Scary Social Media Stories

Digging a Ditch(Not actually scary…more like big business blunders you want to avoid when using social media for your business)

Halloween is just around the corner, so I thought it would be fun to dedicate this week’s blog to some examples of social media horror stories and how to avoid making these kinds of mistakes as small business owners.

6 Incidents of Poor Judgement and Your Tip to Avoid:

  1. A famous actor was in a fatal Car crash and an reckless insurance company tweeted, including the Twitter handle of the victim, a snarky and self-serving “hope you had car insurance”.  The backlash was swift and powerful in outrage that someone’s tragedy would be used as an opportunity to self-promote. Tip:  Demonstrate positive ethics and good judgement. People generally don’t appreciate businesses who behave like this, even online.
  2. A Pizza company hijacked a trending hashtag (#whyIstayed) about why women stay in violent relationships, using that hashtag combined with “you had pizza”. Meaning all of the people in the conversation were talking about critical and deeply emotional issues and the obtuse pizza folks inserted pizza into the discussion as a reason people tolerate abuse. The company admitted after the colossal fallout, that the didn’t know what the hashtag was about before they jumped on the band wagon.  Tip:  Use hashtags freely, especially on Twitter. They are great for connecting with others around topics and drawing attention to your posts, but make sure you know the context of these conversations so you can use them appropriately.
  3. An athletic clothing company took advantage of an incident involving one World Cup player biting an opposing team member by showing a shirt on a male player and saying it looked so good it was hard not to take a bite. They might have been going for humor, but that is a tricky edge to balance. Tip: When in doubt, err on the side of caution. The thumbs up you get for being funny won’t be worth the judgement of using poor taste.
  4. The family of a girl who had visible facial injuries from a dog attack, were asked to leave a KFC because she was scaring the other customers. The story went viral with outrage over the shameful treatment.  KFC did the right thing and contributed a substantial check to the family for medical bills. Not only did it help that family, but the company’s response restored the brand’s reputation, maybe even elevated it. Tip:  If your company messes something up, don’t be surprised if it ends up on social media. Simply not being present online will not keep your business out of the buzz. People can, will, and do talk about companies that make mistakes, even if they aren’t there to respond.
  5. An employee had a problem with his boss and posted a nasty comment on Facebook about the working conditions and the company. His boss saw the post and promptly fired the disgruntled employee. You may be surprised to know that the tip here isn’t “be careful what you put on Facebook because you may get fired”. It is actually a heads up for the employer. Tip: Make sure you know the law before you take any action against someone for their social media content.  Check with the Fair Labor Standards Act to make sure you are on solid ground. Social media sites may be protected under the act as an employee’s right to organize. Precedence has been set in a number of similar cases where the employers lost in “Wrongful Termination” claims with the argument that employees are allowed to discuss work conditions on Facebook as a right. Here is the verbiage directly from the Act:

It is illegal for employers to fire, demote, or transfer you, or reduce your hours or change your shift, or otherwise take adverse action against you, or threaten to take any of these actions, because you join or support a union, or because you engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection, or because you choose not to engage in any such activity.

6. My favorite social media meltdown was the great Applebees Debacle.  A server at the restaurant posted on her personal Facebook page a picture of a check that a customer had written a snide comment on instead of leaving a tip. When the restaurant manager found out about the post, the employee was fired on the grounds of violating customers’ privacy. The story went wild with posts, shares, comments on Applebee’s Facebook page. When you’re in a hole, stop digging, but the restaurant’s PR department must have been absent the day they taught Public Relations. With each interaction, things got worse for Applebees. By responding to negative comments with arguments, defensiveness, denial, counter-attacks, and ultimately deleting threads that had already been made into screenshots, they fueled the attack all through the night. I’m sure when the executives heard about it in the morning, at least one head was rolling. Tip: Never respond to complaints by matching their emotion, even if the comment isn’t justified. I don’t know the recommended action for deflecting a angry mob in person – running the other way, climbing a tree, maybe playing dead. Where the internet is concerned, when faced with negative comments, take it like a human and respond thoughtfully, respectfully, and with the intention to resolve the problem. This will go a long way to mitigating the effects of bad press.

If you would like help avoiding an angry mob online, or just staying on top of your digital presence, give me  a holler and I’ll be happy to help.

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