Trolls: 1, Walkers’ marketing team: 0

  |   General News

 The Dangers of Participative Social Media Campaigns


These days ‘How trollable is this campaign?’ should be a question on any proposal for a new social media campaign. It can seem amazing to outsiders that marketing teams don’t see it coming. Remember the 2012 Twitter campaign ‘I shop at Waitrose because…’? Wouldn’t it be nice for marketers (politicians, celebrities etc) if you could rely on the general public to play fair…but alas, this latest Walkers social media is one of the more outlandish reminders that they won’t – at least not if it’s amusing. 
So what happened?

Here’s a quick pic.

Walkers encouraged the public to tweet a selfie of themselves, with the hashtag #WalkersWave. This was automatically turned into a video of Gary Lineker holding a copy of the selfie up and cheerily exclaiming ‘Nice selfie!’. The selfie would then become part of a crowd of fans in the stadium. “Here you are” says Lineker “uniting with other fans outside the National Stadium of Wales.”

… Cue pictures of notorious killers and sex offenders – Fred West, Harold Shipman, Rolf Harris and Jimmy Saville.

Participative social media campaigns like this are a calculated risk, but fantastic for creating buzz and engaging customers with your brand. They do however need to be properly moderated if possible – there was no reason these notorious versions of the campaign had to be published directly onto the Walker Twitter page unchecked…

That said, has real damage been done to the brand? We don’t think so. It’s a little embarrassing perhaps, but we think more people would have been amused than so genuinely upset by it that they’d boycott their next packet of Walkers’ crisps. The public will have enjoyed the mistake – and the naivety of the campaign managers for not seeing the possible abuse.

The lesson: Always be prepared for customers’ sense of humour – in this case somewhat macabre, in others, downright silly. Who could forget Boaty McBoatface? With that one, we can’t help but feel maybe the NERC should have just gone with Boaty McBoatface. There was love there amongst the cynicism by the end… if you’re not prepared for the possible answers, why hand over the power of naming your prized boat? After all, Greenpeace went with ‘Mister Splashy Pants‘ for their publically named humpback whale.

In the league table of social media disasters, Walkers’ wouldn’t make the top 5, even the top 10. Remember the #YourTaxis hashtag-prompted complaint fest back in 2015? Thankfully Walkers’ don’t have so many unhappy customers. If you’re giving your customers a voice and a platform to publicly talk about your business, make sure the mood is positive…

Our three takeaways:
1. Make sure the customer mood is positive.
2. Be ready to moderate the content.
3. Watch out for trolls!

Thank goodness MarketingMoves’ client base is largely B2B technology companies rather than FMCG…

For technology marketing opportunities or help with hiring, contact Melvin Day on 01932 253 352 or email