When used carefully, Twitter can be a useful platform for social media marketing, driving engagement and virality. However, it can also go badly wrong, leading to users responding negatively – or even obscenely – to a brand’s efforts, for all the world to see. In this post, we look at some of the most well-known social media marketing campaigns on Twitter, and examine how well they worked… or didn’t.

The Twitter hashtag has become a mainstream phenomenon. Once a relic of blogging that was used only by geeks, it is now so well known that even celebrities use it in real-life speech. WWE’s Dolph Ziggler ends many of his promo videos with a spoken “#heel”, to indicate that he is the ‘bad guy’, while feminist campaigners adopted the #no1reasonwhy tag to describe the bad things that have happened to them while working in male-dominated industries.

Getting your Twitter marketing campaign to make it on to the trending list is always a good thing, but is it important to include hashtags? Let’s take a look at some of the most famous campaigns and how they went.

Ben and Jerry’s: FairTweets

Ben & Jerry’s merged activism and marketing with their #FairTweets campaign. A spin on Fair Trade, the company invited users to visit its site or install its FairTweet app and send a tweet. The tweet still came from users’ accounts, but any unused characters in the tweet would be used to promote the Fair Trade cause, with a link to a relevant blog or website. The site had more than 43,000 visitors from 100 countries and more than 12 million Fair Trade tweets were sent out. Ben and Jerry’s did not promote themselves directly through the tweets, but earned more than 100 blog mentions from the campaign. They ran the campaign a second time six months later.

Edge Shave Gel: #SoIrritating

The makers of Edge Shave Gel decided to jump in on one of the most common Twitter pastimes: complaining. The company ran its own #SoIrritating campaign (a nice twist on the #hateitwhen and other user-created tags) and used it to launch the “Anti-Irritation” campaign. The campaign saw Edge gain more than 1,500 followers and #SoIrritating was used more than 6,800 times. It was also mentioned in many newspapers and blogs. The campaign was so popular that they kept it running for several months.

It’s hard to track the link between tweets and sales, but one thing is certain: the campaign raised Edge’s profile and got people talking about the brand, which is a good start.

#WaitroseReasons: Social Media Marketing Backfires

Before the #no1reasonwhy activism campaign, Waitrose ran a #WaitroseReasons marketing campaign, encouraging people to tweet the reasons why they shop at that particular supermarket. This campaign ended up trending, but not for the right reasons. Instead of people giving genuine reasons, most respondents answered by highlighting how posh the store is, leaving comments such as, “Clarissa’s pony just WILL NOT eat Asda Value straw” and “I will not stand next to the scumbags at Marks and Spencer”.

Waitrose handled this well. Instead of complaining about people not taking them seriously, they responded by saying that they were amused by people’s contributions.

Many other companies have tried similar campaigns. McDonalds ran #McDStories and Starbucks tried to #SpreadTheCheer, both resulting in users adopting the campaign to rant, complain or criticise the companies in question. Other social media campaigns have seen users post obscene content.

If you’re thinking of running a social media campaign that invites user contributions, think carefully about how the campaign may be subverted and make sure you’re happy with that risk before the campaign goes live.

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