3 Lessons Learned from the Jell-O #FML Campaign

lessons from jello social media

It can be hard to hijack a hashtag and make it your own, but that’s exactly what Jell-O attempted to do with the infamous #FML.

FML — or f*** my life — is usually added to the end of social posts describing some horrible or, more often than not, just inconvenient life mishap. The overly dramatic hashtag is littered throughout Twitter and, now with the introduction of hashtags, Facebook. So Jell-O took a big step in trying to reinvent it as a more positive phrase — Fun My Life. For a month, the brand reached out to frustrated Tweeters using the hashtag with helpful suggestions that they hoped would “fun” their lives instead. They set up a site to cull all Twitter posts carrying the tag into one space, and also created a space to display all of their good efforts in trying to help Twitter regulars “fun” their lives.

lessons from jello social media

It was a bold move by Jell-O and it mostly led to mixed results. Jell-O’s tactic probably won’t be adopted by other brands any time soon, but the experiment did leave digital marketers with a few lessons to think about before they attempt it themselves.

Anticipate negative backlash (and plan how to diffuse it).

lessons from jello social media

A lot of Twitter users found the campaign to be in poor taste. So much so, that they weren’t afraid to tell Jell-O directly. Chances are, whatever your campaign involves, you’ll get some angry or nasty responses, whether they’re legitimate concerns or just posts from trolls. You need to understand that this is a reality of the digital space, and you should try to create a plan of action to deal with those when they come up.

Try to stay away from sensitive topics.

lessons from jello social media

The #FML hashtag contains a lot of overly dramatic posts, but it also contains a lot of legitimately awful experiences. It’s a pretty sensitive topic all around, and it may not have been the best plan of action to tap such a sensitive topic to use as a promotional tactic. That may have caused some of the backlash Jell-O experienced from the social sphere.

Be careful when selecting posts and users to respond to or engage with.

lessons from jello social media

One of the problems with the #FML project was the fact that the brand’s social media team was reaching out to people who weren’t necessarily asking for their help. In addition to people who were mentioning Jell-O directly in their tweets, the team was also reaching out to people who had just had really, really crappy days. The last thing they expected was to be tweeted at by Jell-O, and their attempts to “fun” their lives through free Jell-O weren’t exactly always in the best of taste. It’s tricky territory responding to users who haven’t reached out to you directly, so if you try something similar, do it tactfully and discerningly.

Before you take on a campaign of this size, make sure you’ve mastered the art of hashtag marketing first. Then, in case it goes awry, learn how to handle a social media gaffe gracefully.