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5 Worst Twitter Disasters of 2008 (Twisasters)

on Dec 16 in branding, business, marketing, politics, products, social media, strategy, Twitter posted by

2008. What a year for social media. The Obama campaign’s consummate use of social channels and subsequent success highlighted social media’s power to engage and motivate practically anyone. But the year was also marked by severe drubbings received by corporations trying to capitalize on social media or not understanding the space. Jeremiah Owyang offers a list of brands “punk’d” by social media during 2008. Here I focus on the worst Twitter disasters (Twisasters) of the year.

1. Motrin Moms
Top of the list and best known is the debacle suffered by Johnson and Johnson, parent company for the brand painkiller Motrin. A too-clever video targeted at moms who carry their baby in a sling offended a number of Twitter moms. The moms felt the vid implied that their use of baby slings was merely a fashion statement rather than a practical alternative to a push-chair. The word got out on Twitter, spread to the blogosphere and in a matter of a few hours the company was backpedaling and eventually chose to pull the campaign entirely.

2. Exxon brandjacking
Anyone can set up an account on Twitter, and use any pen-name (pseudonym, avatar). Exxon Mobil was caught with their pants down when someone registered an account, claiming to be a representative of the company and tweeting very candidly (perhaps more candidly than one might expect from a giant oil company). Once the ruse was discovered, the account was quickly shut down. It seems that Exxon is still failing to manage its Twitter presence (see @exxon). Rodney Rumford lists 33 brands that have flubbed their use of Twitter, including notable brandjackings: Disney, Marlboro, McDonalds, Sprint

3. John McCain
Constantly playing catch up, it’s not surprising that @JohnMcCain failed to make the most of Twitter. After a mere 25 updates, the Republican candidate for president stopped updating his Twitter feed. Perhaps it was just too much effort, or perhaps he had nothing worth saying in 140 characters, or maybe the 72 year-old did just not “get” the power of social media.

4. Barack Obama
What? you say, but @BarackObama used Twitter to such great effect. But note, Obama (or his campaign) has failed to Tweet a single 140 character message on Obama’s page since Nov 5th 2008 — that is, the day he won the election. His last word? “Thanks.” Where are you, Senator Obama? After setting such a great precedent, we have no idea why Obama has not continued to maintain his unique connection with the Twitter community. Now for an that’s a disaster.

5. IBM
I don’t want to pick on Big Blue (surely easy pickings!) but they really dropped the ball with Twitter. @ibm is a dead page. No brand icon, no posts, and only 12 followers. Representatives of the company explain in Jeremiah Owyang’s blog post that this was an executive decision, saying the company has “opted for a decentralized approach” and “realize this has some significant limitations.” Nevertheless, it still seems the company is missing an opportunity to connect with the techies and geeks who make up its community and many of whom are on Twitter. Other notable dead or inactive (parked) brands from Rodney Rumford’s post: Delta, Verizon, Nike, Budweiser

Links to referenced content
Why Brands Are Unsuccessful in Twitter
33 Brands That Suck on Twitter
Motrin commerical (YouTube)

5 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I think this is something that we are going to see addressed more and more next year.

    My last post was along similar lines but looks at the danger for celebrities on Twitter.

    Hopefully as micro-blogging comes more into the general public’s view they’ll react better.

    Comment by David Mead — December 17, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

  2. Good point David. Brands will have to become increasingly aware of how they are perceived in social media to avoid brand dilution.

    Comment by Roger — December 17, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

  3. re. #5 – @IBMResearch is pretty busy, and interestingly geeky too, although lately has been asking more survey-style questions than providing answers.
    Like O’Reilly says – a good rule is to try to give more value than you recieve.

    Comment by cnawan — December 18, 2008 @ 12:15 am

  4. @cnawan Yes! I like the O’Reilley rule of thumb. That’s how I view Twitter, although I’ve had tremendous value out of it, and it’s hard to stay on the right side of the equation. Sorry for picking on IBM. Many other brands could have made 5th place!

    Comment by Roger — December 18, 2008 @ 2:11 am

  5. baby slings are very practical and artistic at the same time

    Comment by babyslingsgirl — December 18, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

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