For a design snob like me, these sites truly hurt something deep inside me. They make me cringe. But hey, not everyone has a taste for design, and some people just have better things to do!
Besides marketing, I have a passion for design. I’m not a graphic designer (I dabbled in it a bit and considered it as a career), but I consider myself an enthusiast. That being said, I frequent subreddits like r/design_critiques and r/logodesign to help those not skilled in design (not saying I don’t go on to cringe at the poor choices people make in their designs). So now you can see why I’m a snob about this stuff.
Here’s a social media marketing company. The website gets the point across, but it’s in need of a complete overhaul. If I were a potential client, I’d see this website and run the other way.
– The site says right away what this company does
– The navigation bar is prominent
– Background color is easy on the eyes
– Too many graphics
– Nav bar is positioned strangely
– The slideshow just has random stock photos
– Why is “Social media marketing consultants” in two colors?
– The image says “SEO” but they don’t offer that service
– Boring stock photos of “business people”
– Copy is boring!
– Clicking on each service gives almost no description
– Clicking a service brings you to “add to basket” “Shipping Free: Ships within 14 days” What?
– You’re paying $400 for Twitter…but for what? There’s no info!
– The “What we do” bullets are links that go nowhere
– Clicking “more” doesn’t do anything
Alright, so I’ve been thinking of the title for this. I decided on “the rise and fall” because, hey, it describes what I’m going to be writing about. But I put a question mark next to “rise” because for all the press and hype the Narwhal Bacon Box (NBB) received, it never actually did anything.
Ok, so for those out of the loop, the Narwhal Bacon Box was a subscription box service. They describe themselves as a “monthly box of internet geekiness” that is “made by redditors, for redditors”. They were supposed to launch with a box in July. The theme of the box was Reddit Entrepreneurs. Five businesses started by Redditors were set to have their products shipped out in each box. These businesses were:
I keep talking about the company in the past tense even though the company kept trying to sell their boxes up until mid October without having sent any… at all (as far as I’ve seen). People kept signing up for subscriptions while people from previous months never got anything. That’s the short story. It’s not quite clear yet why NBB never shipped out anything. They claimed “the business has failed due to product curation issues and capital issues”.
The thing with this explanation is that the 5 business above got together and wrote a post on r/Entrepreneur. The post is titled:
It is written by u/minimaterials, most likely along with the rest of the business owners. In the post, u/minimaterials (MM), explains that NBB reached out to each one of them to supply products for the box. Each one supplied products, and many agreed to Net30 terms. Net30 terms means that they sent the products, and were to expect payment 30 days later. The products were all sent, and NBB was in possession of them, but never shipped out any boxes. There was an email from NBB to customers titled “Our July Box is Running Late”, check it out here. For the lazy, it says the July “reddit startups” box is delayed due to “a retail partner conflict”. MM and the gang take this to mean that NBB is blaming them (the suppliers) for the delay.
In the post, MM states:
We wanted to clear the air, as this is 100% not the case. He has had 120 units of each of our products in his possession since the end of July, and nothing has shipped and we have NOT received payment for any of it. (Except Erin from Proton Paperie.)
*Erin of Proton Paperie had not agreed to the Net30 terms, and had been paid 50% before shipping and 50% Net 30. They even withheld shipping out their goods because the first payment deadline had been missed by NBB.
TLDR: Narwhal Bacon Box claims “retail partner conflict” as the reason they can’t ship the July “Reddit startups” box. The 5 business owners who were supplying July’s box post on Reddit that they had shipped their product, 4 of the 5 were not paid, and Narwhal Bacon Box still has their goods, having never sent any boxes.
I took great interest in this post. First, because somehow I had missed Narwhal Bacon Box. I had never heard of it until this post. If I had, I probably would have cringed at the name. Second, I believe subscription boxes, while a good idea for items you need consistently, are being overdone. This is an interesting business concept, and the company had tons of hype and PR (Product Hunt, CNet, Daily Dot, Food and Wine). Although some Redditors weren’t fond of the concept, it seems they did have a lot of buzz and, I’m sure, a lot of orders.
The Criticisms & Poor Responses
There were lots of detractors though, especially on Reddit, the main target audience. Here are some quotes from Redditors when NBB posted about their business…
“Narwhal Bacon Box? Seriously? This has to be the most cringeworthy product I’ve seen advertised on Reddit in a long time. If I were you I’d consider some serious rebranding or you won’t last very long. Oh, and you need to fire whoever came up with that ridiculous name.” u/ TheHornyCripple
“the name – the concept – the website – this has to be a joke or some weird market research right?” u/uninhabited
The person (or persons) behind the NBB Reddit username also had some people annoyed by their defensive tone. As a marketer, I was amazed to see some of the comments NBB made to critiques or negative posts.
“I mean this in the nicest way, but you are not equipped to handle messaging and social engagement.” – u/terpin, an advertising professional writing to NBB.
In this thread, it also seems that NBB deleted some of their comments. U/BlueBerk wrote “You really have to pay attention to your tone and not take these criticisms personally.” And referred to comments that NBB made such as, “As for the name, deal with it” and “No one else is that lame, u/kendragon“. I searched for these comments and couldn’t find them, either I’m bad at searching or they were deleted (if you can point me to them, I’d greatly appreciate it).
Just these few comments makes it seem like NBB either didn’t care or didn’t know how to respond to people. I give them this though, they have responded to many negative posts on their Facebook as well as Reddit.
Just a few more things I found.
The NBA Player Comment
NBB made some comments about an NBA player liking their boxes.
NBB posted, “It’s a mixed bag. We all love it. NBA Superstar loves it. CNET loves it. ProductHunt loves it. Some redditors hate it, some redditors love it. Most everyone is familiar with it.” in response to someone asking if they thought the business name was a good idea. The response was really cringeworthy in my opinion.
Nobody on Reddit, myself included, will care that an NBA player likes your subscription box. U/gary_brambleton responded, “Again with the bragging about the NBA Superstar! No one cares!”.
The same user also posted “So how about the second question- why do you think people on Reddit care about a former NBA player tweeting about you? Everyone is just going to assume that you paid a marketing company for it anyway. It just sounds like a generic, desperate PR move.” To which NBB responded, “I mentioned it once in the description and once in a question. I’m not trying to brag but, we certainly thought it was cool.”.
I guess NBB was trying to humblebrag but it failed.
It was posted 12 hours ago (so about 11am Central Time) and the username was deleted. The content of the post was also deleted. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any archive of the post. From the comments, users had a field day with whatever was posted…..safe to say it didn’t go the way NBB wanted it to and that’s why they deleted it.
So far all I can tell that they posted, thanks to quotes in the comments, is…..
“just one of those things….businesses fail”.
“Some of you have questioned why I don’t bring these to work with me and ship them during my lunch break – I work in the middle of the woods at a manufacturing facility and getting to the post in 30 mins and back is not possible. “
“Some of you have questioned why I haven’t had USPS pick these items up from my home – I’m not leaving inventory unattended on my doorstep.”
“Entrepreneurs fail. Everyone here should know that. The number one reason most start-ups fail is capital.”
NBB even went as far as to claim libel for the posting done by the 5 Reddit business owners who called him “Shady…blamed us when he didn’t deliver your product“.
NBB also apparently claimed they didn’t splurge on unnecessary expenses but in another comment they claimed to have racked up $22,000 in costs. One image floating around was of signage that users said NBB had gotten for the business. It turns out this sign was just a mockup.
Check out U/Corporate666’s comment on the post, it’s a lot better than anything I would write. They respond to tons of things it seems NBB had written in their now-deleted post.
Banning a Customer from Their Facebook Page
It seems like deleting is their go-to method of crowd control. Apparently, NBB had blocked a user from their Facebook page because she had written insulting things. This screencap has been posted multiple times and people are saying this was the comment that got her banned.
This quote popped up on the NBB website. Bob Brown of Network World said this about the quote, “Not the most egregious thing in the world, but Narwhal Bacon Box took a few liberties in how it quoted us on its site.” I checked the original article and don’t see any mention of this quote. It seems like NBB just took a few points from the article and made their own quote. This isn’t a huge deal, as the reporter mentioned, but it still makes me think “C’mon guys, really?”. But again, not a huge to do.
*NBB added in the exclamation point on this quote
The irony of all this, is that NBB was supposed to be a product centered around Reddit, and now the community has turned against the company.
A few things I want to say. Reddit doesn’t like getting marketed to. A subscription box based on Reddit using the name from an old Reddit meme? Pretty lame, and most active Redditors would know this, and have even told NBB this. Trying to cash in on Reddit is not a good idea, combine that with being “shady” as the 5 businesses above claim, and acting quite defensive rather than admitting fault straight out are all ingredients for disaster.
NBB does say they have refunded almost all their customers. Thing is, it’s almost November and the business started taking orders in July. Some people were even billed multiple months, even though they never got any boxes (according to comments on their Facebook page). The way the business was run led to its downfall (obviously). Who knows if it was issues with capital and product curation as NBB claims, or something else.
I think the reason I got so caught up in this story is because it’s kind of like a car crash. You’re driving along and it’s pretty monotonous. Then there’s a bit of traffic and you pass by a pretty bad accident. There is glass on the road, a bumper torn off, huge dents on the cars, people are standing around the scene. It’s tough not to stare! You want to know what happened, what went wrong. This story is the same thing. I couldn’t turn away, it seems like every post or comment had some new juicy detail. I hate to say it, but I enjoyed reading about this, critiquing it in my mind, thinking how I would have done things. I’ll never know…..and we’ll never know if NBB was actually a great business or not.
PS. I’m writing this based off comments, and posts on Reddit and Facebook. I’ve tried to quote as much as possible. This is a story about the company and their failure to send back suppliers’ products, as well as the company’s poor handling of responding to some comments. It’s also MY OPINION! I think there has to be something else behind the company failing. If you’re the owner of Narwhal Bacon Box, I’d love to get your side of the story. But I want to hear the real story, and why it failed so badly that you couldn’t send out one box. I think other people would like to know as well. People want transparency, even if you say “I just couldn’t handle it” or “My job and family got in the way”, I think people would understand. The fact that you strung customers and suppliers along for months is what really has people upset, and that you won’t give a clear answer or outright take responsibility. Saying it’s due to capital or product curation is not a great excuse. If it is capital, what went wrong? Why could you build a website, get boxes designed, create a nice logo, and have all the July boxes’ products sent to you, but you couldn’t ship them out, all while having customers send you money for them? I’m sorry if I sound like I’m pushing against you, I am really just trying to figure things out for myself. I hope you’ll reach out to me.
Since I started doing the little experiment for lead generation, I’ve been paying attention to the copywriting I’m using for my messages. I don’t spend a ton of time on crafting the perfect message, but I do make sure it sounds personal.
Now check out this message I got from another social media marketer on a Facebook page that I manage.
Here is what I see wrong:
– Run on sentences
– “a evaluation”
– Marketing consultant, oh and a social media expert, and don’t forget SEO! Just say marketing consultant
– Not personal! (Looks like it’s just copy pasted everywhere except for the restaurant name)
– Didn’t spell the restaurant name correctly
If I got this message as a business, I’d skip over it. Yes, she is offering to “share with you a few things I noticed that will help you be found this season”. But what does that even mean? Is it worth my time to call and find out what this is? She should have just told me! Telling me a few things would probably make it more likely that I call her if I find her suggestions useful. Plus she spelled the restaurant name wrong. She may have just hit the wrong key, but there are a million other social media marketers and an error like that can cause a client to just delete your message. It’s like HR throwing out a resume that has a typo. They have a stack of hundreds; bad grammar or a typo makes their job much easier. Just toss out the bad ones, focus on the great ones.
Maybe I’m being nit-picky but I find this message dull and uninspiring, especially if I were the business on the receiving end.
That reminds me! Let me add in another social media marketing message I received. This one was sent to my personal email which is attached to my Craigslist account. I had posted offering social media services on Craigslist. Note that I was offering a service, not seeking it.
This guy and his company email me twice offering social media services. I’m assuming they are using some sort of autoresponse system to reply to anything that has “social media marketing” or “social media” in the title or body of a Craiglists post.
This kind of stuff makes social media marketers look bad, and seem like a joke :/ He didn’t even pay enough attention to the fact that I was offering a service, not seeking out one. He also had to state “I’m a real person”. Wait, sooooo should I have been expecting a robot? Maybe a dog? I think a social media dog would be cool, what a great hook for an email! “I’m a social media marketer….I’m actually not a marketer though, I’m a dog!”. I digress.
Plus this email is BORING! I couldn’t even read it all. It’s just “Hey look what we do” “Hey buy this” “OMG we do this stuff”. Nothing that says how they will help me increase traffic, gain more leads, get sales, or create relationships with my audience. I messaged him telling him to update his copywriting… I hope he does.
Yep, that’s it! If I find more of these messages I’ll post them here.
Update: Just found another message on the same restaurant’s Facebook page.
This one is for web design. Wtf is “Google recognized professional websites”? I’m going to research it, but I’m not aware of this term. $150 a month SEO for a year, how generous of you, you shouldn’t have. I don’t think you could have a worst lead gen message. It could be worse if she had only posted her website url, but I don’t know ’cause that message is pretty terrible. So you’re paying $1800 for a website and shitty SEO? It sounds like Brenda here is a car salesman trying to make it sound like you’re getting a great deal when in reality there is no deal.
I checked out the website, and I’ll be damned, she actually has a portfolio of client websites. These people got cheated because their sites are not too great looking. Even her website is terrible…. and she’s selling web design services! I’ll post some of the sites here in the morning, it’s already past 1 am D:
Update 10/16 11:59 pm
I literally just created a Facebook header and sent it to a company at 11:21pm. They just responded at 11:56pm, “Call me, I would love help”. Already a potential client!
Hey guys! So I’ve decided to test something out with gaining leads. I procrastinate a lot by listening to YouTube videos or podcasts on business. I’ve heard a bit about people gaining traction with leads by offering something in their cold email. Hey! That’s a great idea, I thought to myself. If I were a business owner and someone doing web design sent me a mockup of a website they would build for me, or they sent me a video critiquing my site, I’d remember them. I may not use their service right away but I would remember them if I ever needed a new site. So I’m going to try this out for myself by offering a little something extra in my pitch.
What do I mean by this? So offering something could be giving someone a free graphic for their blog, a new Facebook header, or maybe a video giving them ideas on how to improve their website’s copy.
I’m looking out for some new social media leads. Now social media marketing is a dime a dozen. Everyone is doing it! Why would someone pick me over another company? I want to create a beneficial relationship first. I won’t go in and just email or message a company offering social media work. Instead, I will be creating custom Facebook headers for them. Then I will introduce my business and offer my services if they ever need it. I may not get leads now, but I’m hoping people will remember that I gave them that header and contact me when they decide they need social media work.
We’ll see how this goes. There are so many social media companies pushing their services. I think it’d be a nice change of pace for a company to receive something unsolicited that they can use for their social media.
As for the cost to me, it’s just my time. Yes yes, time is money…time is important. Making a Facebook header takes less than 10 minutes for me, some I can whip up even more quickly. I do them while I watch tv or relax, so it’s really not taking up too much time. Then I will message it to the company’s Facebook page, and let them know I’m available for social media work. The message won’t be fancy, just something personal.
Example message: Hey there! I made your Facebook page a custom header. Please feel free to use it, and if you don’t want to that’s totally cool too. I work with some businesses in the area running their social media sites, and I’d love to work with you guys. If you are ever in need of some social media work I’m always available 🙂 All the best, Lauren.
If I got this message on Facebook, I’d be much more likely to open it than if I saw something like this…
Hello. I am part of the BORING MARKETING CO. and we provide social media marketing services to companies such as yourself. We can create social media campaigns, launch ads, craft posts, and engage with your userbase. We are also a full-service marketing company and will help your business get on the map in your area. Please call us at 555-5555 and we will be happy to go over our services.
Ok, now that’s lame. I see no point in reading that if I am a busy business owner. I probably get a few of these emails a week. I’d skip over it and never think of it again. There is nothing in it for me! They’re just pushing their services and that’s it. There is no personality, no stats to show how well they do, nothing! Personally, I hate this kind of pushy sales messaging. I have no idea how well it converts, but I’d say way less than 1%…if they even get anybody. Sure, sending this out to 10,000 companies you are bound to get someone, but that’s a terrible strategy.
Now, what I’m doing with my clients is something I pride myself on when I’m doing social media work. I try to make sure my clients understand that social media is about building relationships with customers and creating a community. It’s not a sales platform! Well, it shouldn’t be anyways. Marketers ruin things. They ruined email, and now they’ve moved onto social media. One reason I don’t personally use Twitter often is the insane amount of DMs and Tweets promoting a business or offering a service. These sites aren’t about that, people don’t go on Facebook to be sold things. They go on to connect with friends and see what their ex is doing.
So I make sure to stress to clients that the work going into social media won’t necessarily have immediate payoffs. You want to instead take time to build relationships, talk to customers as a person (not sell to them), and hopefully they use your service or buy your product in the long run. This is how I’d want a business to treat me on social media, and I think it’s how social media marketing should be done.
It’s a shame that so many social media marketers and businesses are using the platforms for their own personal gain. Yeah sure, you’re a business and the point is to make money. But to make money on social media, you need to use it the right way and have conversations. Eventually people will stop using it because everything will be about selling.
If you’re not totally sure what I’m talking about, here’s a simple example. I run a Twitter account for a popular seafood restaurant. A few times a week, I do an advanced search for the area and the city’s hashtag. I see what people are up to, and engage with them. One woman is a photographer and lately I’ve been replying to many of her posts. Just simple things like “Amazing shot, wish that was on my wall” or “Beautiful! Great photo Lisa”. They take seconds to write, and there is no selling going on. Lisa almost always responds back. Who knows if she has ever dined with the restaurant or ever will, but during that interaction she noticed us. Trying to sell to her, she likely would have ignored it. “Hey Lisa, stop in for our Happy Hour!”. She would have probably glanced it over and been like “Ok?”. She didn’t ask about happy hour, we just shouted it at her. It’s like getting fliers shoved in your hand while you walk down the street. You don’t want it, instead you are now annoyed and throw it away.
So don’t annoy your potential customers! Just be a person, not a business. Sure you can sell every once in a while. If someone posts about looking for a great seafood restaurant, don’t miss the chance to say “Come check us out!” and attach a photo of a delicious meal.
It’s a bigger problem than I had imagined. I spend a lot of time scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, etc. And I see so many companies taking images that clearly aren’t theirs and posting them without attribution. The worst is when a company posts an image or meme, then throws their logo on top of it. I’ll post a few of my favorites. Maybe favorite isn’t a great word for these terrible images. It’s surprising that there are companies out there with such poor social media marketing skills. It is totally fine to be funny and show your sense of humor in your business, when it’s warranted, but posting these images is going too far. You’ll see what I mean.
Warning * Some of these images are crude, and have to deal with sex. I don’t post this type of stuff, but I want to show it as an example of what you shouldn’t be doing when posting on social media.
I covered the logo, company name, and Twitter handle. But this is just one example of image stealing. I believe the original image is from Some E Cards.
This next one is a company with a particularly awful social media strategy. It’s not really a strategy. They do something in the real estate space. I know real estate is particularly competitive, nearly every other post I see on Twitter is from a realtor. But that doesn’t mean you should be stealing memes and placing your logo on them. Plus, I find posting memes (especially irrelevant ones) quite tacky for a business. If you find the meme funny, sure share it, but don’t throw your logo on it too if you didn’t make it. For businesses, this is something that can come back to bite you if the image’s owner ever finds it.
Again, the photo has nothing to do with real estate, homes, investing….at all! Scrolling through this company’s Instagram gets worse and worse as you go back in time. Earlier photos were accompanied by hashtags like #sex and #trimthatbush (I’m not kidding!). Speaking of #sex, take a look at some of their other images, which I consider worse than the memes. I’m not sure why anyone looking through their images would wish to work with them.
Alright, that company is over with. But here is another realtor. Is this a case of trying to differentiate? Are there now so many realtors that you need to brand yourself as the funny, sexy one?
This woman doesn’t really know the difference between certain memes. This next images seems to be a mashup of success kid and you da real mvp. I covered her URL.
This next one hurts. It made me cringe so badly. This was the first image I saw from here, which prompted me to go into her account and see the rest of her poorly chosen photos. I bet you will see this photo and think “what would make someone think that’s ok to post!?”. And it’s on her business page!
Update – January 21,2016
Found this one on Instagram while scrolling through a client’s feed. It’s from a company in the area on their company Instagram page. The caption read “Wake up”. From their other posts, I’m assuming this image was posted in relation to their political/religious beliefs. No matter what your thoughts or feelings on current religious or political events, it’s best not to bring them into your business. I’m definitely not saying you can’t. But if you are taking a stand on a certain issue, don’t be surprised if customers who feel strongly in the opposite viewpoint stop doing business. It’s up to you to decide if you care more about your strong beliefs, or about pleasing anyone who wants to be your customer regardless if their beliefs conflict with yours.
It’s an interesting topic to discuss, as you sometimes here in the news about a particular business taking a stand on a hot button issue like Same Sex Marriage or allowing Syrian Refugees into the US. Or going so far as to deny customers based on their beliefs, as when a bakery refused to make a cake for a gay couple planning to get married. Is it right? No. But if it is your business, do you not have the right do say who you do or don’t want to work with? It’s a tricky subject with many legal and social ramifications. I’m going off on a tangent, but I think an open discussion of this with business owners who feel strongly about their beliefs and don’t want to do business with those who oppose them is a great way to see how we can remedy this situation, if a solution can be created at all.
That’s all I have for now. But I’ll be updating with more of these cringe-inducing photos.