Pushing the Cyber-Boundaries: Can a Social Media Faux Pas Ever Lead To Good?

By Jennifer Rodstrom, Account Executive, Beckerman

When used correctly, social media is a powerful tool for brand messaging. Yet, every once in a while well-known brands make jaw-dropping social media mistakes. From mis-tweets to bigger PR blunders made by an organization, each slip can turn into a viral disaster, which is why it’s so important to learn the lesson of having an instant and appropriate response when mishaps take place.

First, not all press is good press! Kenneth Cole learned this lesson the hard way earlier this month, after posting a now infamous tweet using the hashtag #Cairo to promote their new spring collection. This reckless and desperate attempt to draw attention to the KC spring clothing line lead to serious backlash for the brand. Although the tweet was later removed and an apology was issued, the damage was already done, and KC received nonstop ridicule from all different outlets. Talk about the need for crisis communications. Unfortunately for Kenneth Cole, PR catastrophes like this will take more than just an apology.

With that said, you cannot trick people into thinking good things about your brand! MommyNetworks.org was a recent offender of this error in judgment after passing around a letter, claiming to be from Toyota offering mom bloggers a $10 Amazon gift card reward for posting "positive news" about the company. Mom Blogger Crissy posted the note to her site bashing Toyota and causing a social media uproar. Toyota soon denied any contact with MommyNetworks, and it turned out letter had indeed been a fake. MommyNetworks wrote this apology to Toyota and Mom blogger Crissy, but the damage was done- and the site was shut down. Such a sneaky attempt at publicity caused permanent damage in this case.

The Red Cross organization is responsible for the latest PR blunder, after an employee posted a tweet from the Red Cross Twitter account, instead of from his personal one. The tweet read as follows:

"Ryan found two more 4 bottl packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…. When we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd"

Luckily for Red Cross, the tweet was harmless enough, and their recovery was genius. Red Cross posted this article, in which they not only owned up to and apologized for their mistake, but also explained the situation and thanked everyone for understanding. On top of that, they turned the incident around into something good- Dogfish Head beer, along with many others have made donations to Red Cross in light of the situation. Lesson to be learned- always be transparent. Bravo, Red Cross!!

What do you think about these social media faux pas? In the cases where reputations were badly damaged, could they have been handled differently?

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