The Biggest Social Media Disasters and How to Avoid Them

social mediaCompanies continue to invest time and money in social media as it allows them to engage with consumers and spread brand awareness.  In fact, 93 percent of marketers use social media for business. Despite its popularity, however, some businesses have failed to get it right. Below, we explore the biggest social media disasters to date and ways in which you can avoid a PR disaster:

1. #McDStories Twitter Feedback: Recently, McDonalds launched a Twitter campaign called #McDStories. The campaign was intended to get customers to share their positive experiences at McDonalds, but it quickly turned into a disaster when users took to Twitter to bash the company’s food.  For example, one user tweeted that he lost weight after he quit his job at McDonalds, while another said he could “smell type 2 diabetes every time he walked into the chain restaurant.”  Not surprisingly, the hashtag was taken down within a couple hours, but the damage had already been done.

Essentially, McDonalds provided a platform for negative backlash.  Before posting anything to social media, make sure you have a firm grasp on the views of your audience and analyze the potential for negative comments against your company.

2. Taco Bell’s Employee Photo Gone Viral: It was the photo seen around the world. Last year, a Taco Bell employee posted a picture of himself licking a stack of taco shells to his personal Facebook account.  Shortly after, the photo went viral and caused a major uproar. While it didn’t take long for the fast food chain to respond with a statement, it was a little too late.  People starting posting comments to the company’s Facebook page saying that the restaurant didn’t practice the proper food safety.

The takeaway?  Be careful about what your employees post on social media.  It is important to have a company-wide policy to ensure things like this don’t happen.

3. Gap Takes Advantage of Natural Disaster: When Hurricane Sandy rocked the east coast, instead of offering support, Gap encouraged its customers to shop. Let’s just say people didn’t respond well to this tweet, claiming that the retailer was insensitive and downright inappropriate.

“To all impacted by #Sandy, stay safe. Our check-in and tweet earlier were only meant to remind all to keep safe and indoors.”

Bottom line: Think before you tweet. It’s never a good idea to piggy back on a natural disaster.

4. Luton Airport Posts Airplane Crash: Luton Airport made a major mistake after it made light of a plane crash in which a child died. The photo, followed by the caption “Because we are such a super airport….this is what we prevent you from when it snows……Weeeee :),” appalled Facebook users, and rightfully so.  While the photo was taken down, people flocked to Facebook to slam the airport.

These companies did the right thing in trying to engage and interact with their audience; however they went about it in the completely wrong way.  There is no way to control what people will say on social media, but there is a way to put your company in a better light.