Anticipating the Worst-Case Scenario when Engaging Customers Online

Thanks to social media, companies are engaging with their customers on a deeper level than ever before. From asking for their feedback to crowdsourcing their involvement in marketing campaigns, there are so many opportunities for brands to interact with their target audience.

woman competition swimmer on starting silhouetteMake no mistake, this is a good thing. However, it’s also very dangerous.

The fact is that every time you engage with your customers online in such an open way, you risk having the whole thing backfire on you.

Several years ago, Chevy tried to engage with its customers by launching a crowdsourcing campaign in which consumers were allowed to write their own ads for the car manufacturer’s SUV, the Tahoe. Getting their audience involved and sharing their unique ideas seemed like a no-brainer to the folks at Chevy. It was supposed to generate buzz for the brand by getting people to create and share their Chevy Tahoe videos. What ensued was a disaster.

The viral marketing plan backfired when people started making videos criticizing the SUV’s awful gas mileage and its harmful impact on the environment. The most popular videos were the ones that were the most critical of the product.

But this is far from the only example of a company attempting to engage its customers online only to have it backfire.

In 2010, Gap rolled out a new logo as part of a rebranding effort. The response to the new logo was not what the company had hoped for. People hated it.

So, what did Gap do? They made a Facebook post thanking everyone for their input on the new logo and asking their customers to submit their own designs and ideas. This only made things worse as the corporation’s attempt to fix the problem by getting free design work drew ridicule from countless people all across social media.  Eventually, the company had to nix the new logo and the crowdsourcing project, issuing a statement admitting their screw-up.

I could give you plenty of other examples of companies attempting to engage their customers online only to have the whole thing blow up in their faces (McDonald’s recent Twitter hashtag campaign comes to mind) but you get the point – you have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario when engaging your customers online.

Getting your customers involved and soliciting their feedback are good things. But before you do so, you need to fully explore the possible outcomes of doing so. Could this backfire on you? How could people misinterpret or misuse your campaign? What damage could your brand suffer as a result? Is it worth the risk?

Always know what you’re getting into before you dive in.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 8 Shocking Secrets Press Release Distribution Firms Don’t Want You to Know here:

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