In celebration of Halloween we have gathered for you 13 horrifying stories of marketing and tech fails that will chill your blood and leave you terrified to Internet again. We’ve all done it at one time or another: sent a private email to the entire office that was meant for your best friend or Whattsapped a romantic message to your boss instead of your boyfriend. The memory of your mishap probably still haunts you to this day, which is why Halloween is the perfect time to revel in those embarrassing moments that happened to someone else. And (*cough*) learn from them, of course. And so we asked some of our favorite social media and marketing pros to share with us their own blunders, if they dare….
13 Horrifying Marketing Fails That Will Make You Scream
Many (full?) moons ago, I released my first copywriting guide to writing sales pages. It was a beast of a book and I’d spent a lot of time building anticipation through content marketing and email marketing. I was using a new software to create the sales page for the book. Obviously the sales page selling a sales page book is going to get a fair bit of scrutiny so I proofed, re-proofed, tested the sales process from start to finish. All looked good. Mistake number one: Launching the sales page just a few hours before I went to bed. Mistake number two: Not testing how the sales page looked in Internet Explorer (I’ll be honest, I forgot it even existed) Waking up in the morning I had a number of sales (yay) but also a handful of emails that made me freeze: “I’d love to buy the book but… there’s no buy button.” Turns out in Internet Explorer, you could only see the top half of the sales page. For some reason the buy button was nowhere to be found. A sales page about writing sales pages that didn’t have a buy button. Yep. That was me. Fortunately a couple of things happened – many people thought I was deliberately building suspense (I wasn’t) and by the power of friendly people on the Internet I was able to fix the problem in just a couple of hours. After that it was smooth sailing all the way. But for a few moments – oh the horror!
I started blogging about a year after I was on Twitter (very late, I know! for today’s day & age). As you can imagine, I was more excited than if I were on an approved diet of chocolate cheesecake. For one of my early posts, I DM’d the link with a request to read/share to several of who you’d call social media “influencers,” but who I actually knew; I figured they wouldn’t mind (and I was always very polite about these requests). Imagine my chagrin and utter could-the-ground-just-open-up-and-swallow-me-now-please feeling when one of them admonished me, saying that it “wasn’t done.” I felt so, so, so small. And horrible. In time, I got over it and, of course, that was half-rubbish. But there are two things I learned from that:
- You have to be really careful with promotional DMs, even if you don’t think they’re promotional.
- Just because you think certain people are your friends doesn’t mean they are. And that’s a good rule of thumb for small businesses as well, because it really puts you in the “WIIFT” (what’s in it for them?) mindset… which ultimately pays off.
The thought of this horror story still sends shivers down my spine! Considering I making a very good living online and teach others how to boost their business online success, you’d think I’d be pretty safe when editing a website. Well, a few short years ago, I was trying to ‘fix’ something in the admin side of one of my websites via the FTP panel and, somehow (and I still have no clue how I did it) I managed to actually delete the entire site. A money-making, mortgage-paying, food-providing website. Not mess up, I mean well and truly D-E-L-E-T-E. I could have died! Luckily, some clever people managed to un-fix my mess, recover it and get the site working properly again. It was *cough*, a little expensive! It’s fair to say that I leave the technical stuff to others these days.
I think the most common tech blunder I have made is trying out a new bright shiny WordPress plugin on my blog and bringing down the entire Social Media Examiner website! I learned the hard way that just because a function is cool doesn’t mean it should be tested on our very large blog. Now we have a special site where I can play around with plugins before the go live. Live and learn 🙂
One blunder that I made is that I created an infographic and the designer forgot to site the source for the information. It made me look bad even though it wasn’t intentional.
I think the best examples I can give are of those people who try to utilize Facebook fan page options, but they dabble and aren’t really sure what they are doing. One common thing that I see… people who share their fan page status to their page. I’m certain they mean to share it to their personal page, but they aren’t sure how to do it correctly. Along the same lines are those who ‘like’ their own status, rather than ‘liking’ it from their personal page. We had a client who recently boosted a completely random post for over $100. The following week, they tried to set up an ad and it was cut off at the end – and it ran like this! It was awful. Moral of the story: have your social media manager help you with this stuff – that’s what we’re here for!
A few months ago I emailed some people I shouldn’t have. What happened was I set up an automation that was supposed to remove people from one list when they subscribed to another. But the automation didn’t remove some of the people like it should have. The result was people who had already moved to the new list getting reminders to move to the new list, which ultimately made them unsubscribe. The moral of the story – make sure you fully test your automations so you don’t anger your audience.
I was invited to try a new tool that offered a good solution alternative in a space where I had been experiencing frustration. I signed up, gave it a try, and was pleased with my experience. Then I was signaled with the opportunity to invite others to sign up as well. There was an easy option to upload contacts, and it appeared that I would get to carefully choose who would receive this notification. Previous to this, I had not EVER chosen to upload contacts to something in that fashion. But recent inventories of my systems led me to the conclusion that I could use some my time more efficiently. So, in this instance I chose to upload contacts because it was my understanding I would be able to choose & custom-message specific contacts. Well… Not sure if I needed to click different buttons, or if it was just so automatic, but upon completion of the upload, ALL of my contacts were sent an invitation to sign up for this tool. I was horrified!! My jaw hit the floor, my hands went to my head, and I was wide-eyed for the next several minutes trying to figure out just what digitally happened! Others must have found value in what they saw, as some have opted to sign up. However, I’m still a bit green over feeling I made an inappropriate choice and accidentally misplaced my connections’ confidence. There are some that probably think I’m a spammer, and others that question my judgement. The gory details could be worse, but this will haunt me for awhile.
Without going into specifics, I could list a dozen times over the last year when mistakes were made during the last mile or the last yard of a promotion or campaign. An email goes out without a subject line… An email link to a landing page goes to the wrong page… The buy button on the end of a sales page goes to a shopping cart page with an outdated offer… The buy button at the end of a promotion is actually missing… And so on. I very, very rarely come across an error within the main body of a promotion. These mistakes all seem to occur within that last yard. And my experience over the last year is not confined to just one company. This seems to be a problem across pretty much every company I work with. The solution? Put a process in place where one or more people are responsible for checking these things – before that email goes out or page goes live.
11. Donald Ortega
I once used my iPhone and Siri to add a doctor appointment to my work calendar as a reminder to myself, and to block the time as unavailable. The appointment happened to be on April 1st. I was horrified when I realized Siri sent out the appointment as a meeting invitation to a large mailing list within the company. Some of the names on the list were senior-level managers. I got multiple declines, quite a few emails (who are you? what is this about? Is this an April fool’s joke?), and one voicemail (I was too embarrassed to return the call). I guess I should have paid more attention before I gave Siri the OK to add it to my calendar. I’m so glad the invitation didn’t have any details other than ‘doctor appointment’. I will never use Siri to add an appointment to my calendar again.
And because we couldn’t help throwing in a couple of screw-ups so painful and public that they will forever remain in the annals of social media fail hall of fame…
Worst social media tech blunder was United Airlines accidentally retweeting a picture of someone doing something inappropriate to an airplane while they were trying to mark it as spam. Even though it was only up for around 45 minutes, that was enough time on the internet to cause quite the stir. This simple mistake of retweeting something (that’s right next to the spam button) is a mistake that is VERY easy to make and something that anyone could do. Be careful when marking something as something that you don’t do the opposite. In their case, they didn’t even realize it for around 45 minutes after the tweet went nuts.
A horrifying customer service blunder was made on social media by the company “Amy’s baking company”. After appearing on the hit TV show by Gordon Ramsey – Kitchen Nightmares they had been abandoned by Gordon Ramsey as he felt they were too difficult to deal with. After watching the show hundreds of fans left their comments on their Facebook page. Instead of dealing with it professionally the page had a customer service meltdown by swearing and showing anger towards fans. This continued on for a number of posts getting worse each time. After a few days of this the couple on the show made things even worse by blaming hackers. The first rule of customer service is to remain professional at all times and take ownership of the problem. Passing the blame towards your customers will only make things worse. By taking ownership this then allows you to focus on a solution or address your customers concerns. Due to their actions on that day they are still receiving negative reviews over half a year later. This shows they have not taken any feedback on board or apologised for their actions since. And to finish off on a bang, here are two cringe-worthy social media fails that were shared with us on Reddit:
Which of these fails made you cringe the most? Do you have a horrifying fail you want to share with us? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.