It is a must for businesses to have an active presence in social media. It has now become the new norm of connecting with an audience. Considering the huge number of internet users all over the world and the availability of iPad devices to access the net wherever and whenever, not engaging in online chatter could put a business at a great disadvantage and could even mean lagging behind the competition. Social media is definitely good for business but it could also have unfavorable consequences to a company’s reputation and its brand. This has been made obvious by the effect of some of the worst social media mishaps in the past years. Let’s take a look at two types of social media gaffes and the lessons learned from the mishaps.
1. Capitalizing on disasters
Some businesses such as Gap and Sears, were considered insensitive and opportunistic during the period immediately after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Some posts they made on Twitter where considered by netizens as making light of the situation and even capitalizing on the misfortune of others. Instead of offering sympathies for the victims of the calamity, they offered free shipping and even promoted their products and services, giving no consideration at all that Sandy’s survivors will have more pressing concerns than shopping.
Another example of a social media gaff of the same tenor was that of Epicurious, a cooking site, during the 2013 Boston Marathon terror attack. Epicurious used Twitter to promote some recipes such as “whole-grain cranberry scones” and a “bowl of breakfast energy” which many considered as insensitive and inappropriate.
As these brands/companies got criticisms from their customers they made a public apology and took out the offensive posts but damage has already been done. The lesson learned from these mishaps is to never exploit disasters or use misery and the suffering of others to market or promote either brand, product or service. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth and is also perceived as callous and blatantly obtuse.
2. Political statements
An offensive Tweet sent from Kitchen Aid’s official account about President Obama’s deceased grandmother during a a presidential debate in 2012 caused a lot of stir after the post was re-tweeted so many times. It had the company scrambling to do damage control by way of explanation and profuse apology.
Another innocent statement that was given a political undertone was that of Dan Cathy’s, owner of Chick-fill-A. His support for family values was taken as a commentary to same sex marriage and opened a can of worms in the summer of 2012 that tarnished the reputation of the fast food chain.
Political statements on social media by businesses, as a rule, should be a big no-no, more so with offensive statements, whether it’s made accidentally or innocently. Company’s embrace technology policies should also make sure that they have experienced and responsible people handling their social media accounts to prevent getting into sticky situations that could result to a backlash to the brand.