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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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Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 9:31:10 AM
More training?
Many of these occurred because of a lack of judgement. What are the policies in your organization? Do you receive social media training?
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 10:10:10 AM
Love the BofA example
A good reminder of the limits of automation
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 7:08:44 PM
Re: Love the BofA example
It's not just the limits of automation. It's also that too many companies see social media as a one-way medium. 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 10:30:09 AM
Timing Is Everything
The tweet pushing scones after the Boston bombing shows why social marketing efforts need checks and balances. 

Also, people of different ages will have different reactions to things. Different sense of humor. Different gut reactions on tough calls. I see a lot of companies who decide social is a young person's game. But what ages are your customers?
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 12:02:29 PM
Re: Timing Is Everything
^This is a good reminder of how necessary it is to know your audience.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
12/6/2013 | 11:23:39 AM
Social Media coordinators
While social networking is undoubtedly a big deal for consumer focused businesses, I think we'll keep seeing these sorts of meltdowns from social media coordinators being fired from businesses they just aren't needed in. 
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 1:07:27 PM
Apple & Social Media Analytics
The stakes are clearly getting bigger for big brands.  Consider Apple's  acquistion of social-media analytics firm Topsy Labs last week for more than $200 million. Apple of course isn't making the reasoning clear.  But having a strong corporate grasp of -- and the tools to support -- social media threads isn't an area big brands can afford to relegate simply the marketing department.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 3:44:24 PM
Vent elsewhere
Social media is such a very bad place to vent. Breathe and count to 10 before you broadcast your emotional reactions.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
12/7/2013 | 10:42:12 AM
Re: Vent elsewhere
Shane,

"Social media is such a very bad place to vent. Breathe and count to 10 before you broadcast your emotional reactions."

That's a good piece of advice. The problem with venting in social media is that there is always someone listening. In this era of social media we all are immersed in rarely people have the chance to meet with friends, colleages, or someone in real life, go for coffee, and vent. 

Everybody is in a hurry now. No one has time. It's easier and faster to quickly vent on social media, where most people rarely measure the consequences of their emotional reactions. 

I am not saying this is good, or anything or the kind. I am simply pointing out at one of the reasons why we are now reading this compilation of social media meltdowns. 

So, vent elsewhere. Where?

-Susan
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
12/7/2013 | 5:48:39 PM
Re: Vent elsewhere
Susan, you could: Text a friend. Call a friend. Go run 3 miles. Hit a punching bag. Scream.

I think if your post is about a universally troubling thing, and you want reassurance, a social media vent can be a good idea. But what may feel like a healthy vent could get you in hot water. It's easy to forget your post goes out to hundreds if not thousands of people. 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
12/9/2013 | 2:04:32 AM
Re: Vent elsewhere
Shane, 

First, I would like to say that it's not me the one who needs advice, just in case my post sounded like that. I don't go broadcasting everything in my life on social media. On the contrary.

Yet, I have wondered about this many times. Social media seems to have become the pshychologist at hand to many people. 

There is also a need to differentiate between expressing one's thoughts on social media about X topic, which sometimes can be strong, and venting an emotional reaction product of a state or anger, frustration, or something else. 

People could wait until they can be more rational when they calm down, too. Or they could learn how to manage their emotions. 

-Susan 
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 9:57:50 AM
Re: Vent elsewhere
Hi Susan - I didn't meant you, as in Susan. Sorry if it sounded that way. I meant "you" as in the typical person, in the hypothetical sense. 
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 
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
12/9/2013 | 12:47:15 PM
Re: Vent elsewhere
@Shane absolutely. I also advise my daughter to just write down what's bothering her -- not in a public forum but just on paper to vent privately.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
12/9/2013 | 1:50:05 AM
Re: Vent elsewhere
I second what Shane said about venting. Sometimes we don't think straight and do things with dire consequences.
Sometimes it happens. though, but instead of asking where to vent, why don't ask why? Meditation can help with that.

Going back to the article, I don't get what's wrong with the Barilla box. What's wrong with it?
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
12/9/2013 | 2:33:38 AM
Re: Vent elsewhere
mak63, 

"Sometimes we don't think straight and do things with dire consequences.Sometimes it happens. though, but instead of asking where to vent, why don't ask why? Meditation can help with that."

I was also wondering what people used to do in the past, before social media. Certainly people didn't run to the local newspaper to run an ad venting whatever had happened as a company, or as a customer, or a personal emtional reaction. Why people started to vent on social media? 

Was it something like someone started doing, and just as it always happens everyone else followed? If so, what happened with the individual rational thinking? 

I like the idea of using meditation to get some insight, and a better way of dealing with things. 

The two cases that I found most incredible are the Epicurious, and Amy's bakery ones. It's hard to believe that there were adults behind those Twitter accounts. :D 

I don't get what's wrong with the Barilla box either. :( 

-Susan
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 8:16:23 AM
Re: Vent elsewhere
@Susan, @makr63: The Barilla box was doctored to say "Bigotoni" instead of "Rigatoni" to draw attention to the CEO's comments on same-sex marriage.
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.
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
12/14/2013 | 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
TomFLaSusa
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TomFLaSusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/9/2013 | 1:29:29 PM
Great List...
It's like the "Darwin Awards" for Social Media!

Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
12/9/2013 | 2:24:49 PM
Re: Great List...
@Tom yes, and now we really have to add another one to the list: They had quite a bit of fun with that one at http://www.mediabistro.com/prnewser/uh-oh-spaghettios-social-media-pearl-harbor-fail_b79760
TomFLaSusa
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TomFLaSusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/9/2013 | 2:33:30 PM
Re: Great List...
Wow.  Just wow.


What's next?  Totes tweets about the anniversaries of Hurricane Katrina and Sandy with discounts on umbrellas?
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
12/9/2013 | 2:51:07 PM
Re: Great List...
@Tom  just when you think it can't get any worse, Twitter usually shows us otherwise. 
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 
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.
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
12/13/2013 | 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.
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.
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
Social is a Business Imperative
Social is a Business Imperative
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