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Three Social Media Faux Pas and What We Can Learn from Them

Posted by Molly Glover Gallatin on December 5th, 2012 at 8:00 am

Managing social media pages is a bit like running a reality show: the cameras are always running, the world is watching, and you never know what could happen next.  Social media can take a Snooki-esque turn for the worst faster than a tone-deaf contestant gets booted off X Factor if you don’t know how to manage your social efforts correctly. Social networks are the only venue where your audience is ready and waiting to talk back to you in real-time, so when it comes to social media, it is best to learn from others’ mistakes. Here are three social media snafus and what you can do to make sure they never happen to you.

1)   Bic: Bic recently launched a new line of pens especially for women. The “beautifully smooth” pens come in lovely pastel shades of pink, blue and purple, and the packaging is covered with dainty, swirling font. Soon, a backlash erupted via Amazon reviews, with men and women posting sarcastically genius comments including, “When I saw these I just had to have them, so I asked my husband to buy them for me. He refused, as he said that owning a pen might make me think, and then have ideas of my own…” It wasn’t long before the storm hit social, spawning not one, but two fake Bic for Her Twitter Accounts, with equally scathing posts.

The moral of the story? Social networks give brands access to the world’s largest real-time focus group. Needless to say, Bic for Her pens are hardly flying off the shelves. If Bic had used social media to test the idea of pens made specifically for females and gauged interest amongst its most loyal Fans and Followers, it would have seen that there is little demand and much reproach for these products. Leveraging the audience intelligence available on social networks to guide product direction and strategy can help avoid flops like Bic’s pen debacle.

2)   KitchenAid: It was the tweet heard ‘round the world. During one of Obama and Romney’s 2012 presidential debates, @KitchenAidUSA published the tweet, “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president.” There wasn’t an appliance fast enough to delete the tweet before it had been re-tweeted multiple times. No amount of apologizing can remedy such glaringly poor taste – undoubtedly, KitchenAid’s faux pas caused it to lose many loyal customers that evening.

This is why brands must have a clear content control strategy and corporate communications guidelines. Too often, multiple “helpful” employees will make company Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn profiles, creating non-cohesive brand identities across social, haphazardly posting and creating a PR nightmare. It is just as important to monitor content that is created internally around your brand as that which is created externally. Organizations must designate a manager and institute guidelines to manage employee use of social to represent the company.

3)   United Airlines: As a 30-year sponsor of the US Olympic Team, United Airlines was poised to capitalize on its involvement as the 2012 Olympics came to a close. However, one negative blog post from a disgruntled customer led to a social media catastrophe of Olympic-proportions. The blogger told of his friends’ nightmare when they sent their 10-year-old daughter on a solo mission to summer camp via United. When the young girl asked United attendees for help, she was told they were “too busy” to help her, and consequently missed her connecting flight. The news soon hit Facebook and Twitter, sparking a slew of customer service horror stories from dissatisfied fliers. Rather than immediately addressing these posts, United Airlines simply deleted them, causing Fans to become even more irritated that the airline wasn’t taking their feedback seriously.

In the age of social media, publicly posting on a company’s Facebook wall or leaving them a tweet is the fastest, most convenient point of contact for many consumers. Both negative and positive feedback can have huge impacts on customer perception and public reputation of your brand. As previously mentioned, audiences are ready and waiting to talk back to brands across social, and ignoring them at this point in the game is like ignoring the person standing next to you screaming in your ear. Businesses need to monitor and respond to what their customers are posting on their profiles – in real-time – and leverage social networks as key CRM platforms.

So there you have it – three social media faux pas and the measures you can take to avoid them. In addition to illustrating what not to do, each of these snafus speaks to the main function and purpose of social networks: audience engagement. If each of these brands had simply taken the time to engage their audiences – or, in the case of KitchenAid, simply remembered that social audiences are constantly there for the engaging – we might have had to learn these lessons for ourselves!

One Response to “Three Social Media Faux Pas and What We Can Learn from Them”

  1. If you learn nothing else from these three mishaps, just remember how fast a situation can go from bad to worse with social media. One careless update/post can spread like wildfire in a matter of seconds. Whether it's your employee's mistake or an angry customer you have to keep an eye on what is being said by and about your brand.

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