When it comes to social media, the boundaries are constantly being pushed in every facet of what we do, from creative campaign ideas to activations we conduct. At Obviously Social for example, "huge out-of-the-box" thinking is the norm; the bigger the idea, the better. That said, before we actually execute on anything, we take a moment to sit back and ask, "What is the worst way this could be interpreted?" and, "Are there any potentially disastrous results that could come from this idea?"
Unfortunately, it appears "New York's Finest" may have skipped that last step. A mere 24 hours after launch, the #myNYPD campaign has already been classified as an epic social media fail. Rather than getting the response they anticipated (community building, positive imagery of policemen and the people they protect, etc.) the #myNYPD hashtag was quickly hijacked by photos of police behaving badly (to put it lightly). Accounts like the official Occupy Wall Street and Stop the Wars led the charge, plastering a darker side of the NYPD across the internet. Others participated in the campaign by tweeting photos depicting brutality, violence and mistreatment from police officers. Their honor was questioned; their integrity was compromised.
Because you could be tapping into a cultural element that doesn't immediately come to mind when you are marketing a brand--in this case, mounting frustrations with the city's police force--it is crucial to take a moment to play devils advocate for any campaign. McDonald's faced as a similar situation in 2012 when they launched the hashtag, #McDStories and, instead of nostalgic tales of Happy Meal prizes and romps in the ball pit, were flooded with McDonald's horror stories. The fast food giant neglected to consider the disgusting culinary experiences that would inevitably emerge when prompting people to share stories about McDonald's. As the company has unwillingly become the face of American obesity, the negative #McDStories shouldn't have come as a surprise.
The moral of the story?
Get pessimistic for a few minutes before you pull the trigger (pun intended) on that campaign.
UPDATE: As of 8:00 PM last night, there has been no activity on the NYPD account behind the campaign. Stay tuned for a blog post on the importance of real-time responses on social media...