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5 anti-social brands that should know better

5 anti-social brands that should know better Lauren Friedman

Believe it or not, we're past the phase when brands were working to justify their presence on social media. We're no longer asking, "Why do I need to be on Facebook?" or "Do I need to have a presence on Twitter, too?" Most brands have finally embraced social media -- they've created accounts, posted content, hosted promotions, and really worked to build an online presence through social networks.

But there are some brands that haven't hopped on the social train, and it can be argued that they should. Even more brands have snagged their URLs on social, but just aren't cutting it. These brands are anti-social, meaning they either don't have a social presence at all (and it doesn't make sense!) or they have a social presence, but they're not using it the way it should be used -- to build and grow relationships with their customers.

5 anti-social brands that should know better

And I'm not talking about little guys; I'm talking big, awesome brands that have no excuse not to be social. Life is full of surprises, and I'm certainly surprised (and you should be, too) that both Trader Joe's and Apple aren't even on social media.

Trader Joe's

TJ's not being on social media is in line with its overall marketing philosophy -- the brand doesn't do any traditional advertising either. But social isn't traditional, and there are so many opportunities to connect with your fans and build long-lasting relationships.

Why it should be on social media:

  • TJ's is quirky, and it has a lot of great content to share on social media, such as local specials, "Two Buck Chuck," The Fearless Flyer, products and guides, the sample bar, and recipes using Trader Joe's products. (The company is all about the specialty products, and even has a cookbook just for Trader Joe's items.)

  • TJ's is a much-loved grocery chain. There are tons of people who petition for Trader Joe's to bring stores to specific locations. There are true brand advocates out there that could do incredible marketing for Trader Joe's if it existed on social media.

  • There is a huge opportunity for people to share information about the grocery chain on social media. From recipes, to awesome finds, to recommendations, to experiences in the store, there is a wealth of knowledge that is itching and aching to have a place to live.


As one of the biggest companies in the world, it's also the world's biggest social media holdout. There isn't a Facebook page or a Twitter account for the "love brand." Disclaimer: I do know that Apple has many forums for support and that there are some social presences for Apple applications (like iTunes).

Why it should be on social media:

  • Apple has an incredible amount of fans, some of which have been dubbed "fanboys," which has both positive and negative connotations. Either way, these people are obsessed with everything Apple, meaning that Apple has some serious brand advocates it could be interacting with more personally.

  • Since the beginning of Apple's advertising, specifically the ads featuring a silhouette with just the white ear buds, Apple has been reaching deep into its customers' personalities and personal lives by providing imagery and features that help people live, not just buy its products. Social is a perfect opportunity for Apple to have a place where customers and fans can share their experiences with the products, ask questions to peers, and further Apple's message of personalization.

  • Apple has social embedded into its products. Post this, tweet that, share this. Apple has the opportunity to gain more from engaging its social channels, and in doing so, it will make it easier for customers to share content, stay informed, and get support.

Even when a brand is on social media, that doesn't mean it is using it well or correctly. The following brands made some serious errors and should definitely know better.

Celeb Boutique

(And any other brand that uses hashtags or trends without researching them.)

Celeb Boutique is an online store that lets people dress themselves like their favorite celebrities. The company learned (the hardest way) that it's crucial to look into any trend or hashtag on Twitter before using it -- especially for promotion.

The hashtag, #Aurora, was trending because of a mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado that occurred at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," and Celeb Boutique tweeted this message:

The tweet was left up for about an hour before it was taken down and apologies were issued. While Celeb Boutique is, in fact, a U.K.-based brand and was unaware of the tragedy in the U.S., the brand still should have looked at the trend and known better.

Celeb Boutique wasn't the only brand that made a serious mistake surrounding the Aurora shooting. The NRA posted a pro-gun tweet as the mass shooting at the movie theater was unfolding:

The tweet certainly could have been prescheduled. Call it bad timing, but the NRA definitely should have known better.


During the Super Bowl, Toyota launched its "Camry Effect" campaign, which included the creation of 10 Twitter accounts that tweeted at users with a Super Bowl-related hashtag to promote the contest. The tweets came from 10 accounts that were verified by Twitter, making it appear that Twitter was actually endorsing this spam campaign.

A couple of days later, Toyota ended the campaign and apologized for the spamming. The Twitter accounts have now been marked as suspended.

Bottom line? Spam is always spam, and Toyota should have known better.

American Apparel

During Hurricane Sandy, American Apparel launched a (probably well-intended) promotion offering 20 percent off to customers for 36 hours in case they were "bored during the storm."

The email blast featured a map highlighting the Northeastern region of the U.S. -- the region hit the hardest by the tropical cyclone, Hurricane Sandy. The ad instructed people to "Just Enter SANDYSALE at Checkout," clearly targeting online shoppers who were staying indoors seeking refuge from the storm.

As you can imagine, the brand got a great deal of backlash for this promotion. Tweets flowed in from users who were truly offended by the insensitive ad. During a time of tragedy and natural disaster, American Apparel should have known better than to try to intentionally capitalize on the catastrophic time.

We all know mistakes happen on social media, and brands are always in the spotlight when it comes to social faux pas. But the "mistakes" above could have most certainly been avoided had social media best practices (and in some instances, common sense) been put into place. These brands should have known better.

What about the brands that dipped just their little pinky toe into the pool of social media, but never took the full plunge? Social media is a conversation, but too many brands aren't listening or actually engaging with their customers online. They're missing out on the key benefit of social: the two-way, mutual relationship that can lead to advocates, loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth marketing.

According to a Socialbakers study, 90 percent of retailers are active on Twitter, but only 29 percent use it to engage with shoppers. On top of that, only 32 percent of all brands on Twitter respond to questions on Twitter.

This, my friends, is anti-social brand behavior.

Have a presence (if it makes sense for you), follow best practices and common sense, and engage with your customers. Seems pretty simple right? Not to these anti-social brands who should know better.

Lauren Friedman is manager of community engagement at Adobe Systems.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Creative outdoor photo of a young man in silhouette" image via Shutterstock.

Lauren Friedman is the head of Global Social Business Enablement at Adobe.  She's a digital and social marketing authority, with extensive experience working with Fortune 500 brands to integrate digital and social media into their overarching...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: joel rubinson

2013, April 14

Andrew, you will find little cross-sectional correlation. You will find more correlation for the same brand over time as I have using marketing mix modeling that does a better job of modeling social media as an amplifier of traditional media

Commenter: Andrew Ettinger

2013, April 11

@Joel, that is interesting to hear about the coffee brands. What do the sales numbers say relative to the social media presences or absences? Have you been able to correlate sales to their efforts? I am always interested in learning more about how to map ROI to social media. Thanks!

Commenter: joel rubinson

2013, April 11

teaching social media at NYU, I actually use Maxwell House and Folgers in stark contrast to Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Keurig as an assignment. Social media listening reveals how the cup o joe mojo has shifted from the big ad budget CPG brands. It's a really interesting case to dig into

Commenter: Lauren Friedman

2013, April 11

Hi Joel! Thanks for the comment! I am certainly not arguing that Apple (or Trader Joe's) is not succeeding and that the reason is lack of social media. They absolutely are. But I do believe their business and relationships with their customers could be greatly enhanced by using social media.

Thanks for the insight on Maxwell House! That's a great example.

Commenter: joel rubinson

2013, April 11

ironically, Trader Joe's and Apple not being big in social media actually strengthens the case the other way, doesn't it, that perhaps social media is a "nice to have"? I mean are you arguing that Apple is not succeeding and that the reason is lack of social media? the brand you should single out is Maxwell House...the number two brand of coffee but it doesn't even show up on the first page of search results for the word "coffee", which, BTW, is a much bigger problem as they are throwing away 16 MM free impressions each and every month in the US via Google search alone (last time I looked)