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April Fools: 5 Social Media Campaigns That Failed

For my April’s Fools post I’m not going to play a joke on you. I won’t tell you the name of my business has been changed or make up new products for a laugh. Instead I’m going to point out the real fools who thought it would be a good idea to launch a social media campaign.

My favorite is when someone responds to a misguided social media campaign in a way that overtakes the original purpose of the campaign.

Here are my top 5 Fools of 2015. These are the social media campaigns that backfired this year so far:

1. Starbucks: for the #RaceTogether campaign.
The one-week campaign asked employees to write “Race Together” on coffee cups and try to engage people in a dialogue about race. I’m not sure why they didn’t try to hold dialogue between customers by bringing leaders to stores for informal discussion groups about local issues.

Why were they fools? For thinking their customers would be interested in launching into politically loaded conversations while getting a cup of coffee.

2. Hamas: for their #AskHamas campaign 
This was also a week long campaign and it was international (but in English). Hamas is the largest Palestinian militant Islamist groups. It has a PR problem and decided to encourage people to ask questions on social media. Just news of the campaign invited mockery.

Why were they fools? For blowing people up to reach ideological and religious differences then ask the world what they think (and expect it to turn out well).

3. Mall of America: for the#itsmymall campaign

If you have something that you’d rather not be exposed, go ahead and trumpet something that others criticize. The Mall of America asked people to share stories about the mall on Twitter for a chance to win $500 gift cards. I don’t think the tweets about racism won the cash. The hashtag #itsmymall trended on Twitter and there wasn’t a lot of brand love.

Why were they fools? For acting “confused” about the backlash that happened and being out of touch with how their customers are treated.

4. SeaWorld: for their#AskSeaWorld Twitter campaign

SeaWorld has been criticized about their treatment of killer whales after a documentary criticizing them came out in 2013. Feeling maligned, they hoped to educate the public about they are doing to protect whales. They touted some good and then asked people to join in by asking questions using the hashtage #AskSeaWorld. That’s like asking environmentalists what they think about fracking (don’t expect to get any love).

PETA took the bait, asking:


Why they were fools: For thinking you can reverse years of bad PR by putting out some positive messages and asking what everyone thinks.

#5 Budweiser: for not thinking through their #UpForWhatever campaign.

Bud Light tweeted a picture of five smiling young women on St. Patrick’s Day. It said: “On #StPatricksDay you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever.”

Why were they fools? The tweet was taken as giving an OK to sexual assault and was later deleted.

Lessons learned: when your brand is in trouble it’s probably a bad time to have public dialogue with the public. It’s too little too late. You can successfully address politically-loaded topics with advertising, but it’s more along the lines of rallying the troops than convincing naysayers.  One reason it’s probably a bad idea is because they expose just how out of touch the company is with public opinion.

Next up: a social media strategy (rather than a campaign) that is paying off well for a California doughnut shop I recently visited.

Utah Entrepreneurs Launch on Instagram

A mother-daughter team launched a new business this July via Instagram. It quickly brought in sales and is still responsible for 90% of sales to the ecommerce website AModernBoutique that sells low-priced high fashion jewelry and clothes.

Annie Copinga and Diane Terry launched, a low priced jewelry and other fashion, on Instagram. In just seven weeks after launching, their Instagram following shot up to over 10,000 followers and just a few months later, they have over 11,000 followers. It’s not unusual for the site to get sales within minutes of posting a new photo.


I interviewed the founders of AModernBoutique to learn what works for them. “We sent friend requests to all of our friends and started putting up attractive images, and we noticed who our fashion friends would tag.” Then they reached out to form relationships with friends of friends. Fashion bloggers with large followings started sharing their images tagged with @amodernboutique. “They would tag us on Instagram and then we’d get friend requests from people who loved our necklaces and wanted to be friends.”

After finding bloggers on Instagram, they “listened” – essentially noting what they were posting and writing about on the site. When they found a good match they asked if they’d be interested in featuring their necklaces on their blog. Often when bloggers got their necklaces, they’d put a picture of themselves wearing it on Instagram and thank AModernBountique – which brings even more followers.

Copinga explained she chose Instagram because she used it – “My peers are on there. We just want to see pictures.” When it comes to a small business it’s perfect advice – start with the social network you like and use and where your target market is. She simple takes a snapshot, adds a price, and quick description of it. People can purchase the item right there by putting their Paypal address in the comment and the link to buy.

Instagram Tips
1. Post lifestyle rather than product shots.
Lifestyle pictures are better than just a picture of the product. So showing someone wearing a necklace with an outfit is better than showing a necklace by itself. Done this way it gives women ideas on what to wear with the necklace. They suggest outfits, ideas, colors to wear with. “Collages work well because we can show it in different looks and multiple colors (we have a necklace that comes in 4 different colors).”

2. Experiment with different times to find when is the best time to post.
For AModernBoutique that is in the morning and evening. “Women wake up, check email, instagram, and Facebook. Always around 4-5pm MST home from work, after dinner (7pm). A lot of fashion bloggers are on the east coast. We test this.” They also watch to see when their competitors post.

3. Use Apps
AModernBoutique suggests FrameUrLife and picstitch. Statigram is a great tool for finding brands and hashtags that relate to your brand. Simply enter the brand name or hashtag into the search box and click Search.  Here’s a list of top apps on Instagram.

Instagram Traffic Compared to Pinterest and Facebook

Instagram 150M Monthly Actives (Instagram was bought by Facebook  in 2012 as they were trying to move towards mobile)
Pinterest: 70 m
Facebook 1.15 b

Here are some more stats about marketing with Instagram, including how to reach Instagrammers with large followings using InstaZebra.

Introverts vs Extroverts at Work

Fast company recently posted two graphics that sum up how to get along with me (an extrovert) and how I can get along with better introverts (my son is one). I also get to test embedding posts from Facebook.

It’s fascinating how our brain works and what it means for our personality and what makes us tick or makes us happy. Happy people are shown to be more productive and creative employees, or business owners.

Research has actually found that there is a difference in the brains of extroverted and introverted people in terms of how we process rewards and how our genetic makeup differs.



introverts explained:

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? (worth a read!).  Turns out that no one is all one or the other. You just might not be either one – and there’s a name for that too — an ambivert. Besides this measure, Meyers-Briggs can help you understand what kind of job you’d be best at. For me that has made all the difference.

Great PR Move: New Smoothie Business Charges Liberals $1 More

Try opening a new shop to sell smoothies in a small Utah town in the middle of Winter. Not just any Winter, one with subzero temperatures. You’d think it would be tough. It’s really a time when you’d probably do better selling hot chocolate. But thanks to some brilliant marketing, one small business owner is getting plenty of customers for his new smoothie shop in Vernal. He’s also getting national press. How? By taking a controversial political stand.

The owner is already a local celebrity for putting up billboards in support of oil and gas drilling in the town. Now he’s using his political views to get customers for his newest venture.

The large menu states that liberals will pay one price and conservatives pay another (not sure what moderates pay). If you’re a liberal you’ll pay $1 more for your smoothie. The extra dollar liberals pay gets donated to conservative causes. Again, brilliant. So is the name of the restaurant. It’s called the  I Love Drilling Juice and Smoothie Bar.

Owner George Burnett  is a real character, wearing his cowboy hat and not backing down from his opinions one bit. In other words this isn’t a publicity stunt (well, yes it is). He really believes it.

“I have liberals come in who pay $1 surcharge….actually all 3 liberals have been happy to pay it.”

No matter what way your politics lean, you have to have admire his brazen tactics.

Not only are customers rewarded for being conservative,  employees must be too. They must not only believe in drilling for oil (raping and pillaging the earth), they have to share their views on social media and with bumper stickers. Again, brilliant!

Now, in just about any other town in the US this would be not only bold, but stupid. But this is Vernal, Utah, where liberals might get shot at. When I traveled through these towns in college, we always displayed our US flag on the car to hopefully ward off attacks (while we went hiking). This is a small town where most would rather liberals not even visit (it reminds me of Richfield, New York which has a sign that says: Welcome to Richfield — now go home). This move creates instantly loyalty. And this is Utah, where some parents buy pink guns for their babies (as featured on Nightline).

This reminds me of Chick-fil-A and their open anti-gay marriage position. It may have made them hated with some, but others love them for their stand. That’s a lot riskier since they have a national audience, but supposedly it has paid off since this article claims they have record-breaking profits.  7-Eleven gets political without taking a stand either way by letting their customers choose a Republican or a Democrat coffee cup and claims that they do accurately predict election results.

In other words, taking a stand or using your business as a platform for your beliefs or to measure your customer’s beliefs, seems to be a trend that can pay off. What it’s really doing is tapping into what their customers are passionate about.

What do you think, do politics and business mix well? And, would you drink the Kool Aid  conservative or the liberal smoothie?


Online PR Link Love: Using Twitter Bots to Increase Followers

Here are some of my favorite reads or resources found online this week:

  • Bufferapp lets you flag content to be added to a queue and then auto-tweeted or put on Facebook throughout the day. I need this because I get flashes of ideas and finds, then flood my accounts and overwhelm people. Plus this tool chooses the best time of day to post for you. They also have a great blog – like this post on how to find & post great content 15x per day!

Utah Woman’s Ad Company is Taking Care of Business

Since my blog gets a lot of traffic based on a picture of toilet paper I posted, I thought this story would be well-received. Hannah Laine helps small businesses find a captive audience. The ad space she sells is practically guaranteed to be seen by everyone who is exposed to them. That’s because she sells ads in public restrooms. Since people are generally not doing much else at the time her ads are shown, she aptly named the company Undivided Attention.

She is testing using QR codes on some of the ads. We know people bring their phones with them everywhere, yes, even in the bathroom.

Always a champion of women-owned businesses, I asked her a few questions about how she got started and what’s been most effective so far.

What gave you the idea to start this business? I was at a business convention out of state and saw the ads on the insides of the stalls of the convention center. I said, Brilliant! This is an amazing way to advertise!

How long ago did you start it? We’ve been up and running since January 2012!

What did you do before this? I’ve worked for various companies including UBS Bank, XanGo, and eBay. I also started, ran, and later sold my own gourmet hot dog catering business called Frank’s Franks, which operated out of a fully-restored and retro-fit 1964 VW Bus.

Is it profitable yet? We’re shooting for profitability by the end of 2012.

Is it just local (Utah only)? Yes, we are focusing on the Utah market right now, though we have some connections in other areas that we may pursue at a later date.

What has the response been like? The response has been very positive! Most people laugh at first, until they realize how really awesome the possibilities are.

Can you track response of the QR codes or do you leave that to the client? We outsource with a QR Code company, who manages the clients’ QR codes and tracking. Many have not jumped on the idea yet. Although we love technology and are major fans, many people still don’t know what to do when they see a QR code. It’s a gradual introduction process.

Can you give me an example of some ads with QR codes – are they only for men’s restrooms or have you had success with women’s? We ran some ads for City Deals, and the Men generally had more interest in the QR code-based ads. We’re now experimenting with text-based campaigns for the women’s room.

The cost? $50/month Yes, it’s $50 per frame, per month, per location!

Here are some of Hannah’s most successful ads (I’m hoping this first one isn’t literal!):

Surprised it doesn’t have an address (at least a city), but it has a URL.

What do you think of her idea – will it catch on? And, would you scan a QR code in the restroom? I think it’s a great idea at tech shows especially.

Utah Social Media Club Featuring Sarah Evans (July 11)

Social Media Club of Salt Lake City Re-launches – Sarah Evans Speaking

Social Media Club of Salt Lake City is back! This is great news. I’m fond of SLMC because they gave me an award in 2009, my friends were founders, and its a great way to stay in touch with the industry.

The kick-off event is Wed. July 11, 2012 and Sarah Evans will speak along with Jennifer Gosse, co-founder of Tracky, to discuss “Migrating from Casual Connections to Meaningful Collaboration.” Sarah is so genuine and I’ve always wanted to meet her. Plus she featured my Pinterest tool PinAlerts in her newsletter. And we’re both working moms in the social/pr space (our babies are about the same age). Even though I might not make it to this meeting, Sarah will speak at EVO, which I am attending.

WHERE: The Leonardo (next to the Salt Lake Library)

WHEN: Wednesday July 11, 2012 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

COST: Admission is free, however attendees are encouraged to register as space is limited.

Register at or visit  for more information.


Online PR Link Love: Ann Taylor Incident Angers the Internet

I could make this subtitled viral Utah – the good and the ugly.

  • A Utah woman with a guide dog got kicked out of an Ann Taylor store. It made local and national news (The Consumerist and Huffington Post picked it up). Ann Taylor first tried to blame the woman, but later came to their senses and apologized. They should’ve owned up faster and offered her a $100 gift card for their mistake. Becky Andrews was ready to burn her wardrobe and Ann Taylor got a lot more than $100 worth of bad PR.
  • After that story, you need a laugh. This no cost PR stunt from a comedy group out of Utah Valley State College. They filmed a guy trying to hold hands with strangers. It has over 4 million views on YouTube. My favorite is the woman who happily goes along with it (she’s hoping that his move is shorthand for want to go out with me?) That’s how I would’ve reacted if a hot guy walked up and started holding my hand, so that was my favorite part.
  • The World’s Largest Webinar!
    With the Olympics coming, everyone is trying to set new records (even me). How about a marketing-related record? Great way to send out a press release and get some publicity. Hubspot is trying to get  in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest webinar. July 12 at 10 am PT. Hosted by Dan Zarrella, HubSpot’s Social Media Scientist, and Ben Watson, the VP of Marketing at HootSuite. Register today to be a part of HootSuite history!
  • Social Media writing guide.
    This is from a government agency (the CDC) but it’s helpful for anyone who writes online. Make your own version for your business.

Have you ever been hated by a big group of people? I hope not. This is my news quote of the week:

“People don’t understand – when you screw up, and you feel that wave of energy of a million people saying, “Shame on you” – 20 minutes on that grill is enough to change your life. The body is not equipped to handle negative energy from so many people.”
-John Mayer on his PR crisis

Online PR Link Love: Facebook Marketing Insights

Facebook Marketing Insights

  • Study says online communities need constant attention if you want sales. Only community members who received “relevant, frequent, lengthy and timely” information were likely to experience increased levels of trust or to be more inclined to make purchases, researchers found. More insights including this line I love: Number of Facebook Fans Isn’t a Key Performance Metric from Search Engine Watch‘s Miranda Miller.
  • This campaign combines Facebook and Pinterest -with the a Pin it to Win It Contest that originates on Facebook. Fans create a “Tuckernucking” Pinterest board featuring three items inspired by the brand’s All-American look. Fans then submit their boards’ URLs via the Sign Up form for a chance to win a $250 gift card.  Source: Offerpop.

YouTube Marketing Insights (which has some insights that apply for going viral on Pinterest too)

  • The quote below is from a Techcrunch post about how a marketing agency gets videos to go viral on YouTube for their clients (they don’t make you pay if you don’t get at least 100k views!). They admit they pay bloggers to post their embedded videos and got a lot of heat for it. I’m a big fan of partnering with bloggers– esp. for local businesses. Link goes to an event I organized and loved. Thank you for dispelling a myth…the post was written in 2007 but it’s still true today. The internet is crowded and you have to stand out to be seen.

“One simply can’t expect to post great videos on YouTube and have them go viral on their own, even if you think you have the best videos ever. These days, achieving true virality takes serious creativity, some luck, and a lot of hard work.”

Pinterest Case Study: A Graphic Designer who Gets Direct Sales

I’ve been looking for case studies of people who are making money directly from Pinterest. I’ve found affiliate marketers who are (stay tuned for more on this in a future post). Geoffrey is one of the first to make money by promoting his products on Pinterest.

I’m not advocating that making money directly from Pinterest is the holy grail of marketing. Just like making money on any social network, it’s usually because you’re visible and people like you that you end up making money. In other words, people see and like Geoffrey’s work so they contact him for a design project. It’s rarely a direct sale (someone sees and buys the product).  But sometimes it is and that is what this case study is about.

I interviewed Geoffrey Sagers (that’s such a graphic designer’s spelling, isn’t it?). He’s a graphic designer who got on Pinterest about 9 months ago. He just started to experiment with selling his work. He didn’t set out to do it, but after people asked for copies of his designs, he began to see the potential.

Geoffrey noticed quotes, which are super popular on Pinterest, but a lot of them are ugly. He thought he could do better, so he started making his own versions. Quotes do well on Facebook too (I didn’t ask if Geoffrey has a page for his business). If you design a quote, it’s good for a blog post, a Facebook update, a new product, and a pin.

When he was starting out Geoffrey wasn’t pinning his work, he pinned photographs and things that inspired him. Things that gave him ideas for his own business.

Pinterest is nothing if not a form of inspiration and enchantment. There’s always something to be discovered. I believe in participating from a mindset of sharing and connecting with whatever inspires you, not from a mindset of how much money you can make. Although I’m not a purist. You can use Pinterest any way you choose, or create multiple accounts to use as you please. In fact, you could create a themed account like this one that just showcases Facebook design services.

Of course someone can copy your work and take credit for it. Or Pinterest could decide it’s theirs. But so far it’s worth the risk Geoffrey says. You win some…but not all. Granted it’s not his full-time gig.

Lessons in Fulfillment
At first Geoffrey ran to Walmart to print orders as they came in, but that took a lot of time. He now uses Smugmug . I must say I hate their shopping cart with the small buy button that you have to look for, but that’s not the point of this story. The point is the quality is better and he doesn’t have to do any of the fulfillment.

Appeal to your Target Audience – in this Case Usually Women
The majority of people pinning and repinning on Pinterest are women. That does not mean that men or things that appeal to men can’t do well on the site. It does mean that the majority of pins in most cases are things that appeal to women. I like this. Most businesses like this because you know, the power of the purse. Women make a lot of the purchasing decisions for their families. Think educated, higher income moms and grandmas.

My friend Karen says men are more reluctant to use Pinterest because of the name. Her husband says it’s because men don’t pin things, they nail ’em. But it was started by a man (who launched Pinterest at Alt Summit, a conference in Utah that mostly women attend).

Timing – When to Pin
Geoffrey says if he doesn’t get at least one repin on his work, he deletes it and pins it another time. Your pin appears as a new item in a category for about 7-10 mins. So if you don’t get a pin in that time it’s unlikely you’ll get them later. I’m sure there will be services that do this but I’ve started to see people hiring for this task.

He’s found that the best times to pin are between 7-8am (before work or school), 11-1:30 (during lunch), and 6-8pm (after dinner).

Colors are Important Too
Again and again I see how colors are important. Geoffrey uses pinks and red when the image is has a love or marriage theme. Otherwise he uses blues or greens. If the quote is hard-hitting then he’ll use a darker background image or grungy look. This could be a coffee stain look or black. So that infographic you create might do better on Pinterest if you change the color scheme.

End of my Long-Winded Post about Pinterest
I can write and write about Pinterest because I genuinely love it. For many reasons both personal and business. I think it’s the most accessible of the social networks. We’re always looking for the fastest way to get information. It’s much faster to skim images than to read. You don’t need to click to be whisked away into dream mode, you’re just in it, bang. I also love how people love Pinterest.

Here’s one of the pins that got Geoffrey the most repins. You’re not used to seeing quotes like this on my blog are you?

Now you can pin this post.

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