The Only Thing Worse Than Being Talked About: NOT Being Talked About

In April 2014 I wrote about what I dubbed SMFPs, or Social Media Faux Pas, defined as a sudden outburst of social media sharing stemming from an accidental or poorly judged piece of content created by a marketer. I used examples of US Airways, Chrysler, Air Canada and others to illustrate what I meant.

The tenure of the article was that SMFPs are unavoidable and unpredictable. The only thing marketers can do is to manage the aftermath of when they happen (because they will). I also said that, ultimately, things need to get really, really bad before an SMFP actually has an impact on a brand in terms of consumer backlash. Typically, all that happens is a 24-hour hashtag Twitter storm, but rarely do they lead to an actual drop in sales.

Without reading the original column, can you recall any of the “damaging issues” that were highlighted in the examples I used in 2014? Yeah, me neither.



I was reminded of my 2014 column over the weekend as I read several articles on how political candidates are mastering social media as a force to drive their brand.

Apparently, Hillary Clinton is using a Buzzfeed-type media room to populate her social media feeds. The team pumps out blog posts, animated gifs from late night appearances and other snackable content for the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, according to a USA Today article.

But of course she’s no match for The Donald. He does not need a Buzzfeed-style newsroom, since everything he says is immediately picked up and repackaged by all media outlets known to mankind for distribution across all media outlets known to mankind.

What’s interesting is how Trump has actually turned the SMFP into an advantage. The more outrageous his comments, the more controversial his tweets, it seems they only appear to strengthen his position in the Republican race. It seems completely counterintuitive, unless you believe the old P. T. Barnum saying that “There's no such thing as bad publicity."

At least one brand has kind of followed the same approach: UK-based supplement producer Protein World, which sparked outrage with its 2015 “Are you beach body ready” campaign on the London underground. It ran in New York, too.

When the Twitterverse exploded, Protein World threw oil on the flames through subsequent campaigns with the intent to keep the controversy going. According to the company, it all resulted in dramatically increased sales.

Mind you, I do not recommend this approach, because the offending content is often, well—offensive. No matter how much your sales increase, that is not a good thing.

On Jan. 20, 2017, we will inaugurate our new president. If it is President Trump, he will have proven that the negative effects of SMFPs are indeed inconsequential, as I stated when I came up with the SMFP theory in 2014.  In fact, an SMFP strategy can get you elected.

If another president is inaugurated next year, I don’t think analysts will determine it was because of a Trump SMFP. With people’s senses battered numb by a continual multimedia onslaught of newsicles, it requires a mammoth implosion of Bill Cosby/Jared Fogle proportions for a “brand” to really lose its shine. Your typical Social Media Faux Pas (#SMFP) is just not mammoth enough for that.

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