It’s no secret that people learn more from their mistakes than they do from their successes.  Maybe that’s why we’re all so reluctant to share stories about our failures: it’s not that we’re embarrassed about “doing it wrong,” but we’re afraid that someone else will learn from our mistakes before we do.  (As if succeeding wasn’t already hard enough without giving the competition a free education!)

But social media is public media, which means new successes and failures happen every day, out in the open, and anyone who’s paying attention can follow along in real time.  Lauren Litwinka has done such a thing, compiling an insightful (and acid-tongued) list of companies who are “doing it wrong” on Twitter.

In Lauren’s case, “wrong” means “not making conversation a two-way street.”  She believes social media provides companies with valuable access to their customers’ desires and opinions, and squandering that two-way invitation with one-way marketing will alienate the very people you’re trying to reach.

How did these companies lose their way?

  • Misunderstanding the way customers use these media channels.
  • Failing to discern what kinds of information people consider valuable.
  • Setting low or unreasonable expectations.
  • Ignoring customer feedback (or lack thereof).
  • Not implementing lessons to adjust their approach mid-stream.

But that doesn’t mean each of the companies Lauren cites are lost causes.  On the contrary, now that they’ve been told their execution could improve, they have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.  And that makes the time and effort they’ve invested up ’til now every bit as valuable as it would be if it had led them to automatic success — and maybe moreso, since they now know for certain what won’t work.

Remember: there’s always value in making mistakes.  Just make sure you’re learning from them (before your competition does).