Habitat has provided a perfect case study in how not to use social media with its clumsy attempts to insert popular internet keywords into its promotional Twitter posts.

Habitat has provided a perfect case study in how not to use social media with its clumsy attempts to insert popular internet keywords into its promotional Twitter posts.

What do you get when you cross an upmarket furniture chain’s marketing with a high-tension Middle Eastern political situation? The punchline is you don’t cross them if you know anything about promoting your brand on social networking sites. But it’s a joke that Habitat’s management probably isn’t laughing at, after a few days where it has suffered the full force of an online backlash to its Twitter behaviour.

Keen to ride the wave of interest in current popular keyword and search terms - such as iPhone, Apple and the surname of down-but-not-out Iranian presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi – Habitat was reported to be adding them in to its Twitter posts.

This would mean that Habitat’s posts would be picked up by the many internet users doing searches on these popular terms. Helpful for the few consumers who like to keep up-to-date with current affairs and research furniture purchases at the same time, perhaps. But as Habitat’s site isn’t even transactional yet, I venture that it’s not much of digital marketing strategy for driving store footfall and conversion rates.

Once this behaviour was highlighted, fellow Tweeters were quick to hit back at what is seen as misuse of the site (as well as being against everything that social media stands for, at a time when Iranian protestors are using it as a source of trusted information while other internet communication channels are blocked).

The saying that all publicity is good publicity is one which Habitat might not, at this moment, agree with.

The retailer has described what’s happened as a mistake. Knowing how social media in big brands often works, it is quite likely that Habitat’s experiments on Twitter are the work of someone junior. In this case it can be put down to a simple case of over-enthusiasm. At least I would hope so.

But while consumers will quickly forget this little fiasco, Habitat may find it takes much longer before digital marketing experts stop using it as an example when talking about social media bad practice.

For more information on how retailers are using Twitter to good effect see our recent feature on the subject.