What's Buzzing

2010's Biggest Flops: Website & Internet Marketing Madness

21. 12. 2010

In the midst of the web's continual innovations, advancements and growth, there have been some major blunders along the way. 2010 has had its fair share of blunders; mostly around the social media and privacy realm.  We keep a close eye on our industry's advancements and often publish them on our website industry watch on Twitter.  In the spirit of learning from others mistakes, here are some big ones upon which we can look back and reflect.

1. Google Buzz's automatic-everything assumptions

Its launch surprised and angered many users when Google assumed it knew which people you wanted to connect with automatically. Google had also automatically connected users' public Picasa Web Albums and Google Reader shared items to their Buzz accounts without their consent. Google assumed that its users would want to show that information to everyone, everywhere at all times.

2. Ask.com gives up search engine attempt - goes back to Q&A

After years of trying to become a comprehensive search engine, ask.com decides to give up its plight to take on Google, Yahoo and MSN and return to their main strength and focus: the Q&A format.  Ask.com had some very innovative features, much further than Google provided at the time, but they just couldn't get the traction needed to become a strong competitor.

3. Waving good-bye to Google Wave

This goes to show that when even your own developers are unclear as to a product purpose, you may want to rethink it!  Google's real-time collaboration and productivity tool was very neat and perhaps a bit ahead of its time. Google claims it didn't get the adoption rate they would have liked, but plan on using the technology for other Google projects.

4. Cuile shuts down

Once hailed as a potential Google Killer, Cuile  boasted the largest search engine index in the world.  They failed. Results were not always relevant enough and the site had slow responses. Today's web users have expectations of high speed and accurate results. Perhaps if they had resolved these factors, they may have seen more success and presented themselves as a stronger competitor to Google.

5. Propeller comes to a stop

Once one of the hottest social media networks in the world, based on a format similar to Digg, Propeller was shut down.  AOL shut it down due to a massive loss of interest rather than keeping it around as an article distribution centre. Stan Schroder writes that, "the demise of Propeller marks the final fall of the curtain for an era in which many thought that every implementation of a cool new way to communicate online would automatically be successful. But without a community, most communication tools are useless."

6. Google Inc. under investigation by FCC

Google collected and stored emails and passwords from unencrypted, Wi-Fi networks during their Street View scanning. Although Google claimed they were not aware of this when conducting the scans, many believe it should have been caught in advance.

7. Facebook apologizes for major privacy mistakes

Changes in Facebook's features left the site with a huge public relations problem and fighting to defend its reputation. Oddly enough, the mega privacy-lapse, that had bloggers and users-alike up in arms, hasn't hurt their profits. Apology accepted, I guess.

8. Walmart on Facebook

Walmart tried to copy Target by doing social marketing.  Walmart decided to restrict comments and feedback on its "Wall posts".  It resulted in anti-Walmart posts on the wall due to lack of conversation. They targeted an older market but were publishing content in a media format that is dominated by a younger generation.  In the end, they couldn't get it right and lost the initial potential.

9. Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines were well-known for its social media savvy, but quickly got a strong taste of what happens when you lapse in customer service.  A famous celebrity, Kevin Smith, was thrown off a plane for being too overweight to fly in one seat.  Kevin tweeted about his incident which was widely read. Due to a lack of customer service and the wide audience that one Twitter account can reach, the PR department had endless nightmares.

10. Skittles on Twitter

Skittles has created some very cool integrations.  One of these inspired us to create Lume. They created a website that would pull content from Twitter when anyone mentions "Skittles".  One can only imagine the kind of Tweets that were finding their way onto the Skittles home page!  Users started to post profane messages on Twitter with a mention of "Skittles" when they felt let down because there was no communication back from the company.

In a web world, companies have rushed to get their products to market in order to be the first to release that technology.  Regardless of the warning notice of beta, users have high expectations of instant access to information, low patience levels for things that are broken and push for continual advancement.  Regardless of the efforts and sincerity of an oversight, there is much risk that a major blunder can ruin all efforts to that point.  Some may say that "any press is good press" and that "the larger they are the harder they fall", but only time and experience will tell.

PS: Thanks to Elie, Gary & Max for their research and contributions assistance.

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