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Social Media Faux Pas


23rd October 2013

1st January 1970

Dealing with Social Media Disasters

With Social Media, the Customer now has a voice that can be as strong as the Large Brand Voice. Here are some examples of when things went wrong, and how they were dealt with.

  1. British Petroleum (BP)

    They did bad.

    Remember the Oil Spill Disaster of 2010?

    People were very upset about it. People raged about it on BP's social media channels, and all throughout social media.

    BP did not respond for the first 24 hours. Then, they tried to control the message AND control the facts.

    Not good.

    After the initial 24 hours, they responded with some lies and proven dishonesty. Their communication was along the lines of "TRUST US. We are going to fix this." That's not going to work.

    What they should have said: "We're sorry. We messed up. We're going to work really hard to fix this as soon as possible."

    They damaged their brand A LOT.

    Tony Hayword, the then BP CEO said; "There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I'd like my life back." . . . which was a mind-bogglingly ignorant thing to say, when thousands of animals were dying, people were losing their livelihoods, and giving up their own free time to try to help fix the mess which Tony Hayword's Company had caused.

  1. United Airlines, 2008

    United Airlines baggage handlers were apparently handling guitar cases very roughly on the tarmac outside.

    When passenger David Carroll landed, and collected his baggage, his guitar was severely damaged.

    He complained to staff & then filed a complaint - and was told he was ineligible for compensation. Nine months of frustration later, while United Airlines did not deny what happened, they confirmed they would not be compensating David.

    So what did David do?

    He wrote this song, and uploaded it to YouTube:

    What happened then? Well . . .

    • United Airlines did not respond within the first 24 hours
    • That video now has >13M views on YouTube
    • It was also a hit on iTunes
    • And was featured in Time Magazine
    • We're still talking about it now

    There was a Measurable Impact on United Airlines

    United Airlines' shares plummeted by 10% within 4 days of the video being uploaded.


  2. Social Media Today

    This faux pas that happened on 23rd October 2013, which I came across thanks to Debbie of TheMarketingShop.ie:

    Social Media Today wrote what was clearly an offensive post, and, instead of apologising - for something which would have been totally forgivable - they deleted the tweet. But of course you can't delete everything from the internet, and luckily, Debbie got a screen capture of the offending post.


    Social Media Today have apologised! It's all good.

    I hope the reprimand wasn't too severe! But it was nice to see that Social Media Today are listening to their followers. They do claim, after all, to be the"world's best thinkers on #SocialMedia best practices".

  3. Bank of Ireland

    This one is an example of why you should read what your customers say - or you could end up looking really silly.

    It all started with an issue that Bank of Ireland customer had on 31st August 2014, that meant a lot of people didn't get paid. It was all sorted out the next day, so Bank of Ireland tweeted:

    A tweeter with good sense of humour replied . . .

    . . . referring to the notorious internet scam. He even added a smiley to show he was joking, right!? But this was lost on Bank of Ireland:

    As of 8pm, on the same day, Bank of Ireland don't seem to have noticed this, and haven't even replied to Ken - maybe to like, warn him off internet scams. Isn't that part of their responsibility!?

Best practice if you mess up on Social Media:

  1. Acknowledge.

  2. Apologise.

  3. Keep your Dignity.

View a Prezi Presentation on the same topic here:

Does that not work? You can view on Prezi.

Do you know any more? Have you ever had a Social Media Fall-Out that you had to deal with publicly? Please let me know in the comments below!!

Dorcas Réamonn

Hi, I'm Dorcas. I make websites. I lecture in Digital Marketing and related stuff in the UCD Smurfit School, and also work with the UCD Innovation Academy. I love education, learning and all things creative, which could cover anything from coding to filmography to dancing! I take photos (personal Insta @dorcasz). I do consultancy. I do talks. I've written popular books on WordPress (available here and and here. Visit my personal site here.

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