3 Lessons Learned from Awful Social Media Blunders

Social media is great because of its ability to spread a message to millions of people in just mere minutes. But it’s a double-edged sword that can either hurt or help you. When used properly it can grow your business exponentially, but when used incorrectly it can destroy your reputation in a heartbeat. Negativity spreads at least twice as fast as positivity. Don’t become a punch line on late night TV because you messed up a social media campaign. Instead, take note of people who’ve gone before you.

Here are some of the worst social media blunders and the lessons you can learn from them:

  1. DiGiorno: The trending hashtag #Whyistayed had many women sharing the reasons they stayed in an abusive relationship. Many of them poured their hearts out to support each other on Twitter. Seeing the trending hashtag, DiGiorno tweeted, “#Whyistayed You had pizza.” People were obviously enraged that DiGiorno was making light of domestic violence and immediately took action against them. Learn more about the blunder here.

The Lesson: While jumping in with a trending hashtag is a great way to build brand recognition, it is always important to make sure you understand what the hashtag really means. You should only join in with a hashtag when you can actually relate it to your brand. By keeping things relevant, you will build your brand and improve your public image.

  1. Gap: In the midst of Hurricane Sandy, many corporations were quick to reach out to provide support for those who had lost so much. Gap was quick to advise those affected to stay safe with this tweet, “All impacted by #Sandy, stay safe! We’ll be doing lots of Gap.com shopping today. How about you?” People were obviously offended by the complete insensitivity of Gap.

The Lesson: Be sensitive. In the face of a disaster your company should make sure the public knows that first and foremost you care about the safety and well-being of everyone involved. Tweeting and posting are goods things to do during a disaster to make sure that everyone is ok, but it is not a time to advertise. Instead, offer assistance in anyway you can – consider donating a portion of your profits for a time, offer supplies to those in need or simply retweet important information from local officials or organizations that are offering help. This will show people that you care more about people than profits.

  1. Bill Cosby: With all of the negative publicity around Bill Cosby, he needed a PR team to help make his image positive again. He hired a social media team in hopes that they would remind America that he was a lovable person. This team decided to launch a Cosby Meme Maker so people could make and share their favorite memories of Bill. They hoped that people would share good memories from their childhood – but they couldn’t have been more wrong. People began making memes of Bill that said things such as “Does this Coke taste like roofies?” This was a huge disaster for Bill Cosby.

The Lesson: Do more research about the social atmosphere. If the social media managers had done even five minutes of research about the real opinions of the public towards Bill, they would’ve known exactly what people would post. While memes are great and have their use, they must be used with caution.

Remember when you are doing your social media outreach to keep it relevant, be sensitive and do your research. Following these important steps will allow you to successfully communicate with the public and keep people happy. For more about good social media usage, check out these guidelines. And you can always contact us for assistance in your next campaign.

About the Author:

As founder of PilmerPR, John Pilmer, APR serves as a PR and marketing communications advisor for both emerging and established companies. He offers customers more than 20 years of results-driven business PR and marketing experience. John and the firm have provided PR consultation and campaigns for clients such as Mozy, Novell, AdvancedMD, Certiport, NextPage, ElectraTherm, Altiris, Avamar, EmergeCore Networks, FSLogic, INVISUS, 10x Marketing, MWI, Project Insight, REIC, Seastone, US Synthetic and Funding Universe (now Lendio), among others.

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