Social Media

The final #c-ntdown: Sephora’s spelling stuff-up and three other social media lessons from 2014

Kirsten Robb /

Shoppers queue for the launch of Sephora’s Sydney store

French beauty giant Sephora certainly got the viral attention it was after yesterday, when the social media campaign for its Australian launch included an unfortunate spelling mistake.

Sephora’s social media team attempted to trend the hashtag #countdowntobeauty on its Facebook page, in preparation for the opening of its first Australian store.

But the team forgot to do a spell check – leaving out the all-important letter ‘o’ from the word ‘count’. The hashtag #c-ntdowntobeauty subsequently started trending.

It’s the second controversy this month for the retailer, after it was hit with a class action lawsuit in the US over claims it racially discriminated against its customers.

As quickly as it was picked up online, social media users started to speculate the mistake was in fact a deliberate ploy to gain attention.

Marketing expert Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels told SmartCompany that she would be very surprised if the mistake was calculated.

“That’s not the Sephora brand,” Gamble says.

“I think it’s highly unlikely they would have done that. They don’t need the publicity; just opening here has been enough. They are a well-known respected brand.”

Indeed, Sephora opened this morning to customers who had camped out overnight to get at their lower priced beauty products, according to Nine News.

“This will have no long-term effect on their brand,” says Gamble.

But Gamble believes once a mistake is out there on social media, it is hard to control, recommending SMEs have checks and balances in place so as to not find themselves in the same position.

“It comes down to planning and having good systems. There should be review and approval procedures, much liked any other form of advertising,” she says.

SmartCompany takes a look at three other major social media mistakes to come out of 2014, and what your SME can learn from them.

Waging a war against the militant vegans

Last month, a New South Wales restaurant owner was forced to respond to claims he bullied vegans, after a Facebook post about a vegan customer went viral.

The post about the restaurant’s first ever vegan customer was quickly condemned by hundreds of Facebook commenters.

But owner Mark Clews didn’t back down, responding instead to one commenter that vegans are “single minded and Nazi like in their conviction”. He said many of his customers supported his comments.

Social media expert Catriona Pollard said at the time Clews’ response was “short sighted” and said even if there is a small number of customers who agree with the comments, a much larger group of potential customers will be turned off by the incident.

The social media rant

In October, a Facebook post by the owner of a New South Wales café went viral after she posted a rant about children running amuck on the premises on Facebook.

“Are we child friendly?” café owner Jodie Morris asked. “If you are looking for a cafe with a children’s menu, baby chinos, a play area, lounges for your children to jump on, vast space for your prams, an area for your children to run rampant, and annoy other customers, while you are oblivious to them — then the short answer is No, we are not child friendly.”

A flood of complaints came from mothers who felt the comment was “an attack on parents” and promised to avoid the café in future then ensued.

However, Morris found a groundswell of support from people who supported her stance.

At the time, Gamble said Morris may have been better served to “tone down” the element of sarcasm in her original post, but said it showed a targeted approach to marketing.

“Good marketing is knowing who your best customers are. They may not be a mothers group, but people who enjoy coffee in a nice environment, without the chaos of a café full of children.”

The X-rated pic

In perhaps the worst social media gaffe of the year, and perhaps in the history of social media, the official US Airways Twitter account accidentally sent an X-rated photo as a reply to a customer who was complaining about a late flight in April.

The tweet went out to around 418,000 followers and Twitter was forced to apologise, releasing a statement that said the photo was sent to the US Airways Twitter feed by another user, and while reporting the tweet as inappropriate, the airline accidentally copied and pasted it into a tweet sent to the customer.

SmartCompany contacted Sephora but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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