Social media #fail: How AARP’s Notorious B.I.G. tweets lost sight of their audience

The Notorious AARP

Social media fail: The Notorious AARP

March 9, 2012, was the 15th anniversary of Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace’s death. “R.I.P. Notorious B.I.G.” was a trending topic throughout most of the day as fans mourned the loss of one of rap music’s most loved artists in the ’90s and the voice of hip-hop gems like “Hypnotize,” “Mo Money Mo Problems” and “Juicy.”

Some brands choose to capitalize on social media trends by joining the conversation and attempt to draw some attention. That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but it’s so easy to do it in the wrong way (See: Kenneth Cole) and anger thousands of customers.

AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, touts itself as “leading a revolution in the way people view & live life after 50.” In other words, they’re an organization that helps retired people — older people, mostly senior citizens. (Seriously, in this economy, how many retired people do you know between the ages of 50 and 65?)

Yesterday, AARP joined the conversation with #NotoriousAARP tweets and requests for fans (plus artists like Jay-Z, MC Hammer, Justin Timberlake and Snoop Dogg) to submit ideas for #AARPrapsongs. “We miss you, Biggie,” their official account posted Friday morning, sparking a conversation that was dubious at best.

“That tweet makes me forgive you for being on your mailing list for the past decade, although I’m under 40,” @macvitula responded. @NickReisman added, “Clearly this is designed to make my father feel less old when getting membership offers.”

As one blog pointed out, it sounded like someone’s grandson was running the association’s official Twitter account instead of their target older audience (who may or may not still be having trouble with webcams). That’s when social media is making a mistake — know your brand’s voice and, perhaps more importantly, know your audience.

Notorious B.I.G. would have turned 40 this year. Even if the AARP really has a significant number of members that are in their early 50s, a 50-year-old still would have been 34 when the single “Big Poppa” earned the rapper his first Grammy nomination in 1996 — already out of the age demographic of MTV and radio stations that would have played his songs.

Luckily, AARP hasn’t seemed to spark much of a furor — yet. Most of their members may still be figuring out this “Facebook thing” and haven’t even heard about what’s going on Twitter. And in case you were wondering, their Facebook page has zero mentions of Biggie. All they posted yesterday was pictures of a puppy contest called “Mutt Madness” and a link for members to get 10% off from exercise equipment from Smooth Fitness, which bears repeating my other point: keep your social media voice consistent.

By the way, for those hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel, @AARP still thinks their audience is a twentysomething (or even thirtysomething) hipster. “Working on a Storify curating the top #SXSW news, ideas and info for 50+… Tweet us if you hear something cool,” their Twitter account posted on Saturday morning.

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