Social Media Mistakes
That’s what P. T. Barnum, owner of the famous Barnum and Bailey circus said in the late eighteen-hundreds. But social media wasn’t something the self-confessed “born showman” could have dreamed up in his wildest and most sensationalist dreams.
Let’s look at seven 2012 social media blunders of epic proportions, and see if his famous maxim holds up…
Seven Social Media Disasters of 2012
Let’s start with the mischief that can happen if you tweet before you think (or proof) on Twitter…
- Social Train Wreck for the Golden Arches – #McDStories
Fast food giant McDonalds must have paid advertising executives a lot of money to come up with its January 2012 hashtag campaign. The first one, #MeetTheFarmers, was innocuous enough: But the second — #McDStories – exploded into an avalanche of nightmare publicity.
The hashtag was supposed to support the profiles of the three farmers presented via #MeetTheFarmers, with #McDStories focusing on suppliers. Only two official tweets were reportedly ever made.
Instead, the hashtag caught on like wildfire as people began to flood Twitter with bitter or irate stories of bad food, poor service and awful experiences. Within a week, the story had been picked up by major news publications, including merciless dissections by web authorities, Mashable and Huffington Post.
Even today, almost a year later, try entering the #McDStories in Hashtracking’s search engine.
You will see that results like this: Within the last 24-hours of writing this report, “10 tweets generated 29,815 impressions, reaching an audience of 29,808 followers within the past 24 hours”. (Wow. Think about that. 29,808 people saw negative posts about this hashtag, long after the initial scandal has been over!)
Hashtracking.com displays the actual 10 tweets below its little pie chart – and 100% of these are negative.
Search Twitter itself for the hashtag, and the 100% negative result remains, though focus has shifted from complaints and horror stories to the majority using the hashtag to promote McDonald’s as we are doing here – as an Awful Example of hashtags gone awry. (The remaining tweeters seem to be merely indulging in residual sneering.)
In short, within days of the disastrous launch, not only did Huffington Post report that McDonald’s stock had dropped, the #McDStories hashtag seems destined to live on for all eternity as an object lesson in how not to use hashtags.
- KitchenAid’s Low Blow Directly Affects President Obama and Family
When it comes to classless tweets, however, we have to hand the “Bad Taste” award to U.S. appliance company, Kitchen Aid. A member of their staff “mistakenly” joked on Twitter – from a company account – about the President’s grandmother, who had just died three days earlier.
Although the company quickly apologized, their attempts at damage control made very little impression on news agencies reporting the story – or on disgusted readers (Republicans and Democrats alike.)
Apologized KitchenAid director, Cynthia Soledad, via Twitter: “The tasteless joke in no way represents our values at KitchenAid, and that person won’t be tweeting for us anymore.”
Mashable noted from reader reactions that the fiasco seemed to “benefit KitchenAid’s rivals, Breville and Cuisinart”.
- Starbucks: Irish Eyes Weren’t Smilin’
And how about Starbucks, who managed to inadvertently fan the flames of hundreds of years of Anglo-Irish hostilities with this tactless tweet?
A poll run by the online news site showed the following reactions at time of writing:
It did not report on how many of the respondents were actually Irish: Assuming the entire 20% who were really annoyed happened to be Irish, that’s alienating your entire demographic in that country.
But Twitter is not the only social network to provide a breeding ground for disaster (though it does rank at the top!) Facebook has provided its share of negative publicity too…
- Ryanair Courts Notoriety – and Loses Business
Sometimes, it’s not what a company itself posts on social networks such as Facebook – but what others say about it. A young mother named Suzy McLeod took to Facebook to report an incident that left her out of pocket – and her post got 383,399 “Likes” in support.
Ryanair reportedly refused to rescind the charges. In fact their CEO, Michael O’Leary, fueled the fires further when he called passengers who don’t print out their boarding passes “idiots” and reportedly told McLeod: “It’s your f**k-up.”
Perhaps not surprising that sites like “I Hate Ryanair” already existed. And although one could be forgiven for thinking rants about passengers being charged a fee for tick bites must be fake, the truth was even worse: The £5 fee charged back to passengers was not for getting the bites, but a charge for disinfecting the plane after their departure.
The controversial airline continues to fly and their CEO, Michael O’Leary, now seems to be exultantly addicted to notoriety – an Irish Sam Kinison. His comments are frequently foul-mouthed, unreservedly contemptuous and always harsh.
While many seem to find CEO, O’Leary entertaining, the figures speak for themselves. After their downturn, Ryanair has finally begun to show a rise again in profits.
However, O’Leary himself admits this is due to “higher fares and a lower fuel bill”, as well as “new fees”. (And dropping several non-profitable European runs.)
Ryanair remains the largest budget airline in Europe. Which basically proves that if – and only if – people are desperate enough for your services, you can behave any way you darned well like.
5. An Unwelcome Birthday Surprise
It isn’t just CEOs and large companies who goof online: Anyone can do it. One of the biggest causes of social “disasters” on both Facebook and Twitter occur when people (a) don’t understand or check their settings and (b) post private data as public.
A case in point: 16-year-old Dutch schoolgirl, Merthe Weusthuis thought she was inviting thirty friends to her Sweet Sixteen party via the Facebook “Events” app.
In fact, she invited the entire country.
When she received not thirty, but thirty-thousand acceptances, Weusthuis quickly cancelled the party – to no avail. Reported The Telegraph: “An unauthorized campaign was launched to promote the birthday party, reaching high levels of sophistication with the setting-up of a website, as well as a Twitter account which received hundreds of thousands of hits.” (This unauthorized promotion also included YouTube trailers and sales of T-shirts printed with Weusthuis’ face.)
The party was dubbed “Project X Haren” – “Haren” being the name of Weusthuis’ town. The teen fled with her mother, hours before the party, as riot police moved in.
Continues The Telegraph account, with sobering online video footage: “The disturbances spilled over into Haren’s town center, where shops were vandalized and looted, journalists attacked, a car set on fire, other vehicles overturned and street signs and lampposts damaged. During the melee shop windows were smashed, fires started and supermarket trolleys turned into makeshift barricades.”
In fact, children and teens inviting people to parties on Facebook only to have similar incidents erupt is far from an isolated phenomenon.
Only the first item in this list refers to the Weusthuis incident.
- Celebrity Social Media Meltdowns
It’s not just businesses who do it: Celebrities used to living a narcissistic lifestyle seem particularly prone to online-foot-in-mouth disease. In fact, the headlines just today are full of more Celebrity Twitter faux-pas.
Lindsey Lohan has done it. Miley Cyrus and her father have done it. Chris Brown has done it, in spades. (His comments reported just today were so crude and foul-mouthed towards a female tweeter, another tweeter labeled it as “verbal rape”.)
Then there’s Russell Brand, tweeting a photo of (then) wife, Katy Perry, just waking up – sans make-up, with stringy hair and a bemused expression. And Ashton Kutcher not only tweeting a “sneaked” photo of then-wife, Demi Moore’s briefly-clad derriere, but also fervently protesting the firing of Penn State coach, Joe Paterno, apparently unaware the latter had been implicated in the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal.
Lady Gaga, Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah… the list goes on and on.
Sometimes there are consequences: Comedian Gilbert Gottfried was actually fired as Aflac’s spokesman for joking about the Japanese tsunami on Twitter, right after it happened.
And Chris Brown’s Twitter account was quietly deleted, after this morning’s string of profanity and the “verbal rape” responses these prompted.
Apparently celebrities were never taught what almost every other Grade Niner had dinned into him: “Engage brain before putting mouth in gear”.
But celebrities are often victims too. Jimmy Kimmel had a collection of stars read vicious tweets live on his TV show, pointing out that stars are “real people with feelings”.
Most stars promptly used these tweets as promotional opportunities, dishing out witty responses and ripostes that made the audience laugh. Others seemed genuinely hurt.
And then, of course, Twitter and Facebook are rife with fake celebrity profiles. So much so that when the former Harry Potter (a.k.a. Daniel Radcliffe) decided to go social, he chose Google+, warning fans it would be “my only official and verified online presence”.
(Always look for the “verified” mark on any celebrity profile. You won’t find this on Facebook – but you will find it on Twitter, Pheed and Google+.)
- Everybody Does It
Small businesses, too, are not immune. How about the “century-old” ice cream company whose President impulsively assumed that a Muslim customer from Sheridan, Wyoming, lived in Pakistan after being asked a simple question…
The resulting outpouring of indignation from other Facebook users prompted this response from the President: “There were cuss words. It was just bad, so I just took (the Facebook page) down.”
Undeterred, the company’s critics moved their complaints over to Yelp.
What Does These Social Media Mistakes Mean to You?
So what has this small collection of 2012 blunders – the tip of the social disaster iceberg — taught us about social media mixed with an official business presence?
- Read hashtags aloud, when composing them. Better yet, read them at least a day later. And run them by at least one other responsible, trusted person.
- Accept full responsibility and apologize, if you mess up. Don’t excuse, or delete your Page. Fix the problem i
- Proofread and pause before tweeting or posting
- Consider whether or not removing your post will fan the flames — or extinguish them.
- Don’t mix your business and personal accounts – And train your employees or contractors not to do that, either.
- Never stage publicity stunts or court notoriety. People nowadays are quick to see through publicity stunts, resenting or despising them. Celebrities might thrive on it, but if you’re a small business, you just can’t afford the sort of attention that destroys relationships and wipes out trust (and sales!)
But don’t be afraid to get out there. After all, as P. T. Barnum also shrewdly pointed out…“Without promotion something terrible happens… Nothing!”
And that is a recap of some social media mistakes.
 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2209655/Wilcoxsons-Ice-Cream-Company-accused-racism-Pakistan-comment-Muslim-customer.html#ixzz2DexG9CTi end of social media