Because of the time-sensitive nature of social media, mishaps are bound to happen, and more than a few incidents occurred over the past year. In 2012, some major brands, like Gap and KitchenAid, saw some major mishaps on their social media pages that resulted in a few dings to their brand as well as their online reputations. Here is a closer look at some of the top social media blunders of 2012 and what we can learn from them.
KitchenAid Breaks the “No Politics on Social Media” Rule
We all know that for businesses, talking about politics online is a social media no-no. But, when an inappropriate political tweet comes from a well-known company like KitchenAid, it can cause quite a stir, whether intentional or not. During the 2012 election, one of Kitchen Aid’s Twitter team members accidentally posted an inflammatory personal tweet from the brand’s account: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics.”
The brand quickly apologized, but not before it was subject to lots of negative criticism online. The lesson: If you’re managing a business’s Twitter account, make sure you keep the personal and professional separate. When using social media management tools that allow you to manage multiple accounts, it’s best either to double check that your posts are syndicated to the proper channels – or simply to use separate accounts or platforms to manage your personal and professional accounts.
#Aurora is Trending – But Not for the Reason They Thought
It’s safe to say that some businesses don’t do their research before diving into a social media trend, which can be a big mistake. This year, the UK-based company CelebBoutique started posting to the trending topic of “Aurora” on Twitter, promoting a new product of the same name. What the company failed to realize was that the term was trending because of a terrible shooting incident in a Colorado town.
Online, the insensitive message was retweeted hundreds of times, and people called for a boycott of the company, ultimately hurting the company’s brand. The lesson from this mishap? While timeliness is critical, it’s also important to do your research and fully understand a trend or meme before associating your brand with it.
Skittles & Arizona Tea Post Insensitive Facebook Posts
When it was reported that the last two items shooting victim Trayvon Martin purchased before his death were Skittles and Arizona Tea, both companies posted questionable and controversial Facebook statuses shortly after this information was released. Arizona Tea asked, “What would it take for you to give away your last AriZona?” And Skittles posted, “What would someone need to do to get your last pack of Skittles?” Many fans were disturbed by these posts, replying, “Ask Trayvon Martin,” and both brands received negative media coverage for their remarks and how they handled the situation.
The lesson here? Think carefully about whether and how to respond to incidents that involve your brand, especially if your business is not really involved in the incident. Also, consider how your fans will perceive any message before posting it.
Businesses “Newsjack” Hurricane Sandy
Also in 2012, major companies used social media to take advantage of all the online conversation around Hurricane Sandy. But, rather than expressing their sympathies for those affected by the storm, they used the disaster as a promotional tool for products or services. This act, known as “newsjacking,” can have a negative impact on both your brand and on your community, far worse than any complaints you might receive. During this weather event that impacted many lives, several major brands were criticized for their comments:
Gap – Using both Foursquare and Twitter, Gap posted to the #Sandy hashtag a message with a light tone that didn’t reflect the seriousness of the situation while simultaneously promoting shopping on the company’s website.
Urban Outfitters – This brand also took a humorous tone to the weather event and used Twitter for some shameless promotion of free shipping.
Sears – Also took advantage of the #HurricaneSandy hashtag to promote its survival gear on Twitter.
As each of these brands began to receive flack for their messages, they removed their posts and apologized for their blunders. But, even some of the biggest names in business can make glaring mistakes on social media. The lesson from these mishaps? Rather than using a catastrophic event to promote your business, products, or services, offer your sympathy, or better yet, help and support to those in need.
So, what can your business take away from these social media mishaps of 2012? First, be careful not to use politics or controversial topics on social media when promoting your products and services on those channels. Second, make sure you have an experienced person running your social media accounts to help you avoid running into issues like these. And lastly, use separate management platforms if you have both a personal and a professional account on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
What were some of the biggest social media mishaps you saw in 2012? What are you doing to make sure your business steers clear of these types of online reputation blunders in 2013? Share your thoughts in a comment!
About the Author
Lindsay Paramore is an expert on online marketing and branding for business owners. She works as a Web Presence Professional for ReachLocal.