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Social Media

The Week in Social Media: Best Buy’s #Serial Gaffe

The Week in Social Media: Best Buy’s #Serial Gaffe

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The Week in Social Media

Read through any “Best Practices” guide for Twitter, and you’re likely to find a suggestion about jumping on popular hashtags. If you’re unfamiliar with hashtags, they’re Twitter’s way of organizing topics so that you can read what others are saying about the same subject. By simply adding a # to a phrase on Twitter (such as #TGIF), your tweet can be read by people who are browsing through that topic, whether they’re following you or not.

In other words, using hashtags in your tweets is a great way to generate awareness of your business account beyond users who are already following you. It’s a great practice if you’re looking to expand your audience. But brands regularly get it wrong, and even the best marketers aren’t exempt. Enter electronics giant Best Buy.

What Happened

It all focused on Serial, a podcast by journalists investigating a true murder case from 15 years ago. Since its release in October, the podcast has gone viral – quickly becoming one of the biggest internet sensations of the year. The hashtag #Serial, used by listeners discussing the podcast and case, is routinely among the top Twitter topics in the U.S. each time a new episode is released.

That was the case again on Dec. 11, when the newest Serial episode discussed new information about the possible scene of the crime. The podcast discussed a Massachusetts Best Buy, where the possible existence (or non-existence) of a pay phone may be crucial in proving the currently convicted suspect’s innocence. Best Buy, of course, saw that new information as a great opportunity to jump into the national conversation with the following Tweet:

Ouch. The backlash was imminent, and vicious. Joking about a fictional series would be one thing, but the crime behind Serial’s investigation is not fictional, the victim – a 17-year old high school student – was real. Best Buy did get the attention it was seeking, but for all the wrong reasons.

Lessons Learned

Fortunately, the company reacted quickly. The Tweet was pulled almost immediately, and an apology was tweeted out only an hour after the initial posting:

We deeply apologize for our earlier tweet about Serial. It lacked good judgment and doesn’t reflect the values of our company. We are sorry.

Still, the damage was done, and the lessons for social media marketers should not be ignored. Jumping onto trending topics can be a valuable tool for expanding awareness of your brand, but should be done with particular care. Social media can be an invaluable business tool, but it’s also full of potential land mines. Tread lightly, or you may put your reputation in harm’s way. Contact us today and we’ll help you expand your brand safely but effectively

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