I'm something of an expert when it comes to sticking my foot in my mouth in personal and professional interactions- thought I've gotten a LOT better since my first co-op job in 2007. I've culled my favorite Foot in Online Mouth moments from brands over the past year and siphoned out some lessons we can all learn.
1. Kony 2012- the video and activism campaign to bring Joseph Kony to justice went viral beyond Invisible Children's wildest imaginings - and stirred up global criticism. I'm of the opinion that IC was in the wide-eyed optimist camp and never imagined that their video would become as popular as it did - and were totally unprepared for the questions and backlash that subsequently followed. Their inability to completely answer the questions about the organization and affiliations caused a lot of confusion and diluted their original message - and the leader of the movement pretty much lost his mind. I would, too.
Lesson: For your sanity, vet yourself before everyone else does.
Lesson: Get outside opinions of your work before displaying it to the public - ESPECIALLY from your target demographic.
"Be heard at facebook.com/chapstick" - Pretty soon people were posting so much that the admins couldn't keep up with deleting all the comments. The message ran away from them, and they posted a half-hearted apology without actually admitting they'd done anything wrong. (picture source)
Lesson: Own your mistakes - don't hide from critics. They won't go away.
4. Tidy Cat- a bit closer to home, Tidy Cat recently retracted an ad campaign that was directed at the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. As part of their NoMorePU #lifestinks campaign, the kitty litter manufacturers posted a billboard: "You're so over Over-the-Rhine. #lifestinks" - The marketing team meant the joke to be directed towards the view of OTR from 10-15 years ago - a scary ghetto that no one would want to visit. Apparently they missed the memo that the neighborhood is in the midst of a renaissance, with new trendy businesses, arts groups, and a VERY passionate fan club. Word spread and Twitter revolted - taking Tidy Cat to task over their ignorance. The billboard was gone in less than three days. (picture source: Noel Prows)
Lesson: Do your homework! A city-specific ad + outdated opinions = very pissed off Cincinnati.
Maybe these lessons are obvious (they weren't to the big guys), but as more and more attention is focused in the digital realm, a haphazard or half-assed attempt at marketing online just isn't going to cut it.
Did I miss any?