'RIP Mandela, don't forget 10% off and free delivery this weekend!'

There are a myriad of different tools available that allow social media managers and marketers to communicate with followers and fans 24/7. Different audiences respond to social content at different times throughout the day and night - scheduling tools provide a platform to ensure all audiences and social consumption preferences are catered for.

Scheduling tools like Sprout Social or Hootsuite are good, they work and they drive efficiency. The 70:20:10 ratio is a much subscribed-to program whereby 70% of your marketing activity should be ‘business as usual’, 20% programmatic and 10% agile. The 20% ratio is, in part, about using the tools available to plan and program a consistent stream of content whether that be directly via social media channels or automated tools plugged into your accounts. The 10% is where brands and organisations need to be agile in their approach to their social and content activity. 

One of the most talked about example of this is the Oreo tweet during the Superbowl, the team at Oreo responded immediately to a power outage at the Superbowl by posting a tweet that told people they could still dunk an Oreo even in the dark. This went viral and generated huge publicity online for the brand. There are many other examples of where brands cleverly hijack news events and celebrity gossip with their product or message. This is what agile marketing is all about, in social terms anyway, and it can be an extremely powerful and effective tactic.

However, these two disciplines also have a flip side that was all too apparent on the evening of Thursday, 5th December. This evening was one of those ‘where were you when you heard’ events, it was the evening that social channels went into overdrive to announce the death of Nelson Mandela

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." 

Nelson Mandela

There are very few events that have the effect of totally dominating and unifying a twitter stream but this was one of them. Suddenly it appeared everyone wanted to show their admiration and indeed sadness at the death of a true global leader, at least nearly everyone did... Interspersed amongst the tweets with #RIPMandela and the various iconic images of the great man were some glaringly inappropriate and at times downright frivolous tweets by big brands who appeared to have absolutely no awareness of what was happening on the world stage. Tweets about Christmas parties and links to shopping offers stood out like a sore thumb. 

These brands were not intentionally being insensitive of course, they were not trying to offend. They were simply guilty of not turning off their program of scheduled tweets, the content had been uploaded probably days before and of course they could not have predicted the events of Thursday evening.

But what they did fail to do was realise that the 70:20:10 rule not only means using programmatic techniques and being able to construct a clever tweet in response to a power cut, but it is also being agile enough to realise you have to pull the plug when certain events happen. The brands who’s content I couldn’t help but notice (who I won’t name) were spread globally, some were in the UK, some in the USA and some further afield but without exception they all appeared (at least to those not in the industry who most likely don’t know about scheduled content) as out of touch and insensitive.

I wonder how much damage could have been done to their brand by not being agile and responsive enough to world events on this occasion?