IBM’s way of getting women involved in STEM HackAHairDryer

Someone at IBM has a whole lot of egg on their face.

This one is a bit older, but here goes: The technology giant came up with a great (sarcasm) campaign to get more women involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Have them hack a hair dryer!  After all, nothing works better at getting women involved in a male dominating field than by appealing to them via stereotypical female product, right?

The campaign encouraged women to hack a hair dryer in order to “blow away the misconception, dissolve the stigma, blast through the bias, and bring innovation culture into balance.”

Users on Twitter – particularly women already involved in the STEM field – did not take kindly to the marketing effort:

I think this analysis from Fortune nailed it:

…“feminizing” science and technology in order to attract female talent propagates the myth that math, science, and technology are somehow inherently “un-feminine,” directly conflicting with the good intentions of these initiatives.

To their credit, IBM ended the campaign, admitting it’s failure.  In an Emailed statement, IBM said:

“The videos were part of a larger campaign to promote STEM careers. It missed the mark for some and we apologize. It is being discontinued.”

The company also sent out this tweet:

IBM tried to blow apart stereotypes in science.  Unfortunately, they did so in a manner which merely reinforced the same stereotypes they were trying to break.  Someone should have caught this.  However, credit to IBM for recognizing their failure, acknowledging it and apologizing for it.

Tweets and Consequences

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Lane Bryant’s Twitter chat is a trainwreck

I’ve long argued that controversial politicians need to avoid Twitter chats.  Businesses can use these positively, but it depends on whether or not the business in question has a high degree of negative sentiment.  You can now add Lane Bryant to the list of company’s which should avoid these promotional mechanisms.

Here’s the scoop: Lane Bryant, which makes plus-sized clothing, tried a live Twitter Q&A last week, using #AskLaneBryant.

It did not go well:

As is par for the course for events like this, the Twitter chat also generated negative national publicity for the company.


To their credit, Lane Bryant publicly expressed an acknowledgement that they had some issues to work on:

Not that women’s fashion is my area of expertise, but I had no idea that these kinds of issues existed with Lane Bryant.  After reading some of the responses to this chat, I wonder if Lane Bryant did as well – I suspect not.  To their credit, the company didn’t try to pretend that the negative feedback wasn’t happening: They acknowledged it, and pledged to work on it going forward.  In that sense, this issue was well handled.

That being said, once again: Twitter chats can be very dangerous, and you have to make sure that you don’t have a high negative sentiment before engaging in one.

H&M gets hammered for racist implications of tweet

This happened a couple of weeks ago, but it’s a mistake I thought was worth reviewing for a variety of reasons.  In short, a very, very stupid tweet got H&M, the fashion retailer, in deep, deep trouble.

H&M recently opened a store in Cape Town, South Africa.  South Africa, of course, has a long and tragic history of racial segregation.  As a result, you would think that all local retailers and social media users would be extremely careful in their marketing efforts.

Twitter user @Tlaly_Branch visited the Cape Town store and sent this critique to the retailer:

Certainly a valid criticism, and one worth responding to: Generally speaking, for a business or politician, if someone sends you a valid criticism and is clearly looking for a legitimate response (not just trolling), it’s a good practice to respond. H&M did just that.  However, they did so in the worst way possible:

It appears that H&M was trying to say that their marketing is in a constant state of flux and they try to be as diverse as possible in all of their marketing mediums.  However, look at the first and second tweets…they use the word “positive” in each tweet.  In other words: Black models don’t convey a positive image.

I really don’t think this is what H&M was trying to say, but it is definitely an implication of what they did say.  Twitter users, naturally, let the brand have it, and they were forced it issue a clarification:

They also issued this apology tweet:

So, the lesson here: Be careful with every part of a tweet.  The implications of any tweet can get you into deep, deep trouble.

IHOP gets nailed for sexist tweet

IHOP, like many brands, tweets in a cool-kid style, using modern terminology.  Every now and then, it also tries to get “edgy.”  I use that term loosely.

The edginess, however, backfired, with this tweet sent out on Sunday:

IHop Tweet

Nope.  Nope.  Bad idea!  There are some innuendos you can pull off, but references to women, like this, are absolutely a bad idea.

The reaction was swift:

IHOP found itself on the wrong end of national media coverage, and they deleted the tweet.  To their credit, IHOP saw the writing on the wall (home feed?) and also sent out an unqualified apology:

So, what’s the lesson?  There is some “edginess” that you can use – points where it’s okay to try to sound like you are talking to millennials.  I guess.  Personally, every time I see a brand use “on fleek” I want to explode because no human being on the face of the Earth actually tweets like that, but hey, that’s just me.  Anyway, regardless of whether or not you are pro- or anti-fleek, this much is clear: Don’t make insulting allusions to women’s breasts or body parts and be surprised about the aftermath.  IHOP gets points for handling the aftermath well, as they deleted the tweet quickly and sent out an appropriate apology.  That being said, prevent yourself from getting into this situation by never sending out tweets that look anything like this.

Tweets and Consequences

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J. Crew Executive fired after taking to Instagram to mock those he just fired

J. Crew is an upscale clothing line which is, apparently, having its share of troubles.  The troubles are so bad that, last week, the company laid off 175 employees.

Mass firings are a tragic event, to be taken seriously.  I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to be one of the layoffs, and would think that it would have been extremely difficult to be one of the employees involved in the firing as well, knowing that you were forced into a situation where you had to let go of your friends and colleagues.  Surely, such an event would need be handled with great delicacy and tact, right?

Apparently Alejandro Rhett missed that memo.  Rhett was, until recently, the Vice President of Men’s Merchandising at J. Crew.  The day of the layoffs, Rhett went drinking and uploaded pictures of his evening escapes to Instagram.  He personally uploaded only one picture:

Alejandro Rhett Instagram J. Crew

Hashtags that Rhett used include #nofunhere.  Meanwhile, people Rhett was with uploaded these two pics:

J Crew Instagram photos for David Boyle

J Crew Instagram photos for David Boyle

Some of the less swift hashtags used here include #forthewin #damnitfeelsgoodtobeaganster and #hungergames.

For someone who just laid off friends, Rhett sure seems to be enjoying himself.  And, judging by the hashtags he used and that big ole smile on his face, Rhett seems to not fully grasp the painfulness of the layoffs he just participated in.

Needless to say, Rhett is no longer with J. Crew.  Although J. Crew hasn’t confirmed it, Rhett has apparently been fired from the company.

To some extent, you have to feel bad for Rhett.  Of course the posts he made were exceptionally stupid, and something that needed to be dealt with by his employer.  That being said, the nature of social media is viral, and people are always looking for a new bad guy.  As a result, a stupid post which should have stayed between Rhett and J. Crew, has become international fodder.  This, of course, speaks volumes to the power – and the danger – of social media.

Tweets and Consequences

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Facebook allowing for “Preferred Page Audience” – here’s what you need to know

SocialTimes is reporting that Facebook is now letting Page Managers designate a “Preferred Page Audience” – in other words, a default target audience for who will see your content.  In this screenshot captured at SocialTimes, the format appears as follows:

Preferred Page Audience

The feature hasn’t been rolled out to everyone yet, but it’s getting there.

Keep in mind, Facebook has throttled back organic reach, which means that every person who sees your page content is valuable and cannot be wasted.  As such, you have to make sure that the right person is seeing the right content – and this makes targeting even more important.

As elected officials, should you be setting a preferred page audience, potentially boosting the chances of one group of people seeing your content at the expense of others?

Yes, absolutely.

We all love being Facebook famous and having as broad of an audience as possible seeing our content, but let’s go back to the main reason that elected officials should use Facebook to begin with: to keep their constituents informed and connected.  To that end, your constituents should be your preferred audience.  Period.

I’m sure this goes without saying, but businesses should be investing in creating a preferred page audience as well.  That one is a little tougher, of course – do you target new customers?  Existing customers?  The answer may change from post to post, and this new feature does require that you give each post a little more thought, but it does potentially force you to create more powerful and targeted content for your audience.

Regardless, this is a feature well worth exploring.

Any tips or advice to leave us with?  Please respond in the comments – give us your expertise!

SeaWorld tries #AskSeaWorld, and the internet responses exactly as you’d expect

How many times do I have to say it: If you are highly controversial, or you have a huge negative sentiment, don’t hold an open hashtag event or Q&A session. Sea World has become the latest entrant into the club of businesses or government agencies which wrongly thought that the internet was a forgiving, understanding place.

Sea World has come under fire from animal rights groups for its treatment of the animals within its captivity, fire that significantly accelerated in 2013 with the publication of Blackfisha documentary which was heavily critical of Sea World’s treatment of killer whales.  In an effort to pull back against those critics, Sea World launched, which posts questions and answers that it gets from the Twitter hashtag #AskSeaWorld:

Yeah…about that….

Astoundingly, SeaWorld responded by essentially mocking those trying to troll it:

This, of course, only incited more responses…seriously, SeaWorld, what the heck were you thinking here?

It then stopped mocking and then called its opponents “trolls and bots”:

Guess how that went?

Well, the important thing isn’t so much, “How are things going on Twitter?”  It’s more, “What kind of response is this #AskSeaWorld effort getting?  Is it getting good publicity?”  Let’s check Google News and see….


Above: Great PR!

Nope…unmitigated disaster.

SeaWorld got this one wrong six ways from Sunday.  It’s hashtag campaign is being almost exclusively used by people to attack the parks.  It’s responses to the hashtag campaign were more than just poor judgement, it was malpractice – you do not tweet responses which FURTHER ENCOURAGE TROLLS.  If you respond, you say something mature, like, “We’d love to answer all questions, even from critics, and set the record straight.”  Cute GIFs and obnoxious attitudes will win you no friends.

Oh, and again, don’t hold an open hashtag or ask for feedback if people really hate you, because it will backfire.

Tweets and Consequences

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