Posted to Volacci's blog on March 25th, 2011

How to Lose Followers and Enrage People: The VEVO Guide on How NOT to Execute a Social Media Campaign

If you’re like most Austinites, you spent the last week recuperating from the 10-day South by Southwest festivities. But if you’re like me, you also spent the last week getting over the VEVO Fiasco of 2011. What started out as a seemingly flawless social media campaign completely crumbled in a matter of days. If you missed any of the madness on Twitter, the VEVO meltdown went a little like this:

How it all began. On February 28, VEVO released this video. Only 20 seconds long, the video amasses almost 20,000 views in a matter of days. All across the Twitterverse, news that VEVO may be bringing Kanye West (the first few notes of his recent single, Runaway, are at the end of the video) to SXSW garners a lot of buzz. Great start.

Keep quiet. And then, nothing. The two main VEVO-related Twitterers (@micfoxVEVO and @VEVO) stay silent. The interwebs buzz with questions. There is no confirmation from Kanye, from VEVO or from any other music news site. What’s the VEVO Powerstation? Will Kanye really be there? How much longer will we have to wait? VEVO, with only one viral video, spread word like wildfire, creating a mini-hysteria. Mission accomplished.

March 10-13. VEVO creates a SXSW-specific Twitter account, @YoVEVO, amplifying hype. Cryptic messages abound. No clear answers, but we know something is up. @YoVEVO collects thousands of Twitter followers and mentions before the festival even starts. And then, BAM! VEVO releases a second video, confirming Kanye West as the headliner for their PowerStation show. And Austin goes wild!!

March 16 @YoVEVO posts three consecutive tweets:


And if you texted in, then congratulations! You were on the RSVP list. Space was limited, so get there early, but your chances of seeing this show are now an official reality! The verdict? VEVO was suddenly a SXSW hero.

tweet 3.jpgAnd then the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan. In a matter of days, VEVO went from hero to zero. They retracted their initial RSVPs. Through text message and Twitter, the company recanted most of their previous statements. Followers were asked to text in again days later only to receive this: “You were THIS close to making it to the final cut. Sorry!” Fans were outraged. VEVO issued an official apology, spread, once again, via Twitter and text message. Even for those who did make it to the show, the general sentiment amongst SXSW attendees was that VEVO messed up. They created hype with no follow-through. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost hundreds or even thousands of fans and followers in the days that followed.

So what went wrong??

Interestingly enough, a few days before SXSW, Business Insider published a list of the “15 Most Detrimental Social Media Mistakes You’re Making.” The article’s pretty informative and extremely relevant to the catastrophe that went down here in Austin. Here are some of the social media cardinal rules that VEVO broke (so you don’t do the same):

Not responding to customers. The article lists five mistakes. VEVO made all of them. But the biggest mistake VEVO made was the way they handled the problems they created. They stopped responding to fans. They stopped updating. And on top of that, it seems that they had created the @YoVEVO account solely to promote the SXSW show. If its goal was to spread the word, it accomplished that in the worst way possible.

Blurring the lines between personal and professional. Whoever tweeted under @YoVEVO completely compromised VEVO's brand integrity. He/She gave out VIP passes at his (or her) personal discretion; trading VIP VEVO passes for passes to Stubbs and other high demand events. There was no line between the personal wants and needs of the individual employee and the goals and desired results of the company. By doing this, the @YoVEVO account invalidated the feelings of thousands of fans in exchange for personal gain. In the business world, this is unacceptable.

Not being consistent and not having a strategy. Here’s the biggie. VEVO should have known that generating hype for such a big show via Twitter and Youtube would create the response it did. At a festival of hundreds of thousands of people, they should have anticipated at least tens of thousands of responses. They should have cleared the event with the city of Austin beforehand, and they should have created a clear and concise game plan before they even released the first video. One thing was clear at the end of SXSW: VEVO had no grasp of the power of social media. And they had no idea what they were doing.

So what can we learn from all of this? Well, we know social media is a force to be reckoned with. VEVO learned this the hard way. But if you can tame the beast (and with careful planning and attention to detail; you can!) social networks are also forces not to be ignored.

Update: Since publication, the @YoVEVO account has been deleted. How's that for professionalism?