Social media can be a wonderful thing for a business. Companies can now inform, interact with, and advertise to customers in ways never before possible. While social media is a handy tool that can give fans and customers unprecedented access, the technology is a double-edged sword. Businesses aren't perfect, and occasionally they'll make some mistakes on social media. Unfortunately, some of those mistakes can quickly spiral out of control and turn into huge PR disasters. Here are just a few from recent years that have happened along with the lessons every company can learn.
1. Q&A Gone Wrong
The Disaster: Promoting a Q&A via Twitter can give your customers a chance to speak to company leaders. But it can also invite some unwanted questions and comments. That's what happened when JP Morgan launched a its #AskJPM hashtag. The bank was quickly flooded with more than 8,000 angry and snarky responses about its practices, prompting the company to cancel the Q&A session.
The Lesson: Engagement is great but you need to be prepared for negative feedback. If the chances for bad responses greatly outweigh the good, you might want to rethink your strategy.
2. Tragic Promotions
The Disaster: Using current events as part of a promotion can make your company seem on top of things ... or it can lead to disaster. There are plenty of cases of this happening. Two in particular happened to Kmart and Epicurious.com. Kmart tweeted shortly after the Newtown, Connecticut shooting offering condolences but also including a promotional hashtag. Epicurious used the Boston Marathon bombings to promote some of their products. Needless to say, outrage followed.
The Lesson: Don't promote your stuff during a tragedy! It might seem obvious, but companies do it anyway. And if you're using a trending hashtag, know why the hashtag is trending in the first place.
3. Hacker Attack
The Disaster: In 2013, Burger King's Twitter account was hacked, making it seem like the fast food chain was bought out by McDonald's. The hackers also tweeted nasty things about the company before the account was finally brought back under control. Burger King's follower count actually increased from this, but the incident was still an embarrassment.
The Lesson: Security surrounding your social media accounts needs to be top notch. Every company should make sure passwords can't be easily guessed or accessed.
4. Facebook Mayhem
The Disaster: Nestle was the target of environmental activists, and the company was not happy about it. After Nestle tried to get a critical YouTube video removed, activist group Greenpeace sent its own fans onto Nestle's Facebook page to post critical comments. Nestle didn't respond well, threatening to delete the negative posts. That only fueled internet outrage even more.
The Lesson: Negative comments will happen from time to time. Trying to hide them or shut people up may only lead to bigger problems. Learn how to engage with fans on Facebook and promote a positive environment. For a good example of positivity, check out Nu Skin's Facebook page.
5. Layoff Live Tweets
The Disaster: Music company HMV hit some hard times, so they had to lay off 190 employees. Besides the unfortunate fact people were losing their jobs, the layoffs were live tweeted by one of the fired workers. The tweets may have provided unique insight into a terrible situation, but it was definitely a source of embarrassment for the company.
The Lesson: Know who has access to your social media account at all times, especially if personnel changes are coming up. Without proper policing of your social media channels, you could have a messy situation on your hands.