American Apparel’s Social Media Faux Pas

American Apparel should have stuck with Halloween…

Social media has been playing a vital role in spreading information during the ongoing Hurricane Sandy crisis throughout areas of the East Coast. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other platforms have been used by officials to communicate with millions of people in the affected region. Our smartphones have given us the ability get immediate information about the storm; anything from evacuation zones to shelter locations is available at the touch of a button. It’s amazing and very useful. For all of the trivial things we use social media for, now we know we can count on it in a disaster.

I’ve somehow made it through the storm without losing power or dealing with any serious problems. I’m almost out of the woods. Of course, millions of others weren’t as lucky and still have another day or two until they are in the clear. But I do have a feeling that the millions of people affected by this storm might have a problem with American Apparel when they learn about a new sale they decided to announce!

A Sandy Sale? Really?

Stephen Lepitak for The Drum reports that yesterday American Apparel started to “advertise a sale . . . to take advantage of the Hurricane hitting the country’s east coast.” Yes, that’s right: A Sandy Sale. They sent word of the 20%-off-everything sale over Twitter and email. And, boy oh boy, has the response been negative.

According to Anita Li at Mashable, American Apparel decided it would be a great time for a sale “in case you’re bored during the storm.” Meanwhile, NYC is flooded, Queens is on fire, and around a million people are without power. This isn’t a storm you can simply become bored with. People on Twitter are fighting back as well. Some of the tweets have been pretty harsh:

“I will forever boycott their stores.”

“@americanapparel will soon be hiring a new marketing director.”

“wow that is messed up – instead of giving me 20% off maybe donate 20% to Red Cross?”

“[expletive] you!”

Patience is a Virtue

Thanks to the internet, it’s vital for companies to act quickly when an opportunity arises. But now that people can share information in milliseconds with hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people in a matter of minutes, it’s important for companies and businesses to think clearly. Even something as simple as a typo can cause a lot of headaches for a company and its brand.

A disastrous hurricane affecting tens of millions should not pose an opportunity. American Apparel was obviously not thinking through the effects of creating a sale in the midst of what might end up being the worst storm the eastern seaboard has faced. While there’s nothing technically wrong with the sale, at the very least it shows bad taste and poor judgment on the part of American Apparel. At worst, it shows callousness and greed. I would bet very few people would look at that sale and think, “Oh yay! I can’t wait to shop at American Apparel, this is such a great idea!”

Mistakes Happen, Learn From Them

It’s amazing how often these social media and marketing mistakes happen. You would think people could learn from others’ mistakes. I guess not. Social media has been used by businesses large and small for years now. The results have been overwhelmingly positive. Social media provides a platform where customers and businesses can connect. Businesses can build their brands and learn more about their customers.

Social media for business is a great tool, but like every tool, it needs to be used properly. What you say and what you do on social media matters a lot more than it used to. It’s almost as if every public business or person is under the same hyper-sensitive coverage that politicians are under. A wrong word here or there can sink a reputation. Don’t let that scare you from using social media with your business. It’s a powerful tool, and as long as you think things through you shouldn’t have any problems.

How do you use social media with your business?

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Patrick currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is studying for a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations. Upon graduation from Penn State in 2008, he spent two years overseas in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. Peace Corps. While writing is currently his chosen way to put food on the table, he loves fitness and exercise, which he believes makes up for his avid computer gaming habit.

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