How To Screw Up Social Media And Get More Fans “Magically”

Ming Yeung

How is that possible, you may ask.

It’s an irrational world we live in today, to the extent that it is rational to think of ourselves as predictably irrational, which is another level of irrationality in itself.

Back to topic, in a bid to occupy a larger stake on the social media platforms, many companies now maintain a social media presence to engage customers and convert as many of them into Facebook fans or Twitter followers.

In their aggressive bid to do so, we see many similar campaigns businesses run, such as photo contests, giveaways and social media apps.

To rise above all these noise, could screwing up your social media campaign be the answer to differentiating yourself from the rest?

Let’s have a look at some “eye-openers”:

Case Study 1: Paradigm Mall Hiring “Magicians”

A newly opened shopping mall in Malaysia, the mall received a complaint on Facebook that its lifts were malfunctioning, from user Su Yuen Hsiang.

Paradigm Mall responded by stating that they were looking into the matter.

Another Facebook user, Freddie Toh, replied sarcastically “Again Looking…”

This was what peeved the Mall’s Facebook administrator, who retorted:

“Yes, Freddie, Paradigm Mall does not know magic. Cannot snap fingers and make changes. You can? Then we want to hire you!”

It all went downhill from there, as you can see from the conversation below. 

So what were the consequences?

Paradigm Mall’s manager Carrie Kon apologized, but it was too late. The damage had been done – it went viral and it prompted all sorts of responses.

But this brings us back to the “irrational” idea: “is no publicity bad publicity?” Or in this case is “all publicity good publicity?”

Would potential customers be so angry that they do not visit Paradigm Mall, like:

Or would the hype it creates get the attention this new establishment craves?

Before we get too deep, realize that this question is not the key.

The key, is that with so much attention generated, Paradigm Mall has an unprecedented opportunity to exploit it for marketing purposes.

For instance, the mall could attempt a humourous angle on its own gaffe and brand upcoming events with words related to magic. It would probably generate lots of laughs and shares, which was what the American Red Cross did when it screwed up on Twitter.

Case Study 2: Red Cross – From Getting Slizzerd to Getting More Donations

The following tweet was made by the organization’s social media manager, Gloria Huang, who thought she was posting to her personal Twitter account.

The organization responded promptly, owning up to it graciously and posted a light-hearted reply, treating the situation with a good dose of humour.

Dogfish Head Brewery was particularly amused and they used their Twitter account to unleash a stream of comments and retweets.

What Dogfish Heda Brewery achieved, was an increased consumption of their products and increased donations to the Red Cross. According to Wendy Harman, social media director at the Red Cross, she remarked that donations were up slightly above average.

So is capturing attention with screwed up social media campaigns the ticket to social media success?

Not so fast. Let’s take a rational look at things.

Case Study 3: Kenneth Cole – If You’re Planning a Murder Spree, Look Good Doing in Kenneth Cole’s New Spring Collection!

During the Cairo uprising, Kenneth Cole (the man himself) posted this particularly offensive tweet:

Naturally, the Twitterverse was pissed off, and this tweet sums it up best:

But how did KC reply?

One word – insincere.

I wouldn’t know how many people actually boycotted his products, one thing for sure is that this reflects extremely badly on the brand, and it erodes any goodwill customers may have towards the brand.

This is not an isolated incident, as in 2009, furniture maker Habitat made the same mistake by using trending hashtags to promote its products. In other words, spam.

Imagine searching for news on the Iran election (#MOUSAVI) and seeing a totally unrelated advertising Tweet, how would you feel about the brand?

Other Social Media Gaffes Closer to Home

1. The Straits Times

Again, it was a case of mixed accounts as a staff member posted on the wrong account.

2. Health Promotion Board (HPB)

This was a more serious case of trust abuse as although HPB claimed that it was a mix up of accounts, the person who did so posted on both HPB’s and his twitter account. Seems like he was really pissed off.

Social Media Campaigns Can Easily Go Wrong

Why? Because we cannot control people’s perceptions and reactions.

1. McDonald’s Horror Stories – When a Hashtag Became a BashTag

In Jan this year, McDonald’s launched a Twitter campaign – McDStories, with the objective of getting users to share heartwarming stories about Happy Meals.

Instead, the campaign degenerated into a sharing of horror stories, as detractors took turns to bash the brand.


Back to the question, is all publicity good publicity?

I do not think so, especially in the realm of social media. Here, is a list of 14 other social media epic fails. Some are as extreme as creating a fake blog (L’oreal). Needless to say, they got exposed.

We all make mistakes, but taking a rational viewpoint, we have to minimize them.


Because a mistake online, is a mistake imprinted on the web forever.

Many underestimate the power, the relevance and the use of social media. Hence, many do not understand how to use social media effectively.

At its core, it is used to build relationships with users whom you view as rational human beings with emotions, and not walking dollar notes. A very simple concept yet so abstract for some to grasp.

Magic is based on trickery, and if you try to trick your target audience in today’s world, your social media campaigns will only backfire spectacularly.

As such, it is crucial to channel more resources to your social media strategies and to get the right expertise and talents in place to market your brand.

In times of emergencies, they are also the ones you turn to who will adjust the sails and steer your ship out of the storm.

Compared to competitors who deem social media insignificant and consign them to anyone and everyone, you will be streets ahead in the marketing game.

If you would like to rise up above all the noise in your crowded industry, we have noisycrayons — our Social Media Specialists team to help you carve out a faithful following online and build a stronger brand! Find out more!

No comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.
Receive FREE updates twice a month on how to improve your online marketing efforts

 Especially for SMEs and Marketers

 15,000+ people have already subscribed. Join them today.

Unsubscribe anytime. We will never sell, rent or share your email.

⇧ Subscribe To Our Newsletter