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12/6/2013
09:06 AM
Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham
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10 Worst Social Media Meltdowns Of 2013

Social media can be a marketer's best friend or worst enemy. Consider the year's social media-fueled nightmares.
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No year would be complete without a roundup of memorable social media meltdowns, from Facebook faux pas to epic Twitter tirades. We're not talking about ill-considered pictures, or posts that reveal you skipped the family picnic and lied about it. We're talking about big brands -- with much to lose.

Brands had plenty of opportunities to learn from last year's mistakes. In 2012, Chick-Fil-A found itself engulfed in two social media disasters after its CEO famously spoke out against same-sex marriage. Facebook users promptly plastered its page with comments denouncing the restaurant chain, and it later fielded accusations that it created a fake Facebook account to come to the company's defense.

In 2012, KitchenAid caused a stir after an employee mistakenly posted an anti-Obama tweet under the corporate Twitter account during the first presidential debate. It read: "Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 be bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president. #nbcpolitics." To the company's credit, it quickly deleted the tweet and issued an apology.

And then there were the brands that attempted -- in poor taste -- to capitalize on 2012's current events. Online store CelebBoutique posted a promotion on Twitter during the Aurora, Colo., shooting encouraging followers to purchase its Kim Kardashian-inspired dress, which was named "Aurora." And both American Apparel and Gap posted tweets during Hurricane Sandy encouraging followers to shop online if they were bored.

This year, however, brands committed some of the same social media mistakes: rogue employees posting to social networks, tasteless promotions during tragedies, and scandals caused by loose-lipped CEOs. 2013 saw a number of new and noteworthy social media scandals, too.

Take, for example, the disgruntled British Airways customer who made headlines in September after he took matters into his own hands by digging deep into his pockets.

Twitter user Hasan Syed, who was frustrated over British Airways' inaction after losing his father's luggage, spent $1,000 to promote a tweet in New York City and the United Kingdom slamming the airline. The tweet, which was seen by nearly 77,000 people, according to a screenshot Syed posted, read: "Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous."

When British Airways finally replied to Syed's tweets, it apologized for the delay and informed him that the company's "Twitter feed is open 0900-1700 GMT." Syed's reply: "How does a billion dollar corp only have 9-5 social media support for a business that operates 24/7?" A valid question, no doubt. Syed and British Airways reportedly connected later to resolve the missing luggage issue.

Read more: 3 Lessons From British Airways Twitter Flap.

What other social-fueled meltdowns went viral? Read on -- and vow not to repeat the same kinds of mistakes.

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
12/14/2013 | 10:06:44 AM
Re: British Airways
tkeller, 

"I think BA simply has poor customer service so to expect them to do well on Twitter will require a much more basic improvement on their part."

I agree. I have friend who had an awful experience with BA. They lost his suit from the BA lounge. He had a long email discussion about the matter, which I read, and it was going from bad to worse. Too long of a story to tell here, but the point is as you said in the quote.

-Susan
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
12/14/2013 | 9:25:21 AM
Re: Vent elsewhere
Mak, 

Yes, the London Luton Airport probably hired a first grader. Although so many times small kids have more common sense than adults that I am not sure about this. Being an adult doesn't necessarily mean being smarter, or having common sense. 

-Susan
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 10:04:37 AM
Re: Great List...
I still think it comes down to knowing your audience. Social media managers should have a thorough enough understanding of their fans and followers to know how they'll react to a post.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
12/13/2013 | 7:01:43 AM
Re: Great List...
@kristen the thing is that some posts that appear really bad in retrospect may have been considered perfectly fine by the powers that be until the backlash comes in. Sometimes it's not even the posts themselves but the reactions they bring on, like when McDonald's campaign inspired a lot of negative tweets about their products. 
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/12/2013 | 10:20:10 PM
Re: Great List...
It's truly amazing how some posts -- by big corporations -- make it through. Or perhaps there needs to be an approval process before since something is posted since it appears that some people just lack common sense.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
12/10/2013 | 4:42:24 PM
Re: Vent elsewhere
Mak, 

Yes, yes. The London Luton Airport left the Twitter account open to the local kindergarten that day.

-Susan  
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
12/10/2013 | 4:39:16 PM
Re: Vent elsewhere
Shane, 

Oh, what a confusion! It was more to clarify what I had written. :) 

-Susan 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
12/10/2013 | 4:37:34 PM
Re: Great List...
Ariella, 

When you think it can't get worse there is an SpaghettiO with the flag that proves otherwise. And it took a team to come up with that? Ha!

-Susan 
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
12/10/2013 | 4:04:33 PM
Re: Vent elsewhere
Yes, meditation helps get things in perspective.

I agree with Epicurious being one the worst. Don't forget the London Luton Airport. It seems that a child wrote that tweet.
tkeller852
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tkeller852,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/9/2013 | 4:44:14 PM
British Airways
 
BA doesn't even do well with their other customer interfaces. I do not do twitter or facebook (I'm and old guy) so I attempted to deal with a problem I considered serious via email. 

They had to find me a new flight from Londen to Phoenix because weather got my connecting flight into Heathrow late.  They put me on a next day flight but did not honor the seat assignment I had paid a premium for.  I informed their agent that I paid for that because sitting for extended time withiout extending my legs resulted in physical pain.  The result was that I experienced physical pain for a few hours to get home.  Their response to my email came back about six weeks later and was simply a form letter format refunding me the seat premium.  I don't think they even refunded me the full amount of that but I am so disgusted I will not follow up further.

I think BA simply has poor customer service so to expect them to do well on Twitter will require a much more basic improvement on their part.
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