Social Media Case Study – Habitat Furniture

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In the last case study, we discussed the importance for Brand marketers to ensure solid strategic foundations for social media, as this directly affects how the brand may be perceived. In Dell’s case, their structured approach was a success, with the company making millions in revenue via their Twitter and generating plenty of consumer discussion through their blogs. In this article, we’ll show a different side to the story, and explore an example of a poor social media strategy and how affected the brand.

Whilst Australians may be unfamiliar with Habitat, it is in fact a leading UK furniture retailer, with over 80 stores across Europe. When the company decided to jump aboard the social media bandwagon by starting a Twitter page, it seems at first glance, they started off in the right direction, with a pleasant Twitter page that reflected company’s clean branding. However, it was the lack of strategy and content that had Habitat in hot water.

In order to generate traffic to their Twitter outpost, Habitat used various hashtags in their tweets to appear in popular topics of discussion. For non-Twitter users, #hashtags are the keywords used on Twitter to help people filter and search tweets. For example, tweets about the 2010 World Cup had the hashtag ‘#WorldCup’, meaning that whenever people searched for this topic, tweets with this hashtag appeared. They are thus used so that relevant tweets appear in relevant searches. The issue with Habitat’s use of hashtags however, was that they were irrelevant to the content of tweets, they used ones that had nothing to do with furniture, shopping or renovating. Instead they made the mistake of merely putting in popular hashtags at the time of their post. They used hashtags such as #iPhone, #Apple and even Australia’s Masterchef contestant who got voted off, #Poh. Clearly, Habitat saw an opportunity to generate greater brand awareness, since by using these hashtags, they would appear in popular searches. The result for end-users was that when they searched, for example, #iPhone, Habitat’s tweet would appear, only to find it had nothing to do with their search. Obviously, Twitter users viewed this negatively, and heavily criticized the upscale furniture company for piggybacking the popular topics to send spam.

To make things worse, in response to the backlash, Habitat deleted their spamming tweets. Unfortunately for the company, they remain viewable via Twitter search. Many bloggers have commented on the lack of transparency on the company’s behalf, with many criticizing that Habitat should have publicly apologized for sending Twitter spam and compensate for those who received it.

Clearly, Habitat had no real Twitter strategy to begin with. They opted for mere pull-marketing to drive traffic to their website. But the core lesson here was they did not strategize how to bring value or generate conversations about their brand, products or topics about home decoration. Instead, they created spam by piggybacking on popular topics. Even though Habitat eventually apologized for their spam, the damage their brand been done. Since then, Habitat has learned from their lesson. Instead of purely advertising their products, they have generated conversation, by responding to customer needs and enquiries and, more impressively provided decorating tips for individual users.

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