What We Can Learn from Red Lobster's Social Media Fail

Tyler AbbottTyler Abbott | February 23, 2016

What_We_Can_Learn_from_Red_Lobsters_Social_Media_Fail.jpgWhile some brands create fun and effective marketing campaigns, every once in a while, a major brand fails miserably at its marketing efforts. And unfortunately, thanks to social media, these cringeworthy fails are seen far and wide. And this is exactly what happened to restaurant giant Red Lobster during the recent Super Bowl.

Beyoncé handed Red Lobster a free marketing opportunity of a lifetime when she released her new song, “Formation,” before her Super Bowl 50 halftime show. In the song, lyrics referenced Red Lobster as a reward for good sex. Within minutes, Beyoncé’s fans flocked to Twitter to see Red Lobster’s response…

And then they waited. And waited.

And all they received was disappointment.

Red Lobster’s epic media fail should remind us that all brands are fallible. And considering, in the grand scheme of things, that social media marketing is still in its infancy, it’s not really surprising that so many brands have floundered at one time or another. Just one wrong response on social media can cause a disastrous PR situation.

Fortunately, we can learn from the mistakes of other brands’ social media fails. Here are the two key lessons learned from Red Lobster’s social media fail.

Timely Responses

Fans were disappointed on Twitter while they waited an ungodly eight hours to hear Red Lobster’s response to Beyoncé’s reference. This is the first brutal mistake that was made. Though you can maybe give the brand a pass for its tardy response since it was the Super Bowl and on a Sunday, after all, the fact remains that real-time marketing is critical to successful inbound marketing. And social media, of all places, requires quick and immediate action. When it comes to social platforms, you always have to be on. There are no weekends. There are no holidays. If you’re trending—even if you’re surprised by it—you need to be ready. You can’t wait hours to respond when millions of fans are waiting on you.

Real-time marketing allows brands to capitalize on many trends and hashtags and get in on critical conversations at the right time. Timely responses allow for better communication with customers and increases visibility. As a brand that is marketing in the 21st century, you need to stay relevant, and real-time marketing allows you to do just that. And this is something that Red Lobster just didn’t get.

Knowing Your Audience

The first step to any good inbound marketing plan—or any marketing plan at all, really—is to know your audience. If you don’t know who your fans, prospects, and customers are, how can you expect to create content that will entice, entertain, and resonate with them?

The second mistake Red Lobster made during its epic fail was not knowing its audience. See, Beyoncé’s song was all about the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It was a powerful song that deserved a powerful response. Red Lobster should have known what its audience expected, and “’Cheddar Bey Biscuits’ has a nice ring to it, don't you think?” wasn’t what the primarily black fans wanted to hear. The response was underwhelming. It was lame. It had nothing to do with the song or with the important movement. It wasn’t thoughtful. And it wasn’t clever.

The Moral of the Story

The Carolina Panthers weren’t the only ones who dropped the ball during Super Bowl 50. Red Lobster did, too. And it’d be wise to learn from this restaurant’s fail, to make sure you don’t make a similar mistake while marketing your own brand. Remember—if you’re going to market on social media, make sure you’re timely. And if you’re going to communicate with your audience, you better know who exactly your audience.

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Tyler Abbott

Tyler is the Social Media Manager at SalesHub. He has over 3 years of experiential marketing experience which he applies creatively to social media campaigns. He is Hubspot Certified & Inbound Certified. Tyler likes to stay active at the golf course, gym or hockey arena. If you can't find him there, he is most likely eating something doused in hot sauce watching his Toronto Maple Leafs make a run for the playoffs.

 
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