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The Super Bowl is an exciting time for the brands that shelled out big bucks to reach millions of consumers on one of the biggest days in the world of sport.
That was certainly true for Toyota. The carmaker had high hopes for its Camry Effect campaign, which it described as one of the "most ambitious social media campaigns we've ever implemented." But did it get a little too excited?
As detailed by The Next Web, filled with ambition, Toyota turned to Twitter - which it apparently saw as the perfect medium for a healthy serving of social spam:
In what is probably the worst Twitter promotion I’ve seen on the platform since the company launched in 2006, Toyota has created a slew of accounts and is spamming people about what it is calling the “Camry Effect a Friend’ Giveaway!”. The worst part is that they’re all verified accounts, so while Twitter isn’t involved in the promotion, someone at the company definitely knows about it.
The spam was the tastiest kind, with Toyota sending messages to random individuals, apparently based on nothing more than a tweet mentioning the Super Bowl.
Once caught, the company's social media manager, Kimberley Gardiner, was forced to issue an embarrassing apology.
We apologise to anyone in the Twitterverse who received an unwanted @reply over the past few days. We were excited to share the message of our Camry Effect campaign in a new way and it was never our intention to displease anyone. We've certainly learned from this experience and have suspended the accounts effective immediately to avoid any additional issues."
Toyota's Twitter faux pas shows that for all of the investment we're seeing in social media from major brands, implementing and enforcing best practices is apparently easier said than done.
At the same time, the company's spam campaign also suggests that brands are struggling to figure out how to make social media a positive ROI exercise.
After all, it's hard to imagine that the people on Toyota's social media team really believed that a spam campaign was a good approach. But when faced with how to get a message out meaningfully through social channels like Twitter, there are often few easy answers. One of the big challenges: brands have been told that social media is a one-to-one channel, but in reality, it's a one-to-many channel. Brands can therefore easily find themselves confused and frustrated, with results that reflect that confusion and frustration.
That's no excuse for Toyota, of course. It should have known better. But interestingly, the company's Super Bowl fail may reflect most poorly on Twitter. After all, Twitter apparently 'verified' Toyota's spam accounts, and clearly the company's efforts to educate major brands on the effective use of its service aren't good enough. The company has done a great job of convincing brands that Twitter is a great marketing platform but if it hopes to build a viable long-term business, it will have to take a more active role in making sure brands are successful when they use it.