How to make your business event a huge success by using social media
10th August 2017
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24th August 2017
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When social media goes wrong


It started out as a campaign to promote the role the National Lottery plays in supporting British Athletics but it soon became a social media disaster.

Members of the public were asked to tweet @TNLUK using the hashtag #represent and in return they would receive a personalised thank you from a British athlete. What actually happened? Twitter trolls easily worked out the automated system set up by the National Lottery social media team and instead of sending a normal tweet, they instead sent offensive messages ranging from the Hillsborough disaster to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.


Of course the National Lottery were quick to apologise for the PR crisis but it should never have happened.

Here’s how to avoid such disasters:

  • Keep a regular eye on your accounts. You should be keeping an eye on your social media accounts anyway to reply to any messages or to deal with any problems but especially when you are launching a highly powerful automated campaign. Twitter trolls work at night when they are less likely to get noticed and that’s exactly what they did in this situation. Simply avoid it by making sure someone is keeping an eye on your Twitter account on a regular basis.
  • Do your research properly. Do these kind of campaigns work? Have they been successful in the past? A little bit of research from the National Lottery would have brought up the recent example of the Champions League final in Cardiff. The Walkers ‘#WalkersWave’ PR campaign asked fans to tweet a selfie with the social hashtag #WalkersWave to be in with a chance to win tickets to the UEFA Champions League final. Trolls instead sent in images of notorious criminals including Josef Fritzl and Harold Shipman. A video was then produced which included Gary Linekar holding the selfie in front of his face saying “Nice selfie.”
  • Be careful when using celebrity endorsement. When it comes to anyone being in the public eye there will always be someone trying to do them harm. The reputations of these British Athletes will have been damaged significantly. Is it really worth it?
  • There is software available to help you. Tools like CrowdControlHq offer an alert system which will trigger in the case of a crisis. Make sure you have this set up before you start an automated campaign. It will prevent a lot of embarrassment and it will probably save your job too.


Running campaigns such as the one done by the National Lottery are unique and innovative but make sure you do your research and set everything up properly before launching them.

Adam Woodhouse
Adam Woodhouse
Journalist working as an account manager and content curator for @87tangerines and @87food_SM.

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