The rise of social media has considerably helped companies and personalities to get in touch with their avid followers more easily. However, its revolutionary ability to bring many people together for a purpose can also run into a horrifying mess should you make a mistake in dealing with the crowd. So, how could you end up ruining your brand through social media? Hop on to find out.
As you have probably learned during your early forays into social media forays, the personality you project online for your brand is where it all starts. In his article for Entrepreneur, online marketer Eric Siu said that, while your social media persona doesn’t always need to be the funny one, you do need to be welcoming and friendly towards your audience. And since this is social media, even a small bit of unlike-ability can snowball into something big sooner or later.
Microsoft unintentionally demonstrated this during their TayBot artificial intelligence experiment in March of this year. Tay was an AI-based Twitter chatterbot designed to learn language through the conversations it has with users of the site. As part of its online persona, the bot was designed to mimic the speech patterns of a 19-year old American girl.
The problem began when mischievous Twitter users started to feed Tay with offensive language, which the bot eventually incorporated into its succeeding tweets. In just 25 hours, Tay’s online persona morphs from that of “a sweet teenage girl” to that of “a raging sexist and racist bigot” spouting praises to Adolf Hitler.
After Twitter users started complaining about the chat bot’s erratic behavior, Microsoft began censoring the tweets it sent out, and eventually pulling the plug off the project just two days after launch. The company also issued an apology for the ruckus.
Another important thing that you have to remember when it comes to social media is that you have to keep your personal opinions off of it. Remember that your social media accounts represent your brand, not you. So, it should carry the values the brand supposedly espouses, not your own.
That’s a lesson American fast food chain Chick-fil-A earned the hard way after it found itself in the middle of a controversy over its supposed opposition to same-sex marriage.
As Forbes’ Carol Tice points out in her look at the events surrounding the issue, the initial furor over Chick-fil-A chief operating officer Dan Cathy’s comments defending the company’s contributions to political organizations that are believed to oppose LGBT rights further escalated after its official Facebook page released the following statement to try and clarify the whole thing:
Due to how the statement was worded, Tice said that many people interpreted as Chick-fil-A simply skirting around the topic and not addressing it. Tice also noted that the statement was released only through its Facebook page without any official company press release, further fuelling speculations that the restaurant chain is itself espousing the same beliefs.With no apology on Twitter, people piled on:
@ChickfilA BRO your chicken sandwiches would be SO much better if you didn't hate gay people.
— minnesota (@minnesotaBASS) July 28, 2012
— LxLuther (@LxLuther) July 28, 2012
— Covfefe Con Carne (@gymnation) July 27, 2012
Netizens responded to the controversy by posting copycat recipes of the company’s popular sandwiches on Twitter. Ultimately, the officials’ political opinions became inseparable with the company’s image. It’s now impossible to talk about Chick-fil-A without inadvertently touching on this incident.
With more than 1.7 billion users, Facebook is arguably the biggest social media platform. Thus, any slip-ups here could have some nasty consequences on Twitter. Here are a few of the things that can go wrong.
Sharing good content is one of the best ways to attract people and potential customers online. Share the wrong content, and you can pretty much expect a deluge of negative comments that spread from Facebook to Twitter.
That was what soft drink maker PepsiCo had to go through in 2013 after it released a set of photo ads dubbed ‘voodoo Ronaldo.’ The photos depict Cristiano Ronaldo as a voodoo doll placed in some pretty weird locations. The photo ads were released on the day of Portugal’s match against Sweden. While the ads were likely meant as a playful jab at Ronaldo, it did not sit in well with the fans. Groups like the one below called for the boycott of the beverage maker.
Pepsi was eventually forced to issue an apology, but not after the fans had lampooned the campaign on Twitter. What you do on one social platform can spill over to others. You have to pay attention to all of your social media when things go bad on one.
One of the most notorious cases of companies launching rants on social media, only to end up facing the dire consequences of it, was that of Scottsdale, Arizona-based Amy’s Baking Company. The company was featured in an episode of the 2013 season of popular reality show Kitchen Nightmares.
According to The Huffington Post, after the airing of the particular episode, which showed owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo having a confrontation with Ramsay and the latter walking out of the store afterward, the company’s Facebook page received a lot of negative comments. The two owners did not take the feedback kindly and began posting rants written in all caps on their page:
The drama eventually reached Reddit, Yelp, and Twitter in which more negative reviews came in. However, the couple didn’t back down and started to launch verbal attacks on users coming from the sites. They were even said to have posted fake Reddit screenshots saying that the police allegedly arresting trolls to scare off the negative commenters. Amy’s Baking Company’s story got exactly the conclusion you’d expect two years later when, according to the Daily Mail, the owners announced that they were closing permanently. While they did not acknowledge the prior incident as being the reason behind their decision, it is believed that the negative online publicity played a role.
— Big Breakfast (@gdhenson) May 15, 2013
watched that episode of Kitchen Nightmares about Amy's Baking Company. Wow. Talk about Psychos. Never seen Gordon Ramsay give up before
— Robert H Mullarkey (@Robert88UK) May 15, 2013
I;m 8 minutes into the "Amy's Baking Company" episode of Kitchen Nightmares, and I have got to say that I just wish this bitch was dead.
— Amazing Atheist Guy (@amazingatheist) May 15, 2013
What you say on Facebook, or anywhere else, can lead to disasters on Twitter. You must pay attention to these errors everywhere you have a presence online and respond to them.
Twitter is another place online where a small slip-up can turn into a major social media disaster. And owing to the real-time nature of the platform and the ease of retweeting posts, these disasters can come in very quickly.
One of the big challenges when it comes to using Twitter for your brand is that you can accidentally send out the wrong tweets. While most of such incidents are small mistakes that can be rectified quickly, such as typos, there are those that can create a big ruckus.
One such instance was in April of 2014 when US Airways accidentally tweeted a picture of a naked woman when responding to a complaint made by a customer. The shocked customer tweeted the following response after seeing the image:
— Elle (@ElleRafter) April 14, 2014
Buzzfeed notes in its report of the incident that, while the tweet was pulled out by the airline, it was an hour late. By then the original tweet had been retweeted and other users called them out for it. US Airways apologized for the mistake, and explained that it was due to things getting mixed up when they were attempting to flag inappropriate tweets at the same time. As it was clearly an honest mistake on their part, the company was forgiven rather quickly.
— nzherald (@nzherald) April 14, 2014
Of course, accidentally sending out a wrong tweet is one thing. Intentionally posting an inappropriate tweet can land you in bigger trouble. This is exactly what happened to appliance manufacturer KitchenAid when the company’s official Twitter account sent the tweet implying that President Barrack Obama’s grandmother, who died before his oath at office, did so because she supposedly thought his administration was going to be bad.
While politics is itself already considered as an inappropriate topic for company Twitter accounts to delve into, personal attacks are and even bigger landmine that must be avoided at all cost. As Business insider reported, KitchenAid immediately took down the offending tweet and issued an apology, saying that a member of its Twitter team sent out the post from their official account instead of his personal one. The erring employee was also reportedly sacked from his post. However, the incident still managed to generate some negative publicity for the brand.
SOCIAL FAIL OF THE WEEK: The award goes to Kitchen Aid for its 'joke' about Obama's dead grandmother http://t.co/VoNYWBwY
— ᴄʜʀɪs ʟᴀᴋᴇ (@lakey) October 5, 2012
Riding hashtag trends are a great way to call attention to your brand on Twitter. However, trying to ride every trending topic that you see on Twitter is not always a good idea, especially if that particular trend is of something important. Doing so will certainly earn the ire of the Twitter community, who will brand you as being insensitive.
Such was the case when clothing company Gap tried to ride the #Sandy trend for social media reporting on Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The company tweeted the following, seemingly implying that people bracing for the storm should spend time shopping on their online store while waiting for it to pass.
— James Ciccone (@JamesCiccone) November 2, 2012
Mashable noted that the tweet naturally led to criticisms, which forced Gap to apologize.
It gets even worse when you don’t even know the context of the Twitter trend that you are writing on. In 2014, popular pizza chain DiGiorno tried to ride on the hashtag #WhyIStayed with the following tweet, thinking that it will bring in a lot of folks groveling for pizza.
However, according to Adweek, the hashtag turned out to be about domestic violence and was pertaining to NFL player Ray Rice punching his fiance. DiGiorno took down the tweet in minutes after realizing their mistake and played it cool with their apology, graciously responding to tweets from offended users.
They eventually emerged from it scratch-free but also much wiser about jumping into trends.
While most of the negative response to companies’ social media blunders stem from how the posts were made, there are also those instances when the backlash is sparked by the content itself being promoted by the brand. This is rather difficult to deal with since you will initially have no idea why the backlash is there in the first place.
Okay, so brands putting content that not all people like is not something new. However, as Twitter lets people react in real time it leads to anger escalating quickly. Such was the situation Vogue Magazine found itself it in. They released the cover for their April 2014 issue featuring celebrity couple Kanye West and Kim Kardashian on Twitter. Many netizens reacted negatively to the cover, asking why the two chosen:
— B (@betluhansen) April 30, 2014
I cracked an bought vogue despite Kim and Kanye but I still hate them
— ROMPER ROOM BANDIT (@deadangelbebe) April 26, 2014
— jamal B. (@ib3famous) March 29, 2014
Eventually, images making fun of the cover also appeared. Even big stars like Seth Rogen and James Franco joined in on the fray.
James Franco & Seth Rogen Troll Kanye West & Kim Kardashian Again By Recreating Their Vogue Cover http://t.co/NvEup2ufpE
— The Playlist (@ThePlaylist) March 24, 2014
While Vogue did not do anything offensive, the two stars featured were not that well-liked by the online community. The magazine did not really need to apologize to its readers. The magazine’s editor in chief, Anna Wintour, still wrote a piece trying to explain the decision. The piece did receive some more backlash from netizens, though not as large as the initial fuss.
As you have seen in the previous examples, how you respond to the initial outcry against your social media blunder determines whether it becomes just a small annoyance or a full-blown disaster. And this is more so the case when it comes to confronting content backlash, where a simple behind-the-scenes correction could save you from all the trouble.
Delta Airlines found themselves in such an awkward situation when some well-meaning Twitter users corrected them on their congratulatory tweet to the US men’s soccer team for winning their match against Ghana in the 2014 World Cup.
— Canoe Travel (@canoetravel) June 19, 2014
The users were pointing out that there are no giraffes in Ghana, making the pictorial representation of the country slightly wrong.
While Delta did correct the image, they also tried to publicly apologize for the slight mishap. However, as Digital Trends have chronicled, this resulted in more hilarity when they accidentally referred to the tweet in question as their “precious” tweet instead of “previous” tweet in their apology.
— Kelly Mosier (@kmosier42) June 17, 2014
The chain of blunders turned them into a minor laughing stock, though Delta happily bounced back.
While these blunders are very much part and parcel of maintaining your Twitter marketing, you could prevent them from becoming full-on disasters by responding the right way.
Twitter apologies are the quickest way that you can resolve the situation. When writing your apology tweets, NR Media Group offers these three quick points to be sure that these will work as intended.
In the case of a really large blunder on your part, it would be best for you to release a corporate apology. The official statement will drive home the point that you are indeed sincerely sorry for the mistakes. It will also help clear the perception of those not on Twitter about your brand.
Often, your social media woes are due to the mishandling of your accounts, either by yourself or the people you have assigned to do it. It is not uncommon to hear stories of interns sending out wrong or inappropriate tweets and posts that end up creating a significant amount of backlash. Thus, it is important that you let only those qualified to handle such accounts have the passwords for them.
However, Online Reputation Management says that just having the right person isn’t enough. You must also put in policies that will help your social media team deal with online mishaps. These policies include protocols on how to reply to initial comments, as well as implementing damage control measures to prevent things from getting worse.
As you have seen, social media can be a tricky place to delve into. And the following issues can end up drawing the ire of your followers so much so that they end up leaving you.
However, by knowing how to properly respond to these and resolve them, you can win back your followers. If you’re still having problems getting your followers back, get the numbers moving in the right direction by using our Twitter followers service. Every little bit helps when you make a really bad Twitter mistake. Having your numbers going back up can show people that trust is returning to your brand on Twitter.