Social Media Snafus: What to Avoid

att never forget

When it comes to sensitive issues in the U.S., brands attempting to utilize the event or situation in their social media content often has disastrous consequences. Most recently on 9/11, AT&T came under fire for posting a controversial reference to the twin towers. In the past, other brands have used tragedies such as the Boston Marathon bombing to promote their products and been heavily criticized. As a brand using social media to engage with your customers, it is important to know what types of posts will never be well received, learn how to avoid them, and appropriately handle the fallout of a social media disaster does occur.

Social Media Fails: 9/11 and Beyond

On 9/11, AT&T posted an image with a landscape view of the area where the twin towers once stood in the background and an AT&T phone in the foreground completing the view. This image was quickly removed after many Twitter users commented that it was tactless and offensive. In addition, the LA Lakers tweeted a photograph of Kobe Bryant with #NeverForget on it. This was also deleted very fast in light of negative responses.

Brands have been guilty of such controversial posts not only on 9/11 but also during other sensitive times. Kenneth Cole posted a tweet using the 2011 political protests in Egypt to promote their spring collection. Epicurious also promoted some of their food products on Twitter “in honor” of Boston during the Boston Marathon bombing. Both of these instances also saw harsh criticism online.

How To Avoid a Social Media Scandal

Avoiding such a scandal on social media is actually quite simple. As Mashable suggests, there are simply certain situations that brands should refrain from commenting on when using social media. First, you should not use sensitive holidays to promote yourself. These include the anniversary of 9/11 as well as other commemorative days such as Memorial Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Second, there are also many political situations and discussions that should not be used for self-promotion, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, the protests in Egypt, and the current situation with Syria.

Handling Your Social Media Snafu

Finally, if your brand does make an unfortunate tweet or post during a sensitive time, the most important thing you can do is remove the post and apologize quickly. A fast response shows that you are not making light of the situation and that you truly care about the feelings of hurt and anger that you have inspired in your fans and followers. While it may be tempting to defend your actions, you will garner more forgiveness if you simply admit that you were wrong and provide a heartfelt apology.

Has your brand ever make a major mistake on social media? How did you recover?

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Elizabeth K

Elizabeth Kent is a recent graduate with an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University. She earned her B.A. from Smith College with a major in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in Jewish Studies. Elizabeth recently relocated from the Boston area back to Western Massachusetts, where she spends her free time volunteering with a local non-profit organization. Elizabeth has worked as a writing tutor, archival intern, research assistant, and retail associate. Her interests include studying pop culture, kittens, and making meals with as little cooking as possible.

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