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5 Biggest Social Turkeys Of 2012

The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012
The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012

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Social business might not be tops on your list of things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, but, all things being relative, social products and practices have given us much to appreciate. But we've also seen our share of social business gaffes this year. Here is The BrainYard's second annual list of the biggest turkeys of the year (so far, anyway).

1. Misuse Of Hashtags

Twitter hashtags are a by-the-people way of focusing a message, and they enable us to easily see what topics are trending. This year saw too many disasters -- natural and otherwise. It also saw too many incidents of companies and people trying to cash in on those disasters -- sometimes literally -- by hijacking hashtags like #hurricanesandy and #aurora for commercial purposes. For example, Gap, which we took to task last year for mishandling a branding campaign on social media (see Don't Overstep Social Bounds, the first item on last year's list), this year tried to turn Hurricane Sandy into a shopping opportunity.

2. Users Who Do Really Thoughtless Things

The examples are too numerous to list here, but one that stands out is the KitchenAid employee who tweeted disparaging and insensitive remarks about Barack Obama and his dead grandmother, using the official KitchenAid profile. You could argue that this person simply made a mistake, not realizing he or she was logged into the KitchenAid account at the time. And KitchenAid responded quickly and effectively, owning the mistake and apologizing for it.

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But when will people realize that what they post on social media is out there for the world to see? That no matter when or on what platform you are posting, you represent your company -- and your family, and your friends, and your ... you get the idea. Companies should be doing their part by not only drafting clear, concise, relevant and up-to-date social media policy, but also by training their users on what's OK, what's not OK and why. This won't totally eliminate some of the boneheaded moves we've seen in the last few years, but it should reduce the number significantly.

3. Mitt Romney's Presidential Campaign

No matter how you feel about the candidates who ran for president this year, the Mitt Romney and Barack Obama campaigns' respective use of social media provided some great lessons in what to do and what not to do. By most accounts, the 2008 presidential race was a teachable moment for the Obama team, and 2012 was the year the Obama campaign schooled its rival along social media lines. According to a Nov. 15 New York Times blog post, "By September 2012, Obama's Facebook page had 1.2 million likes -- while Romney's had just half as much, ... Obama had twice as many YouTube likes, comments and views as Romney -- and easily 20 times as many re-tweets as the Republican nominee. ... Generally speaking, social media has not proven itself able to change someone's mind as much as it is capable of putting together communities of like-minded people."

4. Facebook's IPO

Ah, May 18, the day that the incredibly wealthy Mark Zuckerberg was to get incredibly wealthier via Facebook's long-awaited and incredibly hyped IPO. Whether it was an overvaluation of the company (shares were offered at $38), the company's vague plans for making money or its shaky moves in mobile and other areas (see below), the IPO was a major whiff. (Facebook's stock price was about $23 as of Monday's close of business.)

5. Facebook's Promoted Posts And Couples Pages And Timeline and ...

One of the biggest dings against Facebook has been the way in which it makes sudden and often unexplained (or maybe unexplainable) changes. The changes Facebook has made this year were perhaps not as hair-raising as some of the privacy and security changes it has made in the recent past, but 2012 saw many new features that left users scratching their heads. For one, Facebook's Timeline format became mandatory this year, like it or not. Facebook also rolled out a Promoted Posts feature, which many people feel defeats the purpose of social media, and Couples pages, which many users find goofy (at best). The way these features "pop up" rather unexpectedly has always been an issue for users, but it will be more of a problem as businesses invest more and more of their marketing, customer service and e-commerce resources on the platform.

What social business blunders would you add to this list? Are there any items on the list that you disagree with? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

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