Avoid these issues and keep your company off this list
Nobody’s perfect. We’ve all made mistakes we’d like to forget. Still, some companies make goofs that will live in infamy, especially when it comes to social media.
The very nature of social media means missteps become memorable and fails quickly go viral. With the ability to connect with millions of consumers and spread your company’s messages worldwide comes the possibility for gaffes on a global scale. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Former PR executive for IAC, Justine Sacco, sends a damaging Tweet. It read, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding, I’m white.” Before her plane even landed, outraged readers started the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet, and she was eventually fired from her position. She later explained that she meant to be funny and was surprised that people took it literally.
Lesson: Social media is not private. Even if you designate only certain people to receive your posts, any one of them can share them with others outside your circle. Ill-advised posts can be embarrassing for an individual, but can kill the reputation of a company.
2. The NYPD’s attempt to create a feel-good hashtag blows up in their faces. They asked the public to share photos of themselves with NYPD officers with the hashtag #myNYPD. People quickly sent dozens of photos of their encounters with the NYPD, showing police officers in a negative light. The social media campaign soon ended.
Lesson: Once you send a social media post, it basically takes on a life of its own and you give up control. Your best defense is to stay true to your brand and strongly consider how your posts may reflect on your reputation and image before sending.
3. DiGiorno’s Pizza jumps on the trending #WhyIStayed hashtag. Their answer: Because you had pizza. Unfortunately for the company, the hashtag was trending because of a video filmed in an elevator showing football star Ray Rice punching his girlfriend-turned-wife unconscious. Other victims of domestic violence came forward to tell their stories, leading to the popular hashtag.
Lesson: In the rush to be trendy, never sacrifice the time it takes to do your homework. Before jumping into a conversation or on a hashtag, make sure you have a grasp of the entire situation.
4. SeaWorld tries to rebuild its reputation after a damaging documentary. As one of the most popular films at the Sundance Film Festival, Blackfish highlighted the treatment and alleged abuse of SeaWorld’s killer whales. The company dived into the controversy by creating the #AskSeaWorld hashtag to set the record straight, but the public quickly used it to criticize the company’s policies about separating whale calves from their mothers and other animal welfare issues. To make things worse, the company began ridiculing or blocking some posters and included a list of questions they refused to answer.
Lessons: Be prepared for negative criticism and respond to it immediately and honestly. Also, if a social media campaign really isn’t working, don’t be afraid to end it.
5. Amy’s Baking Company goes on an expletive-laden rant against critics. After being featured on an episode of Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, the two owners received negative feedback on Yelp and other sites. They responded by going on Facebook to yell at detractors, calling them punks and fools.
Lessons: Think before you type. Better yet, hire a PR professional to manage your social media accounts for you.
Every social media site has different rules and attracts diverse audiences. It takes expertise, great writing skills and time to manage it all. Let the professionals at Axia Public Relations handle your social media. We will help you develop the right content at the right time to increase website traffic and engage your target audience. Contact us today or download our e-book The Essential Social Media Management Guide for more information and tips.
Lisa Goldsberry is a writer for Axia Public Relations with more than 15 years of public relations experience. She specializes in business and technology PR. Lisa has worked with Axia since December 2013. Connect with Axia Public Relations on Twitter at @axiapr.
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