Whether your brand is on Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other social networks, there is always the potential for everything to go bloodcurdlingly badly.
While this might be a fright for the brands involved, it can be a treat for the rest of us! Here are some of the worst and funniest social media nightmares:
This is by far the worst example; Progressive's social media nightmare began with this blog post and thanks to Twitter a lot of people saw it. The blog post is by a man called Matt Fisher; when his sister (a Progressive policy holder) died in a car accident, Progressive refused to pay out $75,000 and instead provided legal help for her “killer”.
Progressive failed to react to the tweets and Facebook comments, confirming their guilt in the mind of many tweeters. When they finally did react, they used one template line (see image below). This is every marketing manager’s worst nightmare, but it shouldn’t have even got to this point! In this day and age it does not take long for people to find out something bad about you, so you need to behave in a way that you want people to view you. Social media will not work for you, but instead against you, if you do not have good customer relations to back up your products.
I am not sure if this was bad or good advertising, as it certainly got people to head to Chick-fil-A. This summer Chick-fil-A ended up in the middle of a row about gay marriage, and a lot of people felt the need to make their voices heard through the medium of Twitter and the hashtag #Chickfila and #Chickfilgay.
Chick-fil-A is an American fast food restaurant. Its president is a Christian and "came out" against gay marriage. In their attempt to avoid bad press they published this on Facebook:
"The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.
Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. For example, we believe that closing on Sundays, operating debt-free and devoting a percentage of our profits back to our communities are what make us a stronger company and Chick-fil-A family.
Our mission is simple: to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."
However, this wasn’t enough to silence their critics. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook groups like this "Nation Same Sex Kiss Day"
everyone knew there was going to be a “kiss-in” protest on the 3rd August. Whilst this should have been bad for business, in an interesting turn of fate, people against gay marriage also came out in force on Twitter which lead to an “appreciation day”
being organised for the 1st of August. “Appreciation day” involved consuming Chick-fil-A food on the 1st August.
Whilst there was a pro gay marriage protest outside there was also massive queues of people waiting to get inside to protest by consuming fast food chicken, leading to a massive increase in sales. I guess being a political debating ground and everyone tweeting about you isn’t so bad for business after all.
McDonalds attempt to get people talking positively about them on Twitter with the hash tag #McDStories, but it went went hair-raisingly wrong when the hash tag got hijacked by a lot of sarcastic people, who where also quite disgusting.
Waitrose tried something similar to the #McDStories, attempting to promote their hash tag #waitrosereasons.
This hash tag got hijacked by people making fun of the “snobbish” image Waitrose has gained over the years. Initially this looked pretty bad, but it actually provided them with a lot more re-tweets and press coverage than they would have gained if the tweets were nice and polite. I am pretty sure their brand is still suppose to be the “classy” supermarket; these tweets just propelled that image in a light hearted way.
Using the word luxury in a hash tag when you are an airline may be a mistake; everyone hates flying regardless of whether their airline is good, so #QantasLuxury tweets were bound to get “hijacked”.
Qantas offered free pyjamas (that they give out for free to the first class customers) for the best tweet; this did not go down too well. At the time Qantas were having talks with unions about pay and working conditions. Their social media campaign failed to recognise the wider world and what was going on in the company outside of the marketing team. Social media should be a tool to help provide information to your customers not to try and distract them.
Important Lessons Learnt from these Terrible Tales
You need to respond to negative tweets and Facebook post (this does not necessary include disgusting ones) you can’t ignore them away.
Before creating a Twitter hash tag you need to think carefully about what your customers will say.
Finally the most important thing when it comes to social media, especially twitter are happy customer; no one will advertise you for free if they don’t like you, if they are angry with you, you may end up with a lot of bad press which can leave lasting damage.