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Imagine the delight when you see that one of the products you sell is unexpectedly trending on social media.
How about if it was trending worldwide?
It could be pretty hard to contain your excitement.
And that was certainly the case for Nintendo Life yesterday (18/9) when it discovered that both the Mario Kart game and the character Toad were dominating conversations on Twitter.
The verified account of the Nintendo gaming news source excitedly posted the ‘Yay Mario Kart and Toad are trending on Twitter’.
Unfortunately, the company -which also sells Nintendo products - and its social media team had not stopped to consider why it was suddenly being discussed.
And it was forced to back peddle furiously around an hour later when it learnt the real reason behind the trend: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels had compared (and I can’t believe I’m writing this) part of Donald Trump’s anatomy to the mushroom character Toad in the popular go-kart game.
Nintendo Life did at least respond with humour to what it described as its ‘unfortunate tweet’, announcing that the social media intern would be collecting the ‘covfefe’ for the rest of the week.
We apologize for this unfortunate tweet from our social media intern. He'll be collecting the covfefe for the rest of the week! pic.twitter.com/oud8M4eBnj— Nintendo Life (@nintendolife) September 18, 2018
‘Covfefe’ incidentally appears to be a little dig at the President as it was a typo in one of his tweets earlier this year.
Anyway, this latest incident was all a bit embarrassing and will certainly provide us with another case study to discuss on our social media training courses. And it serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of discovering exactly why people are talking about a subject before joining in.
Of course, Nintendo Life, which has 147,000 followers, is not the first organisation to fall foul of trending failures, poorly thought out hashtags, and other social media disasters
Here are a few other memorable ones:
The ‘compromised’ account
McDonald’s found itself in a social media storm when its Twitter account blasted Donald Trump last year and called for the return of Barack Obama.
The post, which was pinned to the top of its page, said: “@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands.”
The tweet was up for around 20 minutes before it was taken down, but in that time it was liked more than 1,700 times and retweeted more than 1,600 times.
And inevitably in that time many users took screen grabs ensuring the tweet lived on long after it was deleted.
McDonald’s later revealed that the account had been hacked by an ‘external source’ and issued an apology.
Jumping on the hashtag bandwagon
On our social media training courses, we talk about the importance of using relevant trending hashtags.
The ‘relevant’ part of that advice is absolutely crucial as Homebase discovered to its cost.
It found itself on the end of a social media backlash when a cheerful customer service post, encouraging people to get in touch with any questions, finished with #RIPPRINCE shoehorned on the end.
There was no other reference to the recently deceased singer and it looked like a careless attempt to piggyback on the main topic of conversation at the time.
The company was accused of ‘exploiting’ the death and the tweet also resulted in a range of negative newspaper headlines.
The tone death tweet
New Zealand Police’s decision to tweet about how hard it is to tell someone their family member has died in a car crash – and illustrate it with a gif of actor Steve Carell saying ‘this is the worst’ – saw it trend on Twitter and make headlines around the world.
The tweet was actually only live for a short while, but in that time the force still managed to try to justify the tweet before taking it down.
To its credit it did subsequently apologise, saying the tweet had been ‘wrong and insensitive’, but by that point the damage had been done with damaging headlines across the world.
Memorable hashtags can promote and create a buzz about your social media work. Ideally you want something short but still descriptive.
And you should always check the hashtag is not being used for anything else.
But, perhaps most importantly of all, you should make sure it can’t be misread – a lesson the promoters of singer Susan Boyle could have done with before they opted for #Susanalbumparty.
The official hashtag for Susan Boyle's new release is #susanalbumparty Sounds like its gonna be one hell of a departure from her usual style— Rob Walker (@robawalk) November 21, 2012
Similarly, Research in Motion (RIM) maybe should have given their hashtag a bit more consideration before they went with #RIMjobs to promote its search for new candidates.
Many social media users have dirty minds.
Live Twitter question and answer sessions can help give corporate twitter accounts a chattier, friendlier and more human feel.
But the timing needs to be right. Holding an interactive session when you are already creating headlines in the traditional media for the wrong reasons is a recipe for disaster.
British Gas was the victim of one of the more memorable scheduling disasters, opting to give customers the opportunity to ask Customer Services Director Bert Piljls questions on the day it announced a 9.2 per cent price hike.
The #AskBG hashtag was used by thousands of customers airing their grievances and those who took the opportunity to poke fun at the energy giant.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
Click here to find out more about our journalist-led social media training.
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