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By Adam Gray | @AGSocialMedia

You know what social media is. Social media is a gift to humanity, social media is a tool to bring people together, social media helps friends keep in touch and businesses to engage and woo their customers. But is social media a platform for campaigns?

Arguably not!

Do you remember a few years ago Waitrose ran a social media campaign called “I shop at Waitrose because…” where they invited their Facebook and Twitter friends to finish the sentence? Clearly, Waitrose is a loved British brand, clearly people feel a certain affinity to Waitrose, but when you offer an opportunity to an almost infinite number of people to finish such a sentence you are, with hindsight, asking for trouble. I still use examples of this campaign, my favourite being, “I shop at Waitrose because…I HATE POOR PEOPLE”!

This week UberEATS offered me an even better example of what happens when something goes wrong.

You do the math

UberEATS has just begun a tie-up with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. To celebrate, they offered a dozen free doughnuts to anyone who downloaded the Uber Eats app (with 36,000 to give away). Great. Except that London has a big population – 9,000,000 at the last count – and pretty much everyone has a smartphone. That’s a big opportunity to disappoint people if you’re not very careful.

So, 2pm and the promotion goes live and everyone who has downloaded the app logs in to claim their free doughnuts. Guess what. The app crashes. And crashes again. And again. Then it’s permanently offline!

So, given that this is the “social age” everyone takes to Twitter and posts about their dissatisfaction and disappointment.

People shared all sorts of topical gags such as, “Dave marked himself as safe during the donut crisis” or, “14th November will forever be known as the donut apocalypse – the day that @UberEATS and @krispykremeUK ruined the lives of office workers around London”. It also spawned a whole new world of animated gifs.

The icing on the doughnut

Rather like the John Lewis campaign of a few years back, with hindsight this should have been foreseen. Actually, you don’t need 20:20 hindsight. You just need common sense! With 36,000 doughnuts to give away (that is in fact only 3,000 boxes) what did they think was going to happen?

So, the long and the short of it is that running smart advertising campaigns can be quite entertaining (if of dubious value these days) and running smart direct marketing campaigns can have huge innovation. But running campaigns on social media is potentially a very bad idea. It’s a bad idea because in an environment with literally hundreds of millions of participants there are bound to be some people who can spot the flaws in your thinking. Or in this case can stress-test your app way beyond breaking point.

Oh, and the icing on the cake (or perhaps I mean “the icing on the doughnut”): they chose to run the campaign on World Diabetes Day!

Digital Leadership Associates: We are Global Social Media Management Consultancy. We do three things: Social Media StrategySocial Selling and Social Media Management. Drop us an email or call one of our founders on 00 44 7823 534 557 and let’s talk about how we can make an impact on your organisation.

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