly essential.
Lesson #3: Be smart about damage control.
Kmart was enthusiastic when it revealed that it would be open to shoppers on Thanksgiving Day. What it underestimated was the level of public outrage over the trend of retail stores being open on the holiday this year—forcing their employees to work. Kmart responded to more than 100 of its Twitter critics individually, with scripted responses that only stoked the flames of outrage.
The most obvious lesson is not to make careless blunders like this in the first place; this goes back to the earlier point about understanding public perception. Should a Facebook post or a tweet stir up controversy, though, it is important to address damage control smartly. You can’t realistically respond to a hundred or more different people and show them the respect and attention they deserve. It’s better to make a more general statement of apology.
Lesson #4: Don’t be like Amy’s Baking Company.
You’ve probably heard about 2013’s most epic and legendary social media meltdown—in which the Arizona restaurant Amy’s Baking (featured on TV’s Kitchen Nightmares) took to Facebook to air its angry, obscene, all-caps aggression against online review sites like Yelp.com.
This one probably goes without saying: Content marketing is not about venting, blowing off steam, or getting even with your critics. It’s about putting your best foot forward and building a positive online identity.
More than anything else, don’t let these blunders scare you away from content marketing. Instead, view them as cautionary tales—great examples of how not to approach your company’s online brand building!
The team at Grammar Chic specializes in a variety of professional writing and editing services. For more information about how we can help you, visit www.grammarchic.net or call 803-831-7444. We also invite you to follow us on Twitter @GrammarChicInc for the latest in writing and editing tips and to give a “like” to our Facebook page. Text GRAMMARCHIC to 22828 for a special offer.