We all know what you should do to maintain a sterling image on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, but what happens when companies get it wrong? It may not result in hellfire and business destruction, but a botched social media interaction can damage your business. These five businesses found out the hard way that a poorly managed online presence can hurt both your brand and your sales.
Amy's Baking Company
The malicious acts of Amy’s Baking Company caused quite a stir in the social media world, starting with how they treated any negative criticism. Patrons routinely were called vicious names, being referred to as tramps, losers, morons and ugly.
From there, the company continued to fall in a downward spiral with their appearance on the TV show "Kitchen Nightmares" starring Gordon Ramsey. The questionable finances and bizarre behavior of the owners caused Internet users across the country to weigh in on how the business was staying afloat and opened an odd window into the social media relations Amy was conducting. Replies were written in all caps to anyone who dared inflict the slightest criticism. This escalated into legal threats, which did not deter the detractors, only spurred them on. Finally, the duo were silenced by actual legal threats made by "Kitchen Nightmares" lawyers.
Take Away Message: Bad reviews are a part of business. Don't take it personally and don't respond aggressively.
Social media is a fickle beast. Even ubiquitous companies with millions in sales can't control their message once it's released on social media. McDonalds wanted to start an ad campaign that evoked cherished memories of times spent at their restaurant. #McDStories was launched by McDonalds as a paid Twitter advertisement to promote the tag and encourage people to contribute to the heartwarming campaign.
Instead, #McDStories turned into a PR nightmare when users began applying the hash tag to complain about unsanitary restaurant conditions, food poisoning and questionable business practices by franchise owners. McDonalds attempted to stop the campaign by pulling their ads, but the hash tag continued to trend on the social media site.
Take Away Lesson: Keep promotional campaigns on target by creating a tight message.
In the midst of Hurricane Sandy, American Apparel made the questionable decision to hold an online sale for residents stuck inside while their entire state was being ripped apart. Just in case huddling in the dark, wondering when the electricity was going to turn back on and questioninghow your friends and family were doing got too boring, you could save 20% on online orders.
The poor taste of the campaign sparked immediate resistance. Users across the country pointed out how tasteless the ad and the sale were in a time of crises. American Apparel issued an apology for the email campaign.
Take Away Message: Whether it is hurricanes or other national tragedies, stay away from promoting your business by exploiting disasters.
While social media is a boon for companies looking for kudos, relying on your own employees is bound to backfire. Just ask Honda. The company released pictures of the Accord Crosstour that were largely panned by auto enthusiasts as being unattractive and poorly designed. When Eddie Okubo commented with a gushing review of the car, fans of Honda could simply have read the comment and moved on. Instead, they discovered that Eddie wasn't just some diehard Honda lover. He was also the manager of product planning.
The backlash was swift when Autoblog, an influential automotive blog, posted the interaction with Eddie's LinkedIn account. Honda removed Eddie's posts and dismissed criticisms of the car as poor picture quality.
Take Away Message: Eddie may have legitimately liked the design, but he ultimately should have disclosed his affiliation with his employer. Let the kudos come from your real fans.
During the worst of the riots in Egypt, Kenneth Cole's CEO and namesake jumped on the company Twitter account to make a statement. He didn’t try to delicately discuss the political and social upheaval taking place, though. He simply got on to imply the entire reason for the riots was because they heard Kenneth Cole's spring collection was about to drop!
Shockingly, Kenneth Cole followers do not enjoy thinly veiled marketing promotions based on the injury and death of thousands. Shouts for boycotts sounded from every corner of the social media world and Kenneth Cole had to take over the company's Twitter account again to apologize for the poorly done "joke."
Take Away Message: Leave social media to the pros. Only those with a good understanding of proper online etiquette should be trusted with your brand.