Social media: the good and the bad

17:37 Jan 21st - Nathan

Some brands really know how to use social media to their advantage. And some brands… well, they really don’t. I thought I’d put together a list of the best, and the very worst. It wasn’t until after completing this list that I saw an obvious pattern emerge: If you’re not willing to view your customers as peers, and have a little laugh at yourself from time to time, you will fail. The goal with social media is to build a thriving community around your product or brand. To do this well, you need to allow your customers to interact with you. Do this well, and they’ll see themselves as an important part of your business.

Jamie Oliver


Jamie Oliver persuading you to take part in his Food Tube campaign, using strange facial expressions and wild hand movements

Jamie Oliver boasts a site that pulls in over 3m uniques per month, over 1m Twitter followers, and two apps rumoured to have bought in a seven-figure sum on their own. It’s pretty safe to say Jamie is no stranger to success on the Internet. His latest venture, Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube, will see a complete rebrand of his current YouTube channel and a schedule of live-streamed cooking shows.

The idea was first announced on YouTube over Christmas with an interactive trailer. After hearing Jamie plug the new channel, you can click around his kitchen causing havoc with boxes or eggs and tomatoes. You can even, much to my delight, slap Jamie in the face. Repeatedly.

On go-live day (in four days time at the time of writing this,) Jamie will hold the first batch of live shows on YouTube. The public will be able to ask questions in real time via the comment box. All of this fits in perfectly with Jamie’s image of being ‘a man of the people’, and it gets people excited about his brand.



If social media has done one thing for consumers, it’s give them an equal platform when it comes to PR. Gone are the days when the complaints departments can fob you off with vouchers for whatever crappy product it was that caused you to put pen to paper in the first place. Now you can hold that company accountable for its bad customer service, and expose them to the world while doing so. It’s a major shift in the paradigm and for a lot of people, its terrifying. Terrifying because of people like Richard Neill.

Richard was fed up with Bodyform’s unrealistically joyous depiction of ‘that time of the month’, especially as it didn’t match up to his girlfriend’s personal experiences. The two didn’t match up, and he wanted the world to know about it. Bodyform’s internal marketing team noticed the post was getting a lot of likes (20,000 at the point they decided to take action), and agreed it was an opportunity too good to miss. After brainstorming with media agency Carat, they came up with this brilliant, self-mocking response video. The rest is viral-video history.




This Nikon post created an uproar among fans of its Facebook page

they are promoting their products by telling you that your skills, education, creative eye, etc mean NOTHING; that it is all in the equipment?

“A bad workman blames his tools”. A phrase that many of us believe in, unless you work on the social media team at Nikon.
In a failed attempt to get people talking about their range of lenses, Nikon added a post to their Facebook wall that started with the sentence “A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses”. Thousands left negative comments, feeling the company’s statement were insulting and arrogant. One Facebooker said “they are promoting their products by telling you that your skills, education, creative eye, etc mean NOTHING; that it is all in the equipment? Man, the kool-aid is getting to you Nikon folks!”.

They issued an apology the next day, but from the relatively low number of likes I would say it was too little too late.


Mitt Romney


The slogan that landed Mitt Romney’s app in the news

There are a hundred ways I could poke fun at Mitt Romney – the man seems to be a walking failblog post – but I’m here to talk about social media, so I’ll put the traveling dog jokes aside and tell you about the iPhone app ‘With Mitt’.

The app, which allows users to superimpose their photos with Romney’s campaign slogans, was a laughing-stock from day one due to a misspelling of the word America. People instantly saw the comic potential and within hours the internet was awash with parody photos emblazoned with the slogan “A better Amercia”. Mitt’s people did react pretty quickly, releasing an update the next day. But of course, by then the images were already out there for everyone to see. It had even inspired a Tumblr.




Nike’s ‘Find Your Greatness’ campaign celebrated the everyday athlete

Nike’s campaign during the Olympics didn’t just outperform Adidas’s official partnership. It showed the world that costly campaigns (£40m for the Olympic sponsorship and £100m on the overall campaign) are no match for clever ones.

While Adidas’s sponsorship meant the Olympic Park was covered in its iconic three stripes, Nike sponsored individual Olympians and teams to make sure their branding was still displayed during the games. But the best part of the campaign was about empowering everyday athletes. Nike created posters and online videos, and emblazoned each with the hashtag ‘#findyourgreatness’. They focused more on the individual, and in doing so, their message was carried throughout social media a lot more.

Here are the stats:

  • Over 16,020 tweets associated the word “Nike” with “Olympics” vs. just under 9,300 for Adidas
  • @Nike’s followers grew 11% from opening to closing ceremonies, adding more than 57,000 followers
  • @adidas originals grew only 4%, adding 12,000 followers over the same time period
  • Over the course of the 2012 Olympics, Nike added twice as many Facebook fans as Adidas
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The Author

Nathan Harrigan

Nathan has many years experience producing web sites and applications. Specialising in front end technologies, he also has a keen interest in information architecture and user experience.

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