What We Learned from 2018’s Worst Brand Marketing Decisions

It’s the time of the year to look back and reflect on what we’ve achieved, or what we have done wrong.

In 2018, we’ve seen some of the biggest marketing fallouts from brands across all industries. Below is a list of what some of those, and what marketers can learn from them.

Addressing controversies like race and gender

In January this year, H&M underwent a serious reputation crisis for tolerating racism, because of a modeling photo featuring an African-American boy wearing a green hoodie with “COOLEST MONKEY IN THE JUNGLE” on it. It was made trending on Twitter by blogger Stephanie Yeboah, who tweeted “Whose idea was it at @hm to have this little sweet black boy wear a jumper that says ‘coolest monkey in the jungle? I mean. What.’”

In response, H&M issued an apology saying “We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.” The media relations team told PR News that the item would no longer be for sale, and that the incident happened because internal procedures weren’t followed accordingly.

Another aspect that can get just as complicated as race is gender. This year on International Women’s Day, McDonald’s flipped its signature yellow “M” upside down on social media profiles and even in 100 restaurants across the country. With “W” standing for women, McDonald’s was expecting some applause from the public recognizing their effort in celebrating women. However, the campaign was faced with criticism as a misstep.

People expressed outrage on social media, condemning the brand for focusing onleft-wingan initiating real change to support women, especially in equal pay. The Guardian reported that Momentum, a British left wing group, posted a video about how McDonald’s low wages endangered women workers who face poverty and homelessness.

“This empty McFeminism has nothing to do with women’s liberation and everything to do with McDonald’s attempt to sanitise its image,” Laura Parker, Momentum’s national coordinator, told The Guardian.

Consumers nowadays don’t buy into empty pledges or stunts anymore, and they expect consistency from a brand. For H&M, similar crises will almost for sure pop up again in the future if they don’t make an effort to ensure that important policies and values are followed in every step of carrying out a campaign or producing a product. And for McDonald’s, the Women’s Day gesture came from a good place, but they needed to make sure controversial issues that bear any relevance to a campaign like this were addressed beforehand.

Backfire of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is such a hot topic that all brands want to give it a shot, however, when not executed properly, influencers can be the ones that initiate a loss of value and controversy, but not popularity.

After Snap integrated its redesign this February, Kylie Jenner, one of the internet’s most popular influencers who has a 25 million following, tweeted out something that Snap found quite hard to take, financially.

Following this tweet, Snap’s market value drop $1.3 billion overnight. Though her tweet might not be the only reason causing the drop, it most definitely had something to do with it.

In cases like this, it’s hard to predict which influencers won’t be happy about your brand’s new design or campaigns. It then becomes important to follow up with influencers, discuss in-depth what they want, and work out a plan to offset negative impacts.

Behaviors and words from top figures

A company’s CEOs nowadays are important public figures, sometimes even a bit like celebrities, to the public. And for big companies like Papa John’s, it’s hard to keep the secret in when something inappropriate happens. Back in July, Forbes reported that Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter made racial slurs and used the N-word during a conference call. Following the report, Schnatter had resigned as chairman of the board, though this incident has caused some serious reputational damage to the pizza chain.

It’s sad news for Papa John, especially since Schnatter has been very attached to the branding and stories of the chain. And for brands like Dolce & Gabbana, lead figures like designers can also cause huge marketing chaos.

Just last month, screenshots of an Instagram messages exchange between Dolce & Gabbana’s co-founder, Stefano Gabbana and an Instagram user, model Michele Tranovo, caused huge outrage in China. In these messages, Michele accused the brand of running a racially inappropriate ad featuring a Chinese model having difficulty eating Italian food with chopsticks. The designer seemed to not be happy about it and started fighting back by accusing the model of dog-eating habits, a stereotype against Chinese.

The exchange soon went viral and has led directly to the cancellation of the brand’s fashion show in Shanghai as celebrities originally signed onto the show canceled their attendance last minute and expressed extreme anger online. It’s for sure not to smart move for one of the brand’s top two designers to have irritated its biggest market.

The marketing nightmare didn’t end there. The designer later posted “NOT ME” on his Instagram trying to shed off the responsibility by saying his account has been hacked.

Top figures of a brand can sometimes be as influential to the company’s reputation as an influencer. A simple word said wrong can cause huge catastrophe, which is why everything they say should be carefully looked through and managed.

Managing data breaches

Facebook came under fire this March when it was revealed that the data company, Cambridge Analytica, had collected personal information of more than 50 million Facebook users through an app that scrapes data.

This damaging breach adds even more heat to the platform, especially at a time when it has already been constantly accused of not doing enough to protect users privacy.

Social platforms are easy targets for hackers as being great data sources. And the aftermath of this crisis spreads further than just the data spectrum. Leadership like Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg are under constant scrutiny; the public is experiencing a trust crisis with the platform and some of them even choose to leave forever; not to mention that the platform continues to struggle with user engagement and market performance.

It’s time for brands to think more carefully about the era of great data we are living in, and what are the steps to take when data breaches and privacy issues like this occur.

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Can Twitter Threads Increase Reach, Engagement, and Referral Traffic? An Experiment

How can you increase Twitter reach and engagement?

That’s something that many marketers are thinking about, including Rand Fishkin, the founder of SparkToro, who has been wondering if Twitter gives tweets with a link less visibility than tweets without a link. And recently I’d been wondering the same.

Then I heard about Aytekin Tank’s 17-million-impression tweet.

Just a few months ago, Aytekin, the founder of Jotform, repurposed one of his popular Medium posts into a Twitter thread. He also promoted it with Twitter ads to see if he could increase the reach of his Twitter thread — and the engagement rate was as high as 20 percent!

So he continued to promote the Twitter thread. Eventually, it received 17 million impressions and the original Medium post (linked in the thread) got more than 35,000 visits.

When I learned about this story, I started wondering how Twitter threads could help marketers.  Could this be the new way to reach more people, drive more engagement, and get more referral traffic? Could Twitter threads be effective without ad promotion?

We ran a small experiment to find out.

A Twitter Thread Experiment

A Twitter thread experiment

What is a Twitter thread?

According to Twitter, “A thread on Twitter is a series of connected Tweets from one person. With a thread you can provide additional context, an update, or an extended point by connecting multiple Tweets together.”

Below is an example of a Twitter thread. If you click on the tweet, you’ll see the additional tweets connected to it.

The plan

The objective of the experiment was to test if repurposing our blog posts into Twitter threads can 1. increase our Twitter reach and engagement, and 2. drive more traffic to our blog than tweets with a link.

Our plan of execution was very straightforward:

  1. For each blog post, publish a Twitter thread and a simple link tweet (ideally at the same time, a few days apart).
  2. Record the stats after one to three days

The next step was to draft out the threads and publish them. For this, I worked with our amazing social media manager, Bonnie Porter. I repurposed 10 blog posts into threads while she published them at our best times to tweet.

Here’s what our collaboration document looked like:

Twitter threads experiment document

So how did the experiment go?

The result

I think there’s an evidence that Twitter threads perform better than tweets with a link!

Twitter thread experiment data

A quick explanation of the data

For the Twitter threads, I looked at only the number of impressions and engagements of the first tweet and the number of link clicks of the tweets with the link (usually the last tweet of the thread). The actual total number of impressions and engagements of the threads (i.e. a summation of the impressions and engagement of each tweet in the thread) is much higher.

But as the impressions and engagements are likely from the same followers, and to simplify our analysis, I considered only the impressions and engagements of the first tweet and the link clicks of the tweets with the link.

Here are the patterns I see from our results:

1. Twitter threads tend to get more impressions

The number of impressions was higher for all the first tweet of the Twitter threads than for the tweet with a link. On average, the threads received 63 percent more impressions.

Perhaps Rand Fishkin is right in that Twitter gives more prominence to tweets without a link. He found that “Tweets without URLs definitely correlate to more engagement+amplification (but this could be a result of user behavior, not intentional network design)”.

The respective link was not included in the first tweet of the Twitter threads but mostly in the last tweet of the threads. Threads could be a good way to increase your reach on Twitter while still sharing a link.

2. Twitter threads tend to get more engagements

The number of engagements was mostly higher for the first tweet of the Twitter threads than for the tweet with a link. On average, the threads received 54 percent more engagements.

An interesting pattern I spotted is that engagement tends to be the highest for the first tweet of the threads and would decrease until the last tweet, where there would be a spike in engagement. My hunch is that most people only engage with the tweets when they first saw the thread (i.e. the first tweet) and when they finish reading the thread (i.e. the last tweet), and not when they are reading the thread.

The higher number of engagement could have also caused the Twitter algorithm to surface the threads to more people, and hence, more impressions.

3. Twitter threads tend to get fewer link clicks

This is where the experiment didn’t go as expected.

While the Twitter threads, on average, received eight percent more link clicks than the tweets with a link, most of the threads received fewer clicks. (If you were to look at our data, you can see that the average was skewed by two threads that received much more link clicks than the respective link tweet.)

Here’s my guess: For the Twitter threads, the link was attached to the last tweet or in the middle. Our followers don’t see the link immediately and have to scroll through the whole thread before seeing the link. This might have caused the lower link click number.

But as Twitter threads seem to get more impressions than a link tweet, it might be possible that Twitter threads would get more link clicks. More data is needed to verify this.

4. Overall, Twitter threads seem to perform better than link tweets

On average, the Twitter threads received more impressions, engagements, and clicks than the respective tweet with a link.

While this is true based on our data, our sample size is tiny and the number of clicks fluctuated quite a bit. I wouldn’t say it’s conclusive that Twitter threads always perform better than tweets with a link in all aspect. But it seems fairly plausible that Twitter threads get more impressions and engagements.

Limitations of the experiment

  • While the blog post for each set of Twitter thread and link tweet was the same, the content of the thread and link tweet was different. This might have a bigger influence on the result than the content format. (More on this below.)
  • As it was challenging to run a large-scale version of this experiment (think thousands of blog posts) with just one brand account, we decided to test only 10 blog posts. As this is a tiny sample size, the results might not be replicable all the time (i.e. Twitter threads might not always perform better than link tweets).
  • The sequence of the two tweets could influence the results. People might be less responsive to the link tweet if they have seen the Twitter thread. But the effect of this should be minimal as we have already shared those blog posts before.
  • The day and time of the tweets could also influence the results. We tried to publish the Twitter thread and the respective link tweet at about the same time of the day to minimize the influence of this factor.

Lessons from our Twitter threads experiment

1. Experiment with different content formats

Does this mean you should post only Twitter threads from now? Not quite.

One of the key takeaways for me is the importance of experimenting with different or new content formats. While it’s the easiest to share a link, it might not always be the best way to get results. Twitter threads are one of the many things you could test. Others include images, videos, live videos, GIFs, and retweets.

For example, we recently found that retweeting our top tweets is an easy way to extend the lifespan of the tweet and increase its performance.

Buffer retweeting experiment data

2. Content is key

We found that it takes much more effort to publish Twitter threads than simple link tweets. You have to craft multiple tweets rather than just one. You have to manually tweet the threads while you can schedule link tweets.

But I think that might be why Twitter threads seem to perform better.

I believe that the content itself plays a big part in determining whether a tweet/thread does well. Crafting Twitter threads forces me to narrate a story over several tweets, and that might have encouraged me to write better tweets. On the other hand, I’m so used to sharing a link tweet that it’s easier for me to unintentionally craft a less-than-perfect tweet.

From her experience, Bonnie found it helpful to have the Twitter threads plan out in advance in a document. It makes publishing threads less of a hassle when you have everything ready to go.

3. People prefer native content

Brian Peters, our Strategic Partnerships Marketer, once said how social media platforms should be viewed as the destination for your content rather than the means to get to your content.

How does your audience want to consume your content? Do they prefer getting all the information they want through your social media posts, or do they want to click on a link and be directed to another page before they can find the information?

It depends on the content but my hunch is most prefer the former.

That might be why native content (e.g. Twitter threads, videos) tends to perform better than social media posts with links. People want the easiest way to consume content, and social media posts like Twitter threads and videos make it much easier than for them. They can get more information through the native content before deciding if the link will be relevant and valuable enough for them.

Over to you

Will you experiment with Twitter threads?

If you will or if you have, share your best-performing Twitter thread in the comments section below. It’ll be great to learn from one another’s experience. Thanks!

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Twitter Crackdown on Hate Speech Finally Includes Misgendering and Deadnaming

Twitter users have long decried the platform’s ineffectual means of handling abuse, hate speech, and other factors that have contributed to disintegrating discourse. But in its latest overhaul of its hateful conduct policy, the company seems to have finally gotten the message about how their inaction has decayed discourse on the platform…and as a result has acted on behalf of its most vulnerable users.

Among the most prominent changes to its Hateful Conduct policy is the explicit prohibition of misgendering or “deadnaming” (using the former name of) trans* individuals. PinkNews explains the danger of these practices by saying, “These offensive techniques—which involve using the wrong gender to refer to a trans person or a trans person’s old name—are often used on Twitter to insult and erase trans people’s identities and right to exist.”

This now-explicit rule (Twitter claims these practices were previously a violation of their policies) is part of a larger section banning “repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone.” Such behavior went unaddressed in the platform’s previous Hateful Conduct policy.

Whereas the prior edition of the policy seemed to treat all forms of hateful conduct and speech as equal, this latest edition makes the distinct step of acknowledging some users are more likely to experience hate and harassment:

We recognise that if people experience abuse on Twitter, it can jeopardize their ability to express themselves. Research has shown that some groups of people are disproportionately targeted with abuse online. This includes; women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual individuals, marginalized and historically underrepresented communities. For those who identity with multiple underrepresented groups, abuse may be more common, more severe in nature and have a higher impact on those targeted.

The latest edition of the policy also leads with language expressly condemning hate against other users “on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” It also explicitly names other actions that previously fell through the cracks of Twitter’s safety enforcement including “media that depicts victims of the Holocaust,” “media that depicts lynching,” and “images depicting others as less than human, or altered to include hateful symbols, e.g. altering images of individuals to include animalistic features.”

This more nuanced understanding of the nature of, and motivation for, hateful conduct is new for Twitter, and demonstrates a kind of learning on the part of the platform’s leadership. And indeed, much of the feedback about the new policy recognizes the shift—while also acknowledging that such a change was considerably overdue.

With that said, how these rules will be enforced is still unclear. In the case of deadnaming or misgendering, The Verge’s Adi Robertson notes, “the rule could theoretically refer to mentioning well-known pre-transition names of celebrities (like Caitlyn Jenner) without clear malice. Or Twitter could reserve it for users who maliciously publicize old names in a way that’s designed to hurt specific trans users, which seems to be the intent of the policy.” In time, we’ll see how having these new and nuanced rules on the books affects action (and reactions) on the platform, and what it does to help improve the “health” of the platform that CEO Jack Dorsey and his colleagues have repeatedly claimed to be prioritizing for Twitter’s future.

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Twitter’s Latest iOS Update Allegedly Downplays Follower Counts

If you’ve opened Twitter on iOS lately, you may notice a slightly different look to your feed. Key profile details have been reduced in size: locations, birthdays, join dates, and follower count. It is this last metric, one that may be key in measuring your brand’s social strength, that has received the most vocal pushback from Twitter execs, and the company’s latest professed goal is to make it less prominent.

At a fireside chat in New Delhi, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expressed remorse for how the company “put all the emphasis, not intending to, on that number of how many people follow me. So if that number is big and bold, what do people want to do with it? They want to make it go up.” Founding Twitter executive Ev Williams has similarly expressed that the original prominence of the number was short-sighted. “I think showing follower counts was probably ultimately detrimental. It really put in your face that the game was popularity,” he said at the Web Summit earlier this month.

The Follower-Climate Connection

This online popularity contest, which Dorsey and Williams believe to be fueled in many ways by the Twitter interface, is proving detrimental to our mental health as a society, some researchers say. In their deep dive on the topic, Time magazine noted that “while such features are no doubt rewarding, for users as well as Twitter’s bottom line, experts say they may also be contributing to a culture of mindless outrage and making people more susceptible to manipulation.”

The Verge reported similarly, saying “by emphasizing an account’s number of followers, Dorsey believes it incentivizes individuals to post more polarizing content that has the potential to go viral and attract more followers, creating a more divisive and toxic discourse on the platform.” Users with greater follower counts are listened to with more authority, and this number, therefore, has a disproportionate, if at times subconscious, impact on the direction and quality of discourse on the app.

A Tale of Two Fixes

And yet, it cannot go without mentioning that the widely-reported on change to the interface is…underwhelming in practice. The latest iOS update claims to de-emphasize this number, but when the change is compared side by side with its original source, the difference strikes some as laughable. This slight change is compounded by the fact that these changes have not taken hold with similar consistency on the Android version of the app. To have a large-scale impact on the health of the site, shouldn’t these changes in emphasis be standardized across the app interfaces as well as the desktop experience (which hasn’t come up in these discussions at all)?

This partially executed change’s questionable impact is compounded by Instagram’s recently announced crackdown on accounts that generate fake likes, comments, and follows. TechCrunch reports that these efforts, like Twitter’s follower count size reduction, are aimed at improving users’ experience on the site:

If no one can believe those counts are accurate, it throws Instagram’s legitimacy into question. And every time you get a notification about a fake follow or Like, it distracts you from real life, dilutes the quality of conversation on Instagram and makes people less likely to stick with the app. – Josh Constine, TechCrunch

But unlike Twitter, this strategy aims to not just minimize the number of followers one has but to interrogate their cause and source. The apps’ challenges may differ, but one action goes further to neutralize platform health (and, for that matter, user health) than the other.

Finding a Better Fix

Infrequent but notable and controversial Twitter user Kanye West actually proposed an interesting alternative solution: allowing users to toggle the display of follower counts and/or likes. “Just like how we can turn off the comments,” he tweeted in September 2018, “we should be able to turn off the display of followers.” Still another proposed method to incentivize meaningful conversation, as Dorsey has stated is his goal, is to create a holistic measure that looks at the tone of conversation a tweet generates- something machine learning is far from being able to do accurately.

But through all these additional suggestions, one thing is certain. If the current long-term goal for Twitter is, as Dorsey told Congress, “improving the health of the site,” these changes will need to be more than merely cosmetic—or, if solely cosmetic, more substantial than this latest set of tweaks.

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Why Twitter is Thinking of Killing Off Their Like Button

Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey hinted at a Twitter event last week that the final day of the heart-shaped “like” button will be arriving soon.

According to The Telegraph, it’s wasn’t the first time he admitted that he doesn’t want it anymore — he talked about his frustration with the button weeks ago at the Wired25 summit.

“We have a big ‘like’ button with a heart on it and we’re incentivizing people to want it to go up. Is that the right thing? Versus contributing to the public conversation or a healthy conversation? How do we incentivize healthy conversation,” Dorsey said at the event.ote>

Twitter has long been accused of fostering hate crimes by failing to curb violent and extreme content, as well as creating a space for Russian bots to swing public opinion. So when the rumor of canceling the button comes, Twitter users have mixed feelings.

Some think they will be losing an important metric to demonstrate public support, some think that the platform’s biggest feature of being a civil place for debates will be cut short, and some think Twitter’s simply failing, again, to take care of the public’s concerns on hate crimes.

“Really though, if you had to ask any average user what were the main things leading to a bad “quality of debate” on this bad website, the tiny little heart symbols would not exactly be at the top of most people’s lists” – Josh Butler.

It’s uncertain, though, when this thought of the CEO will be executed. Following Telegraph’s report, Twitter’s Communications team tweeted that “We are in the early stages of the work and have no plans to share right now.”

Taylor Lorenz wrote in The Atlantic that, instead of getting rid of like button, retweet should be their target.

Retweets, not likes, are Twitter’s most powerful method of reward,” wrote Lorenz. “The quest to accrue retweets regularly drives users to tweet outlandish comments, extremist opinions, fake news, or worse. If Twitter really wants to control the out-of-control rewards mechanisms it has created, the retweet button should be the first to go.

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Social Media Marketing Video from MA Consultancy

If you are looking for Social Media Marketing Consultancy, Training & Services including Graphic Design for Social Media & Video Presentation Production for Social Media, all for prices starting at just £50 pm, please get in touch:

Call: 07517 024979 or email: maconsultancy1@gmail.com .

Twitter Seeks Transparency In Its Latest Safety Efforts

“You don’t want to see a Tweet you’ve reported, but you do want to know we’ve done something about it. And all those Tweets that break our rules? You should know we’ve done something about them too.”

On October 17th, Twitter Safety announced the latest changes to its reporting measures with the above tweet. The “report” function, designed to cull offensive content and harassment, has repeatedly come under fire by the platform’s users. This latest change aims to address two challenges inherent in prior iterations of the process. One, a user who reports a tweet is rarely informed of a claim’s outcome; two, the objected-to content was visible as Twitter made its ruling.

In a compromise, Twitter addressed the latter with a shield to hide the post—unless the user requests to see it. “Before, Twitter had experimented with both showing or hiding the tweet you reported, but users told the company they sometimes needed to refer back to the tweet – like when they’re trying to report it to law enforcement, for example,” TechCrunch reported. “Now, Twitter says it will hide the tweet behind an informational notice, but allow you to tap the notice to view the tweet again.”

In regards to the former, updates on the timeline will distinguish between a post removed by Twitter for violation of the site’s guidelines, and a post removed by a user. If the post is a violation, “[Twitter] will display a notice that states the tweet is unavailable because it violated the Twitter Rules. This will also include a link to those rules and an article that provides details on how Twitter enforces its rules.”

These measures are the most significant Twitter has taken to date in cracking down on the harassment culture. Even after a wave of reforms was announced in December 2017, hate speech, violence, and user targeting persists, much of it allegedly still falling within the company’s user guidelines. While these latest changes are a step in the right direction, many have argued that other features (Moments, circular avatars, character limits and live programming) have wrongfully taken precedence over their vital need to make the space safer for users.

Even as these changes take hold, the burden remains largely on the victim of objectionable content to report it to Twitter. Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey claimed naiveté more than once as the issue grew, but former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao has another theory: there’s no incentive for him to care. “[S]ocial media companies and the leaders who run them are rewarded for focusing on reach and engagement, not for positive impact or for protecting subsets of users from harm,” Pao wrote for WIRED earlier this month. “If they don’t need to monitor their platforms, they don’t need to come up with real policies—and avoid paying for all the people and tools required to implement them.”

Now that voices of hate and harassment are hurting Twitter’s bottom line, it’ll be interesting to watch how change is received and what additional measures Twitter will take to satisfy the concerns of critics and their most vulnerable users.

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