These days, organisations of all sizes are talking about social media strategies. Social media is becoming an increasingly important marketing tool, without doubt. It can help you engage your customers better or get more insight into how they behave, and it’s also a platform you can use for things like PR and recruitment.

At the moment, however, many businesses don’t really have a clue what to do once they’ve signed up for Twitter and Facebook.

Here’s a couple of examples from 2010 of how not to do social media:

  • Coca-Cola ran a Facebook campaign for its Dr Pepper brand, in which users allowed their status box to be taken over by the company. This backfired when a Mumsnet user saw her 14-year-old daughter’s Facebook page had been updated with a message that made direct reference to a hardcore porn film, and Coca-Cola had to pull the campaign.
  • During the British general election campaign, the Conservative party unveiled a website called Cash Gordon, designed to embarrass the Labour Party. It was supposed to capitalise on user-generated content pulled in from sites like Facebook and Twitter by handing out ‘action points’ to people for their participation. It was set up so that any Tweets containing the hashtag #cashgordon were republished in a live stream on the site. It all went wrong when a few pranksters realised they could hijack the site by including HTML or JavaScript in their Tweets. The hijacking led to the site showing porn, expletive-filled rants, Rick Astley videos, malware links, and redirecting visitors to the Labour party site. Voters were definitely engaged, just not quite how the Tories had anticipated.

Social media can go wrong, but learn from the mistakes of others – don’t be put off. Most organisations can benefit from developing a social media strategy, so if you haven’t already included this in your business plan, you may want have a re-think.