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How to Cope with Social Media Missteps

by | Jul 17, 2013 | Social Media | 1 comment


Social media lets an organization talk directly to its customer base, helping to promote that brand and show its human side. While there are many benefits to this human interaction, the widespread reach of sites like Facebook and Twitter mean that one small faux pas can instantly be seen by people around the world. Here are some of the blunders that major brands have experienced recently. They’re classified in order of their offense.


The American Red Cross

Followers of the American Red Cross were more than a little bewildered when the organization tweeted out “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch Beer….when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzered.” For those who don’t know, getting slizzered is slang for getting drunk. Not exactly what the Red Cross is all about. The account quickly tweeted out an apology, noting, “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” Though the tweet was embarrassing, the humor helped to diffuse the situation.



The car company tried to create some buzz by stealthily recruiting employees to pose as average American consumers who were eagerly anticipating the arrival of the company’s new Accord Crosstour. Unfortunately, their cover was quickly blown when a smart fan noticed that the so-called rabid Honda enthusiast actually had a LinkedIn profile showing he was the Manager of Product Planning at the company. Whoops. The business quickly deleted the posts from the imposter, and explained that they were gone because he had failed to mention his link to the organization. An honest and apologetic explanation helps, but it was still a source of embarrassment for the business.


Amy’s Baking Company

One of the most famous social media missteps of late comes from Amy’s Baking Company. The company appeared on an episode of “Kitchen Nightmares” though Gordon Ramsay ended up storming out, explaining that the business’s owners were incapable of listening. Shortly after, the company received criticism on its Facebook page. Instead of taking the feedback in stride, the business began to respond to clients in an insulting way. They threw around profane language that you certainly wouldn’t dare utter in front of your children, and began to unleash a series of personal attacks on those who wrote on their page. After the outburst was over, the company explained that its Facebook page had been hacked. Not too convincing. While avoiding crude language in the first place would have been ideal, in this situation a genuine apology was necessary.

While these social media blunders are fairly cringe-worthy, a business owner does stand to learn a few things from the errors. These points include:

  • Don’t fight back: It’s normal to feel defensive when a person begins to criticize your business, but fighting fire with fire is not the way to go. Instead, it is best to resolve the situation and listen fully to the customer’s complaints. Name-calling and deleting negative sentiments only angers the client further, thus hurting the business and making the organization look unprofessional.
  • Don’t fake a hacking: Some companies and people believe that they can post something offensive, and then say that they were hacked in order to avoid facing consequences. In reality, a hacker would probably change the password for that account, making an apology about a hacking nearly impossible. It would also take a user time to realize that their account was hacked, thus making immediate claims of hacking irrelevant. It is not a good idea to say that your account was hacked when it wasn’t. An honest and authentic apology is much more effective.
  • Respond thoughtfully: Irate customers usually complain because they want a solution to their issues. Therefore, it is important to issue a response that is well thought out and relevant for that person. Simply firing off a generic, “We’re sorry you’re unhappy” will not make an angry user feel better. Instead, try to come up with a solution that will make the person happy. Do they want a refund? Do they want to know that your policies will change? When possible, it is best to come up with a comprehensive solution that deals with the issue head on. Apologies are nice, but action is better.

Though criticism never feels good, particularly when it is not completely true, a company must be gracious when responding to client complaints. Firing off angry tweets will only further anger the person, and puts that company at risk of becoming the next viral sensation.

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