online, Social Media

Coles Twitter gaffe shows marketing and communications teams must agree on social media campaigns

Patrick Stafford /

Supermarket giant Coles has been slammed by social media professionals after starting a Twitter campaign that got out of hand last week, prompting experts to warn businesses to keep their marketing and communication departments on the same page when it comes to Twitter campaigns.

SR7 co-founder James Griffin warns businesses undertaking a social media campaign that all departments need to be in sync so messaging doesn’t get lost. This means the marketing and communications teams need to be in tune with how to respond when things go awry.

“The people within the social media department should be meeting and conversing with others to make sure they know what’s going on,” Griffin warns, adding that a mismatched response can make a small problem even worse.

“When the message gets out of sync then the situation can get out of hand.

“I think it’s really a question of how many more of these incidents we’re going to see before businesses start making some changes.”

Griffin says businesses need to start looking beyond the obvious in order to create conversations, and that requires different departments working together.

“The marketing teams here should be looking a bit broader in order to create a conversation. Think up other ways to build relationships with consumers.”

“They really should have learned from the lessons of the past.”

The incident in question occurred last week when Coles posted a question prompt on its Twitter profile saying “in my house it’s a crime not to buy…” leaving the ending for other users to finish.

Users quickly pounced on the company with negative comments, with responses such as “food from markets while Coles exploits mental illness via pokies”. Others criticised the company for not buying enough from local food producers.

This comes after similar incidents sparked by Qantas and Woolworths last year, with professionals warning companies to get their social media under control and organised.

Coca-Cola suffered a similar blunder late last month when it tried the same trick on its Facebook page, with the prompt telling users to tell a story by posting just one word each. The company was forced to pull down a number of offensive comments.

Qantas also suffered a similar fate last year following a similar prompt.

Coles was contacted for comment by SmartCompany this morning, but a reply was not available prior to publication.

“This joins an increasingly growing list of companies that has faced backlash from social media,” Griffin says. “This is just another lesson that brands and companies shouldn’t be foregoing common sense in the social media strategy.”

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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