#1MillionPatriots: When Social Media Automation Goes Really, Really Wrong


Marketing managers, like many other businesses, are often in a rush to automate nearly every aspect of what they do. You can’t really go through an industry magazine or website without reading at least one article about the virtues of marketing everything from media buying, to native advertising, to social media. Automation certainly has its virtues. Automation leads to less human error and cost savings over employing multiple people working long hours. Automation, however, is not without it’s cons. Recently, the NFL’s New England Patriots discovered a huge one with their #1Million Patriots Campaign.



The Patriots launched #1MillionPatriots to celebrate the fact that they are the first NFL team with over 1 million followers on Twitter. To celebrate, and engage fans, the Patriots released a #1MillionPatriots tweet. Anyone who retweeted this tweet was rewarded with a picture of a Patriots jersey with their Twitter handle on it. The Patriots used an automated program due to the (anticipated) high volume of responses to #1MillionPatriots. This is where things went awry.

When Automation Goes Wrong

A user with the handle @IHate(Racial Slur) retweeted the #1MillionPatriots post. The Patriots tweeted their jersey to that person’s feed with a racial slur pictured on the back of a Patriots’ jersey. The picture went viral, and the rest is history. The Patriots were criticized, they deleted the post, they issued an apology.


Lessons for Marketers

First: automation is not the answer to every single problem that faces you as a marketer. Sometimes you really do need human beings. Next: if you are going to automate something, you need to anticipate any way that someone might abuse your automated program, and include preventative measures that keep problems like this one from happening.


Of course, human error is also a huge problem on social media platforms. Find out how Dr. Oz and Bill Cosby recently got in hot water on Twitter.