How to dodge social marketing mistakes

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Social has infiltrated the marketing world, and if you need proof that brands believe in the power of digital, a recent Cross-Channel Marketing Report found that 50 percent of businesses believe social offers the greatest new marketing opportunities over the next year.

If that's the case, where are the examples of businesses capitalizing on the opportunity? Most of what we read in the press covers brands getting interactions wrong. Social offers businesses the chance to connect with customers in ways that traditional marketing channels never could. Offering immediate, around-the-clock engagement opportunities, brands have the chance to engage with customers instantly. While this should be the "golden ticket" for brands, most are seemingly mystified by its power.

Let's examine a couple of recent opportunities where companies have dropped the social ball.

When "robots"take over

Bank of America (BofA) had an embarrassing snafu this summer when an angry Twitter user ranted about how New York City police officers ushered him away after he took to the sidewalk in front of BofA, writing in chalk about the bank taking away people's homes. Rather than properly filtering the user's tweet to understand the sentiment of the message and the user himself, the "bots" responded with a generic, and seemingly completely automated, response. The BofA handle asked if the user needed help with his account, which surely wasn't the case, given his original sidewalk chalk display of disapproval. To add insult to injury, when other users started replying in support of the original user, including the BofA Twitter handle in their tweet, they all received similar generic offers to help with their accounts.

BofA really missed the mark as there was absolutely no consideration or understanding of the user or his message, and were seen as simply automating brainless responses. Interestingly, BofA claims that the responses were not from machines, but from humans. So, given this faux pas with auto-responses, humans are a better bet in manning social channels, right? Not so fast...

Human error

How about the British Airways tweet-fest in September? When the airline lost Hasan Syed's father's luggage and didn't handle the situation according to his expectations, Syed paid to send a promoted tweet that read, "Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous." The goal of a promoted tweet -- typically used by an advertiser -- is to reach a broad audience, as it is given high prominence in the Twitter feed of the particular company.

Clearly, this was not ideal for British Airways, but they dug the hole even deeper by not responding for nearly ten hours. In fact, Mashable reported on the promoted tweet six hours after it went live -- four hours before British Airways even responded. By that time, thousands of users had read, retweeted, and commented on the promoted tweet.

Ten hours after Syed paid to complain about the airline's customer service, the employee manning the Twitter handle apologized for the delayed response, and had the audacity to share when the twitter feed is open. Which begs the question, "Since when do Twitter feeds close?" So, customers can phone British Airways 24 hours a day, visit the website on a similar basis, but social media is strictly UK business hours only?