#myNYPD Brand Crisis Reveals Importance of Knowing Your Audience
On April 22nd, the New York City Police Department launched a Twitter campaign with a genuine message to engage social media users.
The hashtag campaign, #myNYPD, asked Twitter users to share pictures of themselves alongside New York’s finest. As many of us have now seen in the news, the campaign completely backfired. Instead of sharing heartfelt photo ops with police officers at public events and charity fundraisers, online engagement consisted of thousands of users tweeting and retweeting images depicting apparent acts of police brutality.
In a matter of minutes, consumers up-ended the campaign shifting the entire tone of the conversation. And it spread like wildfire. Suffice it to say this content was neither deficient of sarcasm nor the kind of buzz the NYPD wanted to generate.
— DefendedInTheStreets (@KimaniFilm) April 22, 2014
#myNYPD put the ball on a tee and New Yorkers are swinging for the fences!
— Brian Patrick Harmon (@theharmonizer) April 22, 2014
— Eliza Orlins (@eorlins) April 22, 2014
Last week, we collaborated with Adweek on exclusive research surrounding the NYPD’s Twitter campaign fiasco.
Could the Brand Crisis of #myNYPD Have Been Prevented?
As unpredictable as social media and its users may be, hashtag hazards like this aren’t always impossible to fundamentally, and mathematically, avoid. In this case, we applied Crimson Hexagon’s proprietary audience analytics on Twitter data to uncover the most prevalent characteristics of the people who had talked about the NYPD the week before the campaign launched.
Compared to the overall Twitter population, these consumers possessed strong interests in:
- Occupy Wall St (54x more likely than the overall Twitter population)
- Wikileaks (50x more likely)
- Liberty (32x more likely)
- Left-wing politics (27x more likely)
- Human rights (19x more likely)
Shortly after the #myNYPD campaign went live, there were over 50,000 tweets about it in a single day. Aside from volume metrics, the audience analysis we performed returned some truly fascinating results. After 48 hours, the number of conversation participants with an interest in movements like Occupy had increased drastically. In fact, this audience was 581x more likely to be interested in Occupy Chicago and 180x more likely to be interested in Occupy Wall St. These consumers were also likely to have strong affinities for Wikileaks (128x), social justice (35x) and liberal politics (35x), among other interesting characteristics.
So what’s the takeaway?
Hashtags are an important tool for every marketer looking to join or spark a conversation on social media. There have been many articles written about best practices for joining organic hashtags and creating social media hashtag campaigns. Yet, there is one critical question that most people forget to ask:
Is this a conversation you want to join?
Is the current dialogue around the brand or topic consistent with your intended voice? Are the conversation participants members of right demographic group? Are you sending the right message to this audience? Don’t forget to explore the full discussion context before engaging in public dialogues with consumers and launching important campaigns. There is new intelligence from social data that every organization can gain in the same amount of time it took for this campaign to turn sour. #myNYPD is an unfortunate example of brand arrest for the NYPD, which will go down as a #campaignfail.
If you are interested in viewing more examples of how social media analysis help in your brand please check out our blog.