A slip up by a small hamburger restaurant is perhaps understandable but multinationals have a habit of sticking
their social media feet firmly down their throats too.
Step up chocolate giant Nestle.
On Sunday night, the Twitter account of Crunch Mexico, used to spruik Nestle's chocolate bar, tweeted: "A los de
Ayotzinapa les dieron Crunch".
The phrase refers to a slang term used when someone is beaten up and loosley translates: "Those from Ayotzinapa were crushed".
Ayotzinapa refers to the killing, burning and burying of 43 students who went missing on 26 September near Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.
The tweet sparked calls for a boycott of Nestle products on social media.
A Nestle spokesman told The Independent newspaper: "We have apologised for this completely unacceptable tweet which is entirely contrary to the values of our company.
"We deeply regret any distress it may have caused. We understand and share the public's concern about this post. We take this matter extremely seriously."
It remains unclear if the Twitter account was hacked.
Either way, it is crucial for any organisation to have a policy setting out how it should engage on social media.
Key features should include a set of guiding principles:
By Benjamin Haslem
UK-based PR adviser, Stuart Bruce, poses an interesting question: is it better to hire a person who has expertise in PR and then teach them about social media or the other way around - hire the social media expert and teach them PR?
Bruce argues for the former and I tend to agree.
Social Media is just one part of the public relations arsenal. You need to understand the art of communication and you need to be strategic.
Who are your stakeholders? What are their attitudes to what you are communicating? What are their expectations? How much influence do they have? Will they share what you have to say with others and would they do so enthusiastically and react negatively to being "used"?
Is Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn the best channel on which to engage?
Is any social media platform the best forum or would an email, telephone call or even a letter be better?
Bruce quite rightly qualifies his view by stressing that some roles are clearly set out for a social media specialist, such as measurement, analytics, and evaluation, though you also need someone to look at that analysis with a jaundiced eye, to pick up patterns a person not au fait with PR may miss.
"An amazing ability with social media analytics wouldn't be enough when the alternative was someone with broader PR evaluation skills and the ability to learn social media measurement," Bruce writes.
That's not to say a good social media specialist can not shine in broader public relations. Just as I was hired by Jackson Wells after 10 years as a journalist at News Limited and today do more than handle media management.
By Benjamin Haslem
Your choice of words and the emotional response it elicits in the reader can either make your message highly effective or a disaster.
The meme at left was posted by a friend on Facebook.
It was originally posted by a group called Young Mums.
I am the father of a boy who is severely allergic to peanuts. He has to carry an epipen with him. One peanut consumed, without a shot of adrenaline from the epipen, could kill him. Thankfully, we have never had to use the epipen.
So I came to the meme with a certain lack of objectivity.
I am also a passionate opponent of the anti-vaccination movement, which poses a grave risk to public health.
My initial take on the meme was one of anger. To my eyes it was cheapening the risk posed to some children by peanuts.
The words "because someone might be allergic" smacks of condescension or a sense that people are being put out or inconvenienced, especially when contrasted with the message below.
It also suggests the danger posed by peanuts is not very high or even exaggerated.
However, my friend argued that he read it as along the lines of (to paraphrase) "why is it that as a school community we can organise to ensure our playgrounds are safe for kids with peanut allergies but we can't make parents vaccinate their kids?".
That's a reasonable interpretation for someone who doesn't have a child with a peanut allergy.
But the problem with the meme is that the choice of language doesn't convey that message.
By Benjamin Haslem
Any media manager worth their salt would usually advise that getting angry in media releases can be counter productive.
It may make you feel better but it won't actually help you achieve your objectives. Especially if you're responding to a group that is advocating something most people would support: the safe and considerate consumption of alcohol.
Not so BrewDog.
As Mashable's Todd Wasserman reports, the Scottish Brewer wrote a withering response after Portman Group, a UK alcohol industry standards group, rejected BrewDog's Dead Pony Club ale on the grounds that the packaging encouraged antisocial behavior and binge drinking.
BrewDog's reply, posted on its blog under the class hashtag #sorrynotsorry, cuts to the chase:
On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders, I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today’s ruling. Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to say, and treating all of its statements with callous indifference and nonchalance.
Unfortunately, the Portman Group is a gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths, funded by navel-gazing international drinks giants. Their raison d’être is to provide a diversion for the true evils of this industry, perpetrated by the gigantic faceless brands that pay their wages.
Blinkered by this soulless mission, they treat beer drinkers like brain dead zombies and vilify creativity and competition. Therefore, we have never given a second thought to any of the grubby newspeak they disseminate periodically.
You can read the full post here.
I've never met anyone who drinks Dead Pony Club but I suspect they would be the type of soul who would love such a strident response to what, at least in their and BrewDog's minds, are a group of wowsers.
That makes the response a clever piece of viral marketing. What it means for the future of the product, I'm not sure.
By Benjamin Haslem
Personal care products giant, Dove, has developed a reputation for thinking outside the square when it comes to marketing. Its Campaign For Real Beauty garnered massive publicity in 2004.
It's latest effort in the US has attracted attention because it takes a dig at poor old New Jersey, so long the butt of jokes from the rest of America, especially those living across the Hudson in New York.
Not sure how this will play out around Trenton and Newark but it got me wondering what would be an Australian equivalent?
2 for 1 shampoo offer: "Dear Tasmania, one for each head".
A punching bag emblazoned with the word 'Sydney': "Dear Melbourne, when the frustration gets too much...".
An XXXL hat: "Dear Sydney, something for your head..."
What do you think?
By Benjamin Haslem
In a further insight into how rapidly the social media landscape is changing, Mashable reports a study has found 77 per cent of US college students are using Snapchat daily.
Snapchat is a smart phone and tablet app that lets users take photos and record videos, add text and drawings and send them to a controlled list of recipients.
Their creations - known as Snaps - only appear on screen for between one to 10 seconds before being deleted.
The study also included information that hints at the app's value to marketers, with about half of those surveyed saying they would open a snap from a brand they they did not know.
Nearly seven in ten said they would add a brand as a friend if they already followed it on Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms.
Snapchat is yet to generate any revenue but its founders - Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy - have already turned down an offer to sell for US$3b cash from Facebook and US$4b from Google.
A number of brands are already using Snapchat to market their products, including Taco Bell, Honda, the New Orleans Saints, Rebecca Mincoff and MTV UK.
It would be interesting to know how many people are using Snapchat in Australia.
The Snapchat data was collected by Sumpto, a New York-based marketing company that identifies college students who are influential on social media and connects them with brands.
It should be stressed that most respondents to this survey had to sign up to Sumpto, so the sample is likely skewed toward early adopters.
Coca Cola's 60-second commercial aired during Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII broadcast is, you would think, to most casual observers, beautiful.
The #AmericaIsBeautiful video is a celebration of the USA's rich cultural melting pot and spectacular and diverse landscape.
But it seems not everyone in the US agrees.
The advertisement begins with a female voice singing the US patriotic song America The Beautiful as a cowboy on a white steed emerges from a wilderness pine forest. Cut to a view across a lake to snow capped mountains, more pine forests in the middle ground, and you start getting the sense this ad wants to tap into viewers' patriotism.
A quick shot of the cowboy rubbing his ride's nose seems to confirm this. So far, no products in site (unless they're selling white horses).
Then things change. We're confronted with a tight shot of a woman's face in a cinema as she blows a pink ball of bubble gum. As American as apple pie.
But the singer has changed. And so has the language. It's not English! It's Spanish. From this point each line of the song is delivered in a different language, popping back into English at one point before climaxing with "from sea to shining sea" in English.
Coke has copped a blizzard of criticism in the States since the ad was aired. Most of it is simply too racist to repeat here but needless to say the soft drink giant has been called to task for messing with such an iconic American song.
The Tweet below is a good representation of the type of response Coke elicited. Public Shaming has a gallery of responses.
As I wrote about recently, using patriotic icons in a marketing campaign is a high-risk endeavour, especially if you're going to tamper with them. It risks a major PR disaster. It seems in the US, that risk is multiplied significantly.
Coca-Cola should have done a risk analysis on this. Maybe they tried it on focus groups and no one complained. Perhaps the Twitter trolls only represent less than one per cent of viewers and more than that will be won over to or stay with Coke.
Or maybe Coke should have played it safe.
Either way, they're getting a lot of publicity and all for the wrong reasons.
(Interestingly, the ad also includes two gay men ice skating with their daughter, though that seems to have been missed by the critics. LGBT media advocacy organisation, GLADD, said it was the first Super Bowl as to feature a gay family and called it a "step forward for the advertising industry".)
1. Is Social Media Stifling Political Debate?