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The 10 Worst Restaurant Social Media Disasters (Slideshow)

The 10 Worst Restaurant Social Media Disasters (Slideshow)


Twitter and Facebook can be a minefield for a restaurant

Getty Images News/ Thinkstock

A 3 year-old girl was mauled by pit bulls in April, causing scarring to her face, and last month the girl’s family posted on their Facebook page that while visiting a KFC in Jackson, Miss. she “was asked to leave because her face scared the other diners.” Word of the incident quickly spread via social media, and a FKC spokesman issued a statement saying that they launched an investigation, and in the meantime would donate $30,000 to her medical bills. The issue is still unresolved: KFC’s investigation revealed no record of her having visited the KFC in question, but still offered the family the cash. The money was refused, as the family insists that it wasn’t a hoax. Meanwhile, more than $100,000 has been donated to the family from well-wishers.

10) KFC

Getty Images News/ Thinkstock

A 3 year-old girl was mauled by pit bulls in April, causing scarring to her face, and last month the girl’s family posted on their Facebook page that while visiting a KFC in Jackson, Miss. Meanwhile, more than $100,000 has been donated to the family from well-wishers.

9) Burger King

February 2013, someone hacked into @BurgerKing and turned it into a McDonald’s parody account, complete with a Fish McBites background photo. They sent out a series of borderline incomprehensible tweets for well over an hour before Burger King shut the profile down and restored all to normalcy, in the process picking up more than 30,000 new followers. McDonald’s expressed its condolences by tweeting, “We empathize with our @BurgerKing counterparts. Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking.”

8) KFC/ Taco Bell

iStockPhoto/ Thinkstock

One of the first social media-fueled restaurant disasters occurred in New York in April 2007, when a TV news crew spotted rats running amok inside a Greenwich Village KFC/ Taco Bell and quickly aired it. The video made it to the fledgling YouTube shortly after. The incident made national news and was a major embarrassment for both parent company Yum! Brands as well as New York City (the restaurant had been inspected the previous day and received a passing grade). The inspector quit soon after, and the restaurant was permanently shut down soon after that.

7) Domino’s

Getty Images News/ Thinkstock

In 2009, two Domino’s employees decided to post a video of themselves messing around with food (sticking it up their nose and down their pants, sneezing on it, etc.), resulting in their firing, a lawsuit against them for food contamination, and a major headache for the chain. After thoroughly sanitizing the restaurant, the chain posted a note on their Facebook page, proving the right way to handle a potential social media disaster: "The opportunities and freedom of the Internet is wonderful. But it also comes with the risk of anyone with a camera and an internet link to cause a lot of damage, as in this case, where a couple of individuals suddenly overshadow the hard work performed by the 125,000 men and women working for Domino's across the nation and in 60 countries around the world."

6) Applebee’s

In February 2013, a waitress at a St. Louis Applebee’s, Chelsea Welch, posted a photo of a receipt to Reddit. The customer, a pastor, declined to leave a tip for another employee, writing, “I give God 10% why do you get 18.” Welch was fired for violating a customer’s privacy. Within hours of word of the firing getting out, a barrage of negative comments hit Applebee’s Facebook page and Twitter, causing a nightmare for the company. They disabled comments on their Facebook page and posted a note to it saying that they “wish this situation hadn’t happened,” and more than 20,000 responded to it. This would have been a small story 20 years ago, but Applebee’s should have known that the firing would cause a social media nightmare.

5) Taco Bell

A word of advice: if you work at a fast food chain, don’t defile the food in any way. If you do, don’t take a photo of it. And if you do take a photo of it, don’t post it to social media. In 2013, a Taco Bell employee did just that, posting a photo of him licking a stack of taco shells to his Facebook account. The photo, of course, went viral, but when Taco Bell finally released a statement it was too little, too late, and the chain’s reputation for cleanliness took a major hit.

4) McDonald’s

Getty Images News/ Thinkstock

In January 2012, McDonald’s decided to get in on this whole hashtag game by asking people (and ideally farmers) to post uplifting things about the chain using the hashtag #McDStories. It quickly became a textbook exercise in the dangers of crowdsourcing, as Twitter users took advantage of the opportunity to tell not-so-uplifting stories, like the one who posted “Once when I was little, I was playing in the McDonald’s playhouse and a rusty nail stabbed me in my foot. #McDStories.” The chain pulled the hashtag after two hours. Oops!

3) Subway

In January 2013, an Australian teenager posted a photo of a “footlong” sub from Subway, with a tape measure clearly reading 11 inches. He posted the photo to Subway Australia’s Facebook page, and it quickly racked up more than 100,000 likes. Subway responded in about the worst way possible, saying that “Footlong” is just a trademark, and “not intended to be a measurement of length.” Soon, folks all over the world were measuring their sandwiches, and it turned out that few were actually 12 inches. Claims of false advertising ensued, and the company told the Chicago Tribune soon after that they’ve “redoubled their efforts to ensure consistency and correct length in every sandwich.” Several actually filed a lawsuit against the chain, which has since been settled.

2) Chick-Fil-A

The anti-gay views of Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy ruffled plenty of feathers when they were exposed in 2012, and many took to the company’s Facebook page to complain. The company’s social media response was nothing short of inept, with a post saying that “…our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.… 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.” In short: “We’d like to sweep all of this under the rug and hope that you’ll forget about it too.” By refusing to address the issue, they angered even more people, and the company’s reputation has taken a permanent hit.

1) Amy’s Baking Company

Yelp/ Georgie M

This Scottsdale, Ariz. restaurant isn’t a chain, but its owners’ epic meltdown became arguably more infamous than just about any other social media disaster in history. After Gordon Ramsay famously walked out of the eatery during an episode of Kitchen Nightmares that aired in May 2013, a surge of negative remarks were posted to the restaurant’s Facebook page. Owners Samy and Amy Bouzaglo freaked out (to put it gently), replying in all-caps rants with plenty of insults and foul language. It eventually spilled over to Reddit and Yelp, with more than 1,000 comments in total. The Bouzaglos claimed that the accounts were hacked, but that doesn’t seem very plausible.


6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Here we present a number of examples where brands have shot themselves in the foot. In most cases the mistake was completely avoidable, and indeed would have been with a little more care and attention.

NB: This article was originally published in 2013, but has been updated to include examples from 2017 and the very recent past.

How not to handle a social media crisis: Carolina Girls

What happened: It all started when a teenage girl named Casey Syler decided to visit a fashion store in South Carolina to shop for a new wallet. According to Casey, as soon as she walked through the doorway a saleswoman looked up and allegedly said “Shoplifter” to one of her colleagues. For context, Casey is black.

Casey’s mother Rene (a successful blogger) shared the experience on her Facebook page. The post went viral, which prompted an appropriately contrite response from Carolina Girls on their Facebook page. Left there, the fire would have been extinguished and everyone could have moved on. But the store later posted a further Facebook message claiming an investigation had unearthed no evidence of any such comment being made, pinning the blame on ‘young shoppers’ in the store at the time.

The post inevitably poked a hornets’ nest that had begun to settle down. The store’s page was bombarded with critical comments, many of which were deleted by the page admin. To compound their mishandling of the situation, Carolina Girls ended up deleting their entire Facebook profile.

The owner of the chain brought further attention to the unfortunate saga by speaking to a news channel. Stephanie Davis insisted she had attempted to set up a meeting with Rene Syler and her daughter, but the horse had already bolted and the interview simply succeeded in attracting more online scorn.

What we can learn: The old adage about the customer always being right is as true today as it always has been. No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.

Carolina Girls initially did the right thing by publicly apologising and reaching out to the aggrieved party privately. But inexplicably they then inflamed the situation by insisting they were not at fault and censoring negative comments rather than engaging with an angered online populous. Deleting their page was akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand with a pride of lions closing in.

Be open and contrite from the outset, try to take the issue out of the public domain, and make sure your response is sufficient to throw a blanket over the fire. If not, you risk a full-scale wildfire – which will be much harder to extinguish and could irreparably damage your brand.

A social media crisis handled with honesty and speed: JoJo Maman Bebe

What happened: JoJo Maman Bebe is a UK-based baby clothes retailer targeted at mothers with large disposable incomes. Its premium prices have led to a number of second-hand selling groups being established on social media. One such group, JoJo Maman Bebe Pre-Loved Buy and Sell, has more than 20,000 members. Its popularity was clearly seen as an irritant by the company itself, and culminated in its founder posting a late-night message on the page questioning why users would want to pay near full price for her company’s products.

“Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy,” wrote Laura Tenison. “We don’t charge postage so you could get a new one for less!” The response from the group’s members was predictable, with the message being described variously as ‘incredibly rude’, ‘snotty’ and an ‘epic PR fail’.

Tenison’s response was rapid, contrite and relatable. “Late-night posting is never a good idea,” she said. “I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake.”

She apologised to the group’s members in a subsequent post, “You are wrong if you think I am condescending towards this group. I LOVE IT. Of course it is up to you to pay what you like but I often see prices which are higher than our sale prices, plus you pay postage! I do think this is a bit daft – but it’s up to you and I accept none of my business.”

What we can learn: First of all, this example emphasises the importance of a robust social media approval process. No matter how important they think they are, company owners or CEOs should not be permitted to post personal messages in the name of the brand. Else why bother hiring a marketing team or agency?

However, if a big cheese does open a can of worms, it has to be their responsibility to close it. Bringing in the brand account to clean up the mess will only make it look like the boss is hiding – which will inevitably invite more criticism. Tenison handled it well, admitting to making a mistake in a way we can all relate to. She quelled the backlash and earned the group 4,000 new members in the process.

Other notable examples

Burberry: You would think fashion brands would know celebrities more than most, right? Not in Burberry’s case. The British luxury brand tweeted what they thought was actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits. However, the image they actually used was of actor Riz Ahmed. The faux pas was made worse because both men have sub-continental origins, leading one user to accuse Burberry of thinking ‘all brown people look the same’. The company issued a public apology, and said they would be ‘checking our processes to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. One can only assume they were referring to their approval chain, which clearly failed them on this occasion.

British Airways: The British national carrier has previous with social media crises, but they clearly haven’t quite learned their lesson. The airline’s Facebook account somehow shared a post about visiting London from one of their major rivals – Virgin Atlantic. As if to make the situation worse, the post included two calls-to-action leading their audience right to their competitor’s website. Virgin understandably responded with delight, thanking their rivals and saying, ‘So kind of you to share!’. British Airways could have left it there, but their response was appropriately light-hearted considering the humourous tone of the error. They re-shared Virgin’s original post, this time with the comment, ‘Finally we agree on something expect for how to get there. #FlyBAtoLondon’.

Seoul Secret: What should have been a routine ad for a much-used beauty product created a global controversy. Skin-whitening products are popular in many Asian countries, but one company caused a storm with an online advertising campaign. Seoul Secrets shot an ad that showed an Asian woman turning black, to her apparent displeasure. A whiter version of the woman then says, “Just being white, you will win”. Even allowing for any cultural differences, the ad was always going to cause a storm. The company responded quickly, issuing a ‘heart-felt apology’ on their Facebook page, and removing all materials relating to the campaign. The damage may have been done, but the apology quelled the storm and no doubt lessons were learned.

HSBC: Any brand will tell you that communication is key – even more so when the issue in question is the delayed launch of a major new product. HSBC bank were supposed to be launch partners of Apple Pay when it came to the UK, only for launch day to come and go with no sign of HSBC. But rather than informing their customers in advance, the bank waited for their disgruntled users to start asking questions on social media. Brandwatch analysis (below) illustrated the depth of ill feeling caused by the incident. However, at least they learned their lesson: when they were finally ready to launch, they announced it to their Twitter followers 48 hours in advance.


6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Here we present a number of examples where brands have shot themselves in the foot. In most cases the mistake was completely avoidable, and indeed would have been with a little more care and attention.

NB: This article was originally published in 2013, but has been updated to include examples from 2017 and the very recent past.

How not to handle a social media crisis: Carolina Girls

What happened: It all started when a teenage girl named Casey Syler decided to visit a fashion store in South Carolina to shop for a new wallet. According to Casey, as soon as she walked through the doorway a saleswoman looked up and allegedly said “Shoplifter” to one of her colleagues. For context, Casey is black.

Casey’s mother Rene (a successful blogger) shared the experience on her Facebook page. The post went viral, which prompted an appropriately contrite response from Carolina Girls on their Facebook page. Left there, the fire would have been extinguished and everyone could have moved on. But the store later posted a further Facebook message claiming an investigation had unearthed no evidence of any such comment being made, pinning the blame on ‘young shoppers’ in the store at the time.

The post inevitably poked a hornets’ nest that had begun to settle down. The store’s page was bombarded with critical comments, many of which were deleted by the page admin. To compound their mishandling of the situation, Carolina Girls ended up deleting their entire Facebook profile.

The owner of the chain brought further attention to the unfortunate saga by speaking to a news channel. Stephanie Davis insisted she had attempted to set up a meeting with Rene Syler and her daughter, but the horse had already bolted and the interview simply succeeded in attracting more online scorn.

What we can learn: The old adage about the customer always being right is as true today as it always has been. No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.

Carolina Girls initially did the right thing by publicly apologising and reaching out to the aggrieved party privately. But inexplicably they then inflamed the situation by insisting they were not at fault and censoring negative comments rather than engaging with an angered online populous. Deleting their page was akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand with a pride of lions closing in.

Be open and contrite from the outset, try to take the issue out of the public domain, and make sure your response is sufficient to throw a blanket over the fire. If not, you risk a full-scale wildfire – which will be much harder to extinguish and could irreparably damage your brand.

A social media crisis handled with honesty and speed: JoJo Maman Bebe

What happened: JoJo Maman Bebe is a UK-based baby clothes retailer targeted at mothers with large disposable incomes. Its premium prices have led to a number of second-hand selling groups being established on social media. One such group, JoJo Maman Bebe Pre-Loved Buy and Sell, has more than 20,000 members. Its popularity was clearly seen as an irritant by the company itself, and culminated in its founder posting a late-night message on the page questioning why users would want to pay near full price for her company’s products.

“Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy,” wrote Laura Tenison. “We don’t charge postage so you could get a new one for less!” The response from the group’s members was predictable, with the message being described variously as ‘incredibly rude’, ‘snotty’ and an ‘epic PR fail’.

Tenison’s response was rapid, contrite and relatable. “Late-night posting is never a good idea,” she said. “I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake.”

She apologised to the group’s members in a subsequent post, “You are wrong if you think I am condescending towards this group. I LOVE IT. Of course it is up to you to pay what you like but I often see prices which are higher than our sale prices, plus you pay postage! I do think this is a bit daft – but it’s up to you and I accept none of my business.”

What we can learn: First of all, this example emphasises the importance of a robust social media approval process. No matter how important they think they are, company owners or CEOs should not be permitted to post personal messages in the name of the brand. Else why bother hiring a marketing team or agency?

However, if a big cheese does open a can of worms, it has to be their responsibility to close it. Bringing in the brand account to clean up the mess will only make it look like the boss is hiding – which will inevitably invite more criticism. Tenison handled it well, admitting to making a mistake in a way we can all relate to. She quelled the backlash and earned the group 4,000 new members in the process.

Other notable examples

Burberry: You would think fashion brands would know celebrities more than most, right? Not in Burberry’s case. The British luxury brand tweeted what they thought was actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits. However, the image they actually used was of actor Riz Ahmed. The faux pas was made worse because both men have sub-continental origins, leading one user to accuse Burberry of thinking ‘all brown people look the same’. The company issued a public apology, and said they would be ‘checking our processes to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. One can only assume they were referring to their approval chain, which clearly failed them on this occasion.

British Airways: The British national carrier has previous with social media crises, but they clearly haven’t quite learned their lesson. The airline’s Facebook account somehow shared a post about visiting London from one of their major rivals – Virgin Atlantic. As if to make the situation worse, the post included two calls-to-action leading their audience right to their competitor’s website. Virgin understandably responded with delight, thanking their rivals and saying, ‘So kind of you to share!’. British Airways could have left it there, but their response was appropriately light-hearted considering the humourous tone of the error. They re-shared Virgin’s original post, this time with the comment, ‘Finally we agree on something expect for how to get there. #FlyBAtoLondon’.

Seoul Secret: What should have been a routine ad for a much-used beauty product created a global controversy. Skin-whitening products are popular in many Asian countries, but one company caused a storm with an online advertising campaign. Seoul Secrets shot an ad that showed an Asian woman turning black, to her apparent displeasure. A whiter version of the woman then says, “Just being white, you will win”. Even allowing for any cultural differences, the ad was always going to cause a storm. The company responded quickly, issuing a ‘heart-felt apology’ on their Facebook page, and removing all materials relating to the campaign. The damage may have been done, but the apology quelled the storm and no doubt lessons were learned.

HSBC: Any brand will tell you that communication is key – even more so when the issue in question is the delayed launch of a major new product. HSBC bank were supposed to be launch partners of Apple Pay when it came to the UK, only for launch day to come and go with no sign of HSBC. But rather than informing their customers in advance, the bank waited for their disgruntled users to start asking questions on social media. Brandwatch analysis (below) illustrated the depth of ill feeling caused by the incident. However, at least they learned their lesson: when they were finally ready to launch, they announced it to their Twitter followers 48 hours in advance.


6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Here we present a number of examples where brands have shot themselves in the foot. In most cases the mistake was completely avoidable, and indeed would have been with a little more care and attention.

NB: This article was originally published in 2013, but has been updated to include examples from 2017 and the very recent past.

How not to handle a social media crisis: Carolina Girls

What happened: It all started when a teenage girl named Casey Syler decided to visit a fashion store in South Carolina to shop for a new wallet. According to Casey, as soon as she walked through the doorway a saleswoman looked up and allegedly said “Shoplifter” to one of her colleagues. For context, Casey is black.

Casey’s mother Rene (a successful blogger) shared the experience on her Facebook page. The post went viral, which prompted an appropriately contrite response from Carolina Girls on their Facebook page. Left there, the fire would have been extinguished and everyone could have moved on. But the store later posted a further Facebook message claiming an investigation had unearthed no evidence of any such comment being made, pinning the blame on ‘young shoppers’ in the store at the time.

The post inevitably poked a hornets’ nest that had begun to settle down. The store’s page was bombarded with critical comments, many of which were deleted by the page admin. To compound their mishandling of the situation, Carolina Girls ended up deleting their entire Facebook profile.

The owner of the chain brought further attention to the unfortunate saga by speaking to a news channel. Stephanie Davis insisted she had attempted to set up a meeting with Rene Syler and her daughter, but the horse had already bolted and the interview simply succeeded in attracting more online scorn.

What we can learn: The old adage about the customer always being right is as true today as it always has been. No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.

Carolina Girls initially did the right thing by publicly apologising and reaching out to the aggrieved party privately. But inexplicably they then inflamed the situation by insisting they were not at fault and censoring negative comments rather than engaging with an angered online populous. Deleting their page was akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand with a pride of lions closing in.

Be open and contrite from the outset, try to take the issue out of the public domain, and make sure your response is sufficient to throw a blanket over the fire. If not, you risk a full-scale wildfire – which will be much harder to extinguish and could irreparably damage your brand.

A social media crisis handled with honesty and speed: JoJo Maman Bebe

What happened: JoJo Maman Bebe is a UK-based baby clothes retailer targeted at mothers with large disposable incomes. Its premium prices have led to a number of second-hand selling groups being established on social media. One such group, JoJo Maman Bebe Pre-Loved Buy and Sell, has more than 20,000 members. Its popularity was clearly seen as an irritant by the company itself, and culminated in its founder posting a late-night message on the page questioning why users would want to pay near full price for her company’s products.

“Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy,” wrote Laura Tenison. “We don’t charge postage so you could get a new one for less!” The response from the group’s members was predictable, with the message being described variously as ‘incredibly rude’, ‘snotty’ and an ‘epic PR fail’.

Tenison’s response was rapid, contrite and relatable. “Late-night posting is never a good idea,” she said. “I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake.”

She apologised to the group’s members in a subsequent post, “You are wrong if you think I am condescending towards this group. I LOVE IT. Of course it is up to you to pay what you like but I often see prices which are higher than our sale prices, plus you pay postage! I do think this is a bit daft – but it’s up to you and I accept none of my business.”

What we can learn: First of all, this example emphasises the importance of a robust social media approval process. No matter how important they think they are, company owners or CEOs should not be permitted to post personal messages in the name of the brand. Else why bother hiring a marketing team or agency?

However, if a big cheese does open a can of worms, it has to be their responsibility to close it. Bringing in the brand account to clean up the mess will only make it look like the boss is hiding – which will inevitably invite more criticism. Tenison handled it well, admitting to making a mistake in a way we can all relate to. She quelled the backlash and earned the group 4,000 new members in the process.

Other notable examples

Burberry: You would think fashion brands would know celebrities more than most, right? Not in Burberry’s case. The British luxury brand tweeted what they thought was actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits. However, the image they actually used was of actor Riz Ahmed. The faux pas was made worse because both men have sub-continental origins, leading one user to accuse Burberry of thinking ‘all brown people look the same’. The company issued a public apology, and said they would be ‘checking our processes to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. One can only assume they were referring to their approval chain, which clearly failed them on this occasion.

British Airways: The British national carrier has previous with social media crises, but they clearly haven’t quite learned their lesson. The airline’s Facebook account somehow shared a post about visiting London from one of their major rivals – Virgin Atlantic. As if to make the situation worse, the post included two calls-to-action leading their audience right to their competitor’s website. Virgin understandably responded with delight, thanking their rivals and saying, ‘So kind of you to share!’. British Airways could have left it there, but their response was appropriately light-hearted considering the humourous tone of the error. They re-shared Virgin’s original post, this time with the comment, ‘Finally we agree on something expect for how to get there. #FlyBAtoLondon’.

Seoul Secret: What should have been a routine ad for a much-used beauty product created a global controversy. Skin-whitening products are popular in many Asian countries, but one company caused a storm with an online advertising campaign. Seoul Secrets shot an ad that showed an Asian woman turning black, to her apparent displeasure. A whiter version of the woman then says, “Just being white, you will win”. Even allowing for any cultural differences, the ad was always going to cause a storm. The company responded quickly, issuing a ‘heart-felt apology’ on their Facebook page, and removing all materials relating to the campaign. The damage may have been done, but the apology quelled the storm and no doubt lessons were learned.

HSBC: Any brand will tell you that communication is key – even more so when the issue in question is the delayed launch of a major new product. HSBC bank were supposed to be launch partners of Apple Pay when it came to the UK, only for launch day to come and go with no sign of HSBC. But rather than informing their customers in advance, the bank waited for their disgruntled users to start asking questions on social media. Brandwatch analysis (below) illustrated the depth of ill feeling caused by the incident. However, at least they learned their lesson: when they were finally ready to launch, they announced it to their Twitter followers 48 hours in advance.


6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Here we present a number of examples where brands have shot themselves in the foot. In most cases the mistake was completely avoidable, and indeed would have been with a little more care and attention.

NB: This article was originally published in 2013, but has been updated to include examples from 2017 and the very recent past.

How not to handle a social media crisis: Carolina Girls

What happened: It all started when a teenage girl named Casey Syler decided to visit a fashion store in South Carolina to shop for a new wallet. According to Casey, as soon as she walked through the doorway a saleswoman looked up and allegedly said “Shoplifter” to one of her colleagues. For context, Casey is black.

Casey’s mother Rene (a successful blogger) shared the experience on her Facebook page. The post went viral, which prompted an appropriately contrite response from Carolina Girls on their Facebook page. Left there, the fire would have been extinguished and everyone could have moved on. But the store later posted a further Facebook message claiming an investigation had unearthed no evidence of any such comment being made, pinning the blame on ‘young shoppers’ in the store at the time.

The post inevitably poked a hornets’ nest that had begun to settle down. The store’s page was bombarded with critical comments, many of which were deleted by the page admin. To compound their mishandling of the situation, Carolina Girls ended up deleting their entire Facebook profile.

The owner of the chain brought further attention to the unfortunate saga by speaking to a news channel. Stephanie Davis insisted she had attempted to set up a meeting with Rene Syler and her daughter, but the horse had already bolted and the interview simply succeeded in attracting more online scorn.

What we can learn: The old adage about the customer always being right is as true today as it always has been. No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.

Carolina Girls initially did the right thing by publicly apologising and reaching out to the aggrieved party privately. But inexplicably they then inflamed the situation by insisting they were not at fault and censoring negative comments rather than engaging with an angered online populous. Deleting their page was akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand with a pride of lions closing in.

Be open and contrite from the outset, try to take the issue out of the public domain, and make sure your response is sufficient to throw a blanket over the fire. If not, you risk a full-scale wildfire – which will be much harder to extinguish and could irreparably damage your brand.

A social media crisis handled with honesty and speed: JoJo Maman Bebe

What happened: JoJo Maman Bebe is a UK-based baby clothes retailer targeted at mothers with large disposable incomes. Its premium prices have led to a number of second-hand selling groups being established on social media. One such group, JoJo Maman Bebe Pre-Loved Buy and Sell, has more than 20,000 members. Its popularity was clearly seen as an irritant by the company itself, and culminated in its founder posting a late-night message on the page questioning why users would want to pay near full price for her company’s products.

“Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy,” wrote Laura Tenison. “We don’t charge postage so you could get a new one for less!” The response from the group’s members was predictable, with the message being described variously as ‘incredibly rude’, ‘snotty’ and an ‘epic PR fail’.

Tenison’s response was rapid, contrite and relatable. “Late-night posting is never a good idea,” she said. “I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake.”

She apologised to the group’s members in a subsequent post, “You are wrong if you think I am condescending towards this group. I LOVE IT. Of course it is up to you to pay what you like but I often see prices which are higher than our sale prices, plus you pay postage! I do think this is a bit daft – but it’s up to you and I accept none of my business.”

What we can learn: First of all, this example emphasises the importance of a robust social media approval process. No matter how important they think they are, company owners or CEOs should not be permitted to post personal messages in the name of the brand. Else why bother hiring a marketing team or agency?

However, if a big cheese does open a can of worms, it has to be their responsibility to close it. Bringing in the brand account to clean up the mess will only make it look like the boss is hiding – which will inevitably invite more criticism. Tenison handled it well, admitting to making a mistake in a way we can all relate to. She quelled the backlash and earned the group 4,000 new members in the process.

Other notable examples

Burberry: You would think fashion brands would know celebrities more than most, right? Not in Burberry’s case. The British luxury brand tweeted what they thought was actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits. However, the image they actually used was of actor Riz Ahmed. The faux pas was made worse because both men have sub-continental origins, leading one user to accuse Burberry of thinking ‘all brown people look the same’. The company issued a public apology, and said they would be ‘checking our processes to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. One can only assume they were referring to their approval chain, which clearly failed them on this occasion.

British Airways: The British national carrier has previous with social media crises, but they clearly haven’t quite learned their lesson. The airline’s Facebook account somehow shared a post about visiting London from one of their major rivals – Virgin Atlantic. As if to make the situation worse, the post included two calls-to-action leading their audience right to their competitor’s website. Virgin understandably responded with delight, thanking their rivals and saying, ‘So kind of you to share!’. British Airways could have left it there, but their response was appropriately light-hearted considering the humourous tone of the error. They re-shared Virgin’s original post, this time with the comment, ‘Finally we agree on something expect for how to get there. #FlyBAtoLondon’.

Seoul Secret: What should have been a routine ad for a much-used beauty product created a global controversy. Skin-whitening products are popular in many Asian countries, but one company caused a storm with an online advertising campaign. Seoul Secrets shot an ad that showed an Asian woman turning black, to her apparent displeasure. A whiter version of the woman then says, “Just being white, you will win”. Even allowing for any cultural differences, the ad was always going to cause a storm. The company responded quickly, issuing a ‘heart-felt apology’ on their Facebook page, and removing all materials relating to the campaign. The damage may have been done, but the apology quelled the storm and no doubt lessons were learned.

HSBC: Any brand will tell you that communication is key – even more so when the issue in question is the delayed launch of a major new product. HSBC bank were supposed to be launch partners of Apple Pay when it came to the UK, only for launch day to come and go with no sign of HSBC. But rather than informing their customers in advance, the bank waited for their disgruntled users to start asking questions on social media. Brandwatch analysis (below) illustrated the depth of ill feeling caused by the incident. However, at least they learned their lesson: when they were finally ready to launch, they announced it to their Twitter followers 48 hours in advance.


6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Here we present a number of examples where brands have shot themselves in the foot. In most cases the mistake was completely avoidable, and indeed would have been with a little more care and attention.

NB: This article was originally published in 2013, but has been updated to include examples from 2017 and the very recent past.

How not to handle a social media crisis: Carolina Girls

What happened: It all started when a teenage girl named Casey Syler decided to visit a fashion store in South Carolina to shop for a new wallet. According to Casey, as soon as she walked through the doorway a saleswoman looked up and allegedly said “Shoplifter” to one of her colleagues. For context, Casey is black.

Casey’s mother Rene (a successful blogger) shared the experience on her Facebook page. The post went viral, which prompted an appropriately contrite response from Carolina Girls on their Facebook page. Left there, the fire would have been extinguished and everyone could have moved on. But the store later posted a further Facebook message claiming an investigation had unearthed no evidence of any such comment being made, pinning the blame on ‘young shoppers’ in the store at the time.

The post inevitably poked a hornets’ nest that had begun to settle down. The store’s page was bombarded with critical comments, many of which were deleted by the page admin. To compound their mishandling of the situation, Carolina Girls ended up deleting their entire Facebook profile.

The owner of the chain brought further attention to the unfortunate saga by speaking to a news channel. Stephanie Davis insisted she had attempted to set up a meeting with Rene Syler and her daughter, but the horse had already bolted and the interview simply succeeded in attracting more online scorn.

What we can learn: The old adage about the customer always being right is as true today as it always has been. No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.

Carolina Girls initially did the right thing by publicly apologising and reaching out to the aggrieved party privately. But inexplicably they then inflamed the situation by insisting they were not at fault and censoring negative comments rather than engaging with an angered online populous. Deleting their page was akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand with a pride of lions closing in.

Be open and contrite from the outset, try to take the issue out of the public domain, and make sure your response is sufficient to throw a blanket over the fire. If not, you risk a full-scale wildfire – which will be much harder to extinguish and could irreparably damage your brand.

A social media crisis handled with honesty and speed: JoJo Maman Bebe

What happened: JoJo Maman Bebe is a UK-based baby clothes retailer targeted at mothers with large disposable incomes. Its premium prices have led to a number of second-hand selling groups being established on social media. One such group, JoJo Maman Bebe Pre-Loved Buy and Sell, has more than 20,000 members. Its popularity was clearly seen as an irritant by the company itself, and culminated in its founder posting a late-night message on the page questioning why users would want to pay near full price for her company’s products.

“Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy,” wrote Laura Tenison. “We don’t charge postage so you could get a new one for less!” The response from the group’s members was predictable, with the message being described variously as ‘incredibly rude’, ‘snotty’ and an ‘epic PR fail’.

Tenison’s response was rapid, contrite and relatable. “Late-night posting is never a good idea,” she said. “I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake.”

She apologised to the group’s members in a subsequent post, “You are wrong if you think I am condescending towards this group. I LOVE IT. Of course it is up to you to pay what you like but I often see prices which are higher than our sale prices, plus you pay postage! I do think this is a bit daft – but it’s up to you and I accept none of my business.”

What we can learn: First of all, this example emphasises the importance of a robust social media approval process. No matter how important they think they are, company owners or CEOs should not be permitted to post personal messages in the name of the brand. Else why bother hiring a marketing team or agency?

However, if a big cheese does open a can of worms, it has to be their responsibility to close it. Bringing in the brand account to clean up the mess will only make it look like the boss is hiding – which will inevitably invite more criticism. Tenison handled it well, admitting to making a mistake in a way we can all relate to. She quelled the backlash and earned the group 4,000 new members in the process.

Other notable examples

Burberry: You would think fashion brands would know celebrities more than most, right? Not in Burberry’s case. The British luxury brand tweeted what they thought was actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits. However, the image they actually used was of actor Riz Ahmed. The faux pas was made worse because both men have sub-continental origins, leading one user to accuse Burberry of thinking ‘all brown people look the same’. The company issued a public apology, and said they would be ‘checking our processes to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. One can only assume they were referring to their approval chain, which clearly failed them on this occasion.

British Airways: The British national carrier has previous with social media crises, but they clearly haven’t quite learned their lesson. The airline’s Facebook account somehow shared a post about visiting London from one of their major rivals – Virgin Atlantic. As if to make the situation worse, the post included two calls-to-action leading their audience right to their competitor’s website. Virgin understandably responded with delight, thanking their rivals and saying, ‘So kind of you to share!’. British Airways could have left it there, but their response was appropriately light-hearted considering the humourous tone of the error. They re-shared Virgin’s original post, this time with the comment, ‘Finally we agree on something expect for how to get there. #FlyBAtoLondon’.

Seoul Secret: What should have been a routine ad for a much-used beauty product created a global controversy. Skin-whitening products are popular in many Asian countries, but one company caused a storm with an online advertising campaign. Seoul Secrets shot an ad that showed an Asian woman turning black, to her apparent displeasure. A whiter version of the woman then says, “Just being white, you will win”. Even allowing for any cultural differences, the ad was always going to cause a storm. The company responded quickly, issuing a ‘heart-felt apology’ on their Facebook page, and removing all materials relating to the campaign. The damage may have been done, but the apology quelled the storm and no doubt lessons were learned.

HSBC: Any brand will tell you that communication is key – even more so when the issue in question is the delayed launch of a major new product. HSBC bank were supposed to be launch partners of Apple Pay when it came to the UK, only for launch day to come and go with no sign of HSBC. But rather than informing their customers in advance, the bank waited for their disgruntled users to start asking questions on social media. Brandwatch analysis (below) illustrated the depth of ill feeling caused by the incident. However, at least they learned their lesson: when they were finally ready to launch, they announced it to their Twitter followers 48 hours in advance.


6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Here we present a number of examples where brands have shot themselves in the foot. In most cases the mistake was completely avoidable, and indeed would have been with a little more care and attention.

NB: This article was originally published in 2013, but has been updated to include examples from 2017 and the very recent past.

How not to handle a social media crisis: Carolina Girls

What happened: It all started when a teenage girl named Casey Syler decided to visit a fashion store in South Carolina to shop for a new wallet. According to Casey, as soon as she walked through the doorway a saleswoman looked up and allegedly said “Shoplifter” to one of her colleagues. For context, Casey is black.

Casey’s mother Rene (a successful blogger) shared the experience on her Facebook page. The post went viral, which prompted an appropriately contrite response from Carolina Girls on their Facebook page. Left there, the fire would have been extinguished and everyone could have moved on. But the store later posted a further Facebook message claiming an investigation had unearthed no evidence of any such comment being made, pinning the blame on ‘young shoppers’ in the store at the time.

The post inevitably poked a hornets’ nest that had begun to settle down. The store’s page was bombarded with critical comments, many of which were deleted by the page admin. To compound their mishandling of the situation, Carolina Girls ended up deleting their entire Facebook profile.

The owner of the chain brought further attention to the unfortunate saga by speaking to a news channel. Stephanie Davis insisted she had attempted to set up a meeting with Rene Syler and her daughter, but the horse had already bolted and the interview simply succeeded in attracting more online scorn.

What we can learn: The old adage about the customer always being right is as true today as it always has been. No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.

Carolina Girls initially did the right thing by publicly apologising and reaching out to the aggrieved party privately. But inexplicably they then inflamed the situation by insisting they were not at fault and censoring negative comments rather than engaging with an angered online populous. Deleting their page was akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand with a pride of lions closing in.

Be open and contrite from the outset, try to take the issue out of the public domain, and make sure your response is sufficient to throw a blanket over the fire. If not, you risk a full-scale wildfire – which will be much harder to extinguish and could irreparably damage your brand.

A social media crisis handled with honesty and speed: JoJo Maman Bebe

What happened: JoJo Maman Bebe is a UK-based baby clothes retailer targeted at mothers with large disposable incomes. Its premium prices have led to a number of second-hand selling groups being established on social media. One such group, JoJo Maman Bebe Pre-Loved Buy and Sell, has more than 20,000 members. Its popularity was clearly seen as an irritant by the company itself, and culminated in its founder posting a late-night message on the page questioning why users would want to pay near full price for her company’s products.

“Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy,” wrote Laura Tenison. “We don’t charge postage so you could get a new one for less!” The response from the group’s members was predictable, with the message being described variously as ‘incredibly rude’, ‘snotty’ and an ‘epic PR fail’.

Tenison’s response was rapid, contrite and relatable. “Late-night posting is never a good idea,” she said. “I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake.”

She apologised to the group’s members in a subsequent post, “You are wrong if you think I am condescending towards this group. I LOVE IT. Of course it is up to you to pay what you like but I often see prices which are higher than our sale prices, plus you pay postage! I do think this is a bit daft – but it’s up to you and I accept none of my business.”

What we can learn: First of all, this example emphasises the importance of a robust social media approval process. No matter how important they think they are, company owners or CEOs should not be permitted to post personal messages in the name of the brand. Else why bother hiring a marketing team or agency?

However, if a big cheese does open a can of worms, it has to be their responsibility to close it. Bringing in the brand account to clean up the mess will only make it look like the boss is hiding – which will inevitably invite more criticism. Tenison handled it well, admitting to making a mistake in a way we can all relate to. She quelled the backlash and earned the group 4,000 new members in the process.

Other notable examples

Burberry: You would think fashion brands would know celebrities more than most, right? Not in Burberry’s case. The British luxury brand tweeted what they thought was actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits. However, the image they actually used was of actor Riz Ahmed. The faux pas was made worse because both men have sub-continental origins, leading one user to accuse Burberry of thinking ‘all brown people look the same’. The company issued a public apology, and said they would be ‘checking our processes to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. One can only assume they were referring to their approval chain, which clearly failed them on this occasion.

British Airways: The British national carrier has previous with social media crises, but they clearly haven’t quite learned their lesson. The airline’s Facebook account somehow shared a post about visiting London from one of their major rivals – Virgin Atlantic. As if to make the situation worse, the post included two calls-to-action leading their audience right to their competitor’s website. Virgin understandably responded with delight, thanking their rivals and saying, ‘So kind of you to share!’. British Airways could have left it there, but their response was appropriately light-hearted considering the humourous tone of the error. They re-shared Virgin’s original post, this time with the comment, ‘Finally we agree on something expect for how to get there. #FlyBAtoLondon’.

Seoul Secret: What should have been a routine ad for a much-used beauty product created a global controversy. Skin-whitening products are popular in many Asian countries, but one company caused a storm with an online advertising campaign. Seoul Secrets shot an ad that showed an Asian woman turning black, to her apparent displeasure. A whiter version of the woman then says, “Just being white, you will win”. Even allowing for any cultural differences, the ad was always going to cause a storm. The company responded quickly, issuing a ‘heart-felt apology’ on their Facebook page, and removing all materials relating to the campaign. The damage may have been done, but the apology quelled the storm and no doubt lessons were learned.

HSBC: Any brand will tell you that communication is key – even more so when the issue in question is the delayed launch of a major new product. HSBC bank were supposed to be launch partners of Apple Pay when it came to the UK, only for launch day to come and go with no sign of HSBC. But rather than informing their customers in advance, the bank waited for their disgruntled users to start asking questions on social media. Brandwatch analysis (below) illustrated the depth of ill feeling caused by the incident. However, at least they learned their lesson: when they were finally ready to launch, they announced it to their Twitter followers 48 hours in advance.


6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Here we present a number of examples where brands have shot themselves in the foot. In most cases the mistake was completely avoidable, and indeed would have been with a little more care and attention.

NB: This article was originally published in 2013, but has been updated to include examples from 2017 and the very recent past.

How not to handle a social media crisis: Carolina Girls

What happened: It all started when a teenage girl named Casey Syler decided to visit a fashion store in South Carolina to shop for a new wallet. According to Casey, as soon as she walked through the doorway a saleswoman looked up and allegedly said “Shoplifter” to one of her colleagues. For context, Casey is black.

Casey’s mother Rene (a successful blogger) shared the experience on her Facebook page. The post went viral, which prompted an appropriately contrite response from Carolina Girls on their Facebook page. Left there, the fire would have been extinguished and everyone could have moved on. But the store later posted a further Facebook message claiming an investigation had unearthed no evidence of any such comment being made, pinning the blame on ‘young shoppers’ in the store at the time.

The post inevitably poked a hornets’ nest that had begun to settle down. The store’s page was bombarded with critical comments, many of which were deleted by the page admin. To compound their mishandling of the situation, Carolina Girls ended up deleting their entire Facebook profile.

The owner of the chain brought further attention to the unfortunate saga by speaking to a news channel. Stephanie Davis insisted she had attempted to set up a meeting with Rene Syler and her daughter, but the horse had already bolted and the interview simply succeeded in attracting more online scorn.

What we can learn: The old adage about the customer always being right is as true today as it always has been. No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.

Carolina Girls initially did the right thing by publicly apologising and reaching out to the aggrieved party privately. But inexplicably they then inflamed the situation by insisting they were not at fault and censoring negative comments rather than engaging with an angered online populous. Deleting their page was akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand with a pride of lions closing in.

Be open and contrite from the outset, try to take the issue out of the public domain, and make sure your response is sufficient to throw a blanket over the fire. If not, you risk a full-scale wildfire – which will be much harder to extinguish and could irreparably damage your brand.

A social media crisis handled with honesty and speed: JoJo Maman Bebe

What happened: JoJo Maman Bebe is a UK-based baby clothes retailer targeted at mothers with large disposable incomes. Its premium prices have led to a number of second-hand selling groups being established on social media. One such group, JoJo Maman Bebe Pre-Loved Buy and Sell, has more than 20,000 members. Its popularity was clearly seen as an irritant by the company itself, and culminated in its founder posting a late-night message on the page questioning why users would want to pay near full price for her company’s products.

“Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy,” wrote Laura Tenison. “We don’t charge postage so you could get a new one for less!” The response from the group’s members was predictable, with the message being described variously as ‘incredibly rude’, ‘snotty’ and an ‘epic PR fail’.

Tenison’s response was rapid, contrite and relatable. “Late-night posting is never a good idea,” she said. “I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake.”

She apologised to the group’s members in a subsequent post, “You are wrong if you think I am condescending towards this group. I LOVE IT. Of course it is up to you to pay what you like but I often see prices which are higher than our sale prices, plus you pay postage! I do think this is a bit daft – but it’s up to you and I accept none of my business.”

What we can learn: First of all, this example emphasises the importance of a robust social media approval process. No matter how important they think they are, company owners or CEOs should not be permitted to post personal messages in the name of the brand. Else why bother hiring a marketing team or agency?

However, if a big cheese does open a can of worms, it has to be their responsibility to close it. Bringing in the brand account to clean up the mess will only make it look like the boss is hiding – which will inevitably invite more criticism. Tenison handled it well, admitting to making a mistake in a way we can all relate to. She quelled the backlash and earned the group 4,000 new members in the process.

Other notable examples

Burberry: You would think fashion brands would know celebrities more than most, right? Not in Burberry’s case. The British luxury brand tweeted what they thought was actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits. However, the image they actually used was of actor Riz Ahmed. The faux pas was made worse because both men have sub-continental origins, leading one user to accuse Burberry of thinking ‘all brown people look the same’. The company issued a public apology, and said they would be ‘checking our processes to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. One can only assume they were referring to their approval chain, which clearly failed them on this occasion.

British Airways: The British national carrier has previous with social media crises, but they clearly haven’t quite learned their lesson. The airline’s Facebook account somehow shared a post about visiting London from one of their major rivals – Virgin Atlantic. As if to make the situation worse, the post included two calls-to-action leading their audience right to their competitor’s website. Virgin understandably responded with delight, thanking their rivals and saying, ‘So kind of you to share!’. British Airways could have left it there, but their response was appropriately light-hearted considering the humourous tone of the error. They re-shared Virgin’s original post, this time with the comment, ‘Finally we agree on something expect for how to get there. #FlyBAtoLondon’.

Seoul Secret: What should have been a routine ad for a much-used beauty product created a global controversy. Skin-whitening products are popular in many Asian countries, but one company caused a storm with an online advertising campaign. Seoul Secrets shot an ad that showed an Asian woman turning black, to her apparent displeasure. A whiter version of the woman then says, “Just being white, you will win”. Even allowing for any cultural differences, the ad was always going to cause a storm. The company responded quickly, issuing a ‘heart-felt apology’ on their Facebook page, and removing all materials relating to the campaign. The damage may have been done, but the apology quelled the storm and no doubt lessons were learned.

HSBC: Any brand will tell you that communication is key – even more so when the issue in question is the delayed launch of a major new product. HSBC bank were supposed to be launch partners of Apple Pay when it came to the UK, only for launch day to come and go with no sign of HSBC. But rather than informing their customers in advance, the bank waited for their disgruntled users to start asking questions on social media. Brandwatch analysis (below) illustrated the depth of ill feeling caused by the incident. However, at least they learned their lesson: when they were finally ready to launch, they announced it to their Twitter followers 48 hours in advance.


6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Here we present a number of examples where brands have shot themselves in the foot. In most cases the mistake was completely avoidable, and indeed would have been with a little more care and attention.

NB: This article was originally published in 2013, but has been updated to include examples from 2017 and the very recent past.

How not to handle a social media crisis: Carolina Girls

What happened: It all started when a teenage girl named Casey Syler decided to visit a fashion store in South Carolina to shop for a new wallet. According to Casey, as soon as she walked through the doorway a saleswoman looked up and allegedly said “Shoplifter” to one of her colleagues. For context, Casey is black.

Casey’s mother Rene (a successful blogger) shared the experience on her Facebook page. The post went viral, which prompted an appropriately contrite response from Carolina Girls on their Facebook page. Left there, the fire would have been extinguished and everyone could have moved on. But the store later posted a further Facebook message claiming an investigation had unearthed no evidence of any such comment being made, pinning the blame on ‘young shoppers’ in the store at the time.

The post inevitably poked a hornets’ nest that had begun to settle down. The store’s page was bombarded with critical comments, many of which were deleted by the page admin. To compound their mishandling of the situation, Carolina Girls ended up deleting their entire Facebook profile.

The owner of the chain brought further attention to the unfortunate saga by speaking to a news channel. Stephanie Davis insisted she had attempted to set up a meeting with Rene Syler and her daughter, but the horse had already bolted and the interview simply succeeded in attracting more online scorn.

What we can learn: The old adage about the customer always being right is as true today as it always has been. No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.

Carolina Girls initially did the right thing by publicly apologising and reaching out to the aggrieved party privately. But inexplicably they then inflamed the situation by insisting they were not at fault and censoring negative comments rather than engaging with an angered online populous. Deleting their page was akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand with a pride of lions closing in.

Be open and contrite from the outset, try to take the issue out of the public domain, and make sure your response is sufficient to throw a blanket over the fire. If not, you risk a full-scale wildfire – which will be much harder to extinguish and could irreparably damage your brand.

A social media crisis handled with honesty and speed: JoJo Maman Bebe

What happened: JoJo Maman Bebe is a UK-based baby clothes retailer targeted at mothers with large disposable incomes. Its premium prices have led to a number of second-hand selling groups being established on social media. One such group, JoJo Maman Bebe Pre-Loved Buy and Sell, has more than 20,000 members. Its popularity was clearly seen as an irritant by the company itself, and culminated in its founder posting a late-night message on the page questioning why users would want to pay near full price for her company’s products.

“Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy,” wrote Laura Tenison. “We don’t charge postage so you could get a new one for less!” The response from the group’s members was predictable, with the message being described variously as ‘incredibly rude’, ‘snotty’ and an ‘epic PR fail’.

Tenison’s response was rapid, contrite and relatable. “Late-night posting is never a good idea,” she said. “I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake.”

She apologised to the group’s members in a subsequent post, “You are wrong if you think I am condescending towards this group. I LOVE IT. Of course it is up to you to pay what you like but I often see prices which are higher than our sale prices, plus you pay postage! I do think this is a bit daft – but it’s up to you and I accept none of my business.”

What we can learn: First of all, this example emphasises the importance of a robust social media approval process. No matter how important they think they are, company owners or CEOs should not be permitted to post personal messages in the name of the brand. Else why bother hiring a marketing team or agency?

However, if a big cheese does open a can of worms, it has to be their responsibility to close it. Bringing in the brand account to clean up the mess will only make it look like the boss is hiding – which will inevitably invite more criticism. Tenison handled it well, admitting to making a mistake in a way we can all relate to. She quelled the backlash and earned the group 4,000 new members in the process.

Other notable examples

Burberry: You would think fashion brands would know celebrities more than most, right? Not in Burberry’s case. The British luxury brand tweeted what they thought was actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits. However, the image they actually used was of actor Riz Ahmed. The faux pas was made worse because both men have sub-continental origins, leading one user to accuse Burberry of thinking ‘all brown people look the same’. The company issued a public apology, and said they would be ‘checking our processes to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. One can only assume they were referring to their approval chain, which clearly failed them on this occasion.

British Airways: The British national carrier has previous with social media crises, but they clearly haven’t quite learned their lesson. The airline’s Facebook account somehow shared a post about visiting London from one of their major rivals – Virgin Atlantic. As if to make the situation worse, the post included two calls-to-action leading their audience right to their competitor’s website. Virgin understandably responded with delight, thanking their rivals and saying, ‘So kind of you to share!’. British Airways could have left it there, but their response was appropriately light-hearted considering the humourous tone of the error. They re-shared Virgin’s original post, this time with the comment, ‘Finally we agree on something expect for how to get there. #FlyBAtoLondon’.

Seoul Secret: What should have been a routine ad for a much-used beauty product created a global controversy. Skin-whitening products are popular in many Asian countries, but one company caused a storm with an online advertising campaign. Seoul Secrets shot an ad that showed an Asian woman turning black, to her apparent displeasure. A whiter version of the woman then says, “Just being white, you will win”. Even allowing for any cultural differences, the ad was always going to cause a storm. The company responded quickly, issuing a ‘heart-felt apology’ on their Facebook page, and removing all materials relating to the campaign. The damage may have been done, but the apology quelled the storm and no doubt lessons were learned.

HSBC: Any brand will tell you that communication is key – even more so when the issue in question is the delayed launch of a major new product. HSBC bank were supposed to be launch partners of Apple Pay when it came to the UK, only for launch day to come and go with no sign of HSBC. But rather than informing their customers in advance, the bank waited for their disgruntled users to start asking questions on social media. Brandwatch analysis (below) illustrated the depth of ill feeling caused by the incident. However, at least they learned their lesson: when they were finally ready to launch, they announced it to their Twitter followers 48 hours in advance.


6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Here we present a number of examples where brands have shot themselves in the foot. In most cases the mistake was completely avoidable, and indeed would have been with a little more care and attention.

NB: This article was originally published in 2013, but has been updated to include examples from 2017 and the very recent past.

How not to handle a social media crisis: Carolina Girls

What happened: It all started when a teenage girl named Casey Syler decided to visit a fashion store in South Carolina to shop for a new wallet. According to Casey, as soon as she walked through the doorway a saleswoman looked up and allegedly said “Shoplifter” to one of her colleagues. For context, Casey is black.

Casey’s mother Rene (a successful blogger) shared the experience on her Facebook page. The post went viral, which prompted an appropriately contrite response from Carolina Girls on their Facebook page. Left there, the fire would have been extinguished and everyone could have moved on. But the store later posted a further Facebook message claiming an investigation had unearthed no evidence of any such comment being made, pinning the blame on ‘young shoppers’ in the store at the time.

The post inevitably poked a hornets’ nest that had begun to settle down. The store’s page was bombarded with critical comments, many of which were deleted by the page admin. To compound their mishandling of the situation, Carolina Girls ended up deleting their entire Facebook profile.

The owner of the chain brought further attention to the unfortunate saga by speaking to a news channel. Stephanie Davis insisted she had attempted to set up a meeting with Rene Syler and her daughter, but the horse had already bolted and the interview simply succeeded in attracting more online scorn.

What we can learn: The old adage about the customer always being right is as true today as it always has been. No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.

Carolina Girls initially did the right thing by publicly apologising and reaching out to the aggrieved party privately. But inexplicably they then inflamed the situation by insisting they were not at fault and censoring negative comments rather than engaging with an angered online populous. Deleting their page was akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand with a pride of lions closing in.

Be open and contrite from the outset, try to take the issue out of the public domain, and make sure your response is sufficient to throw a blanket over the fire. If not, you risk a full-scale wildfire – which will be much harder to extinguish and could irreparably damage your brand.

A social media crisis handled with honesty and speed: JoJo Maman Bebe

What happened: JoJo Maman Bebe is a UK-based baby clothes retailer targeted at mothers with large disposable incomes. Its premium prices have led to a number of second-hand selling groups being established on social media. One such group, JoJo Maman Bebe Pre-Loved Buy and Sell, has more than 20,000 members. Its popularity was clearly seen as an irritant by the company itself, and culminated in its founder posting a late-night message on the page questioning why users would want to pay near full price for her company’s products.

“Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy,” wrote Laura Tenison. “We don’t charge postage so you could get a new one for less!” The response from the group’s members was predictable, with the message being described variously as ‘incredibly rude’, ‘snotty’ and an ‘epic PR fail’.

Tenison’s response was rapid, contrite and relatable. “Late-night posting is never a good idea,” she said. “I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake.”

She apologised to the group’s members in a subsequent post, “You are wrong if you think I am condescending towards this group. I LOVE IT. Of course it is up to you to pay what you like but I often see prices which are higher than our sale prices, plus you pay postage! I do think this is a bit daft – but it’s up to you and I accept none of my business.”

What we can learn: First of all, this example emphasises the importance of a robust social media approval process. No matter how important they think they are, company owners or CEOs should not be permitted to post personal messages in the name of the brand. Else why bother hiring a marketing team or agency?

However, if a big cheese does open a can of worms, it has to be their responsibility to close it. Bringing in the brand account to clean up the mess will only make it look like the boss is hiding – which will inevitably invite more criticism. Tenison handled it well, admitting to making a mistake in a way we can all relate to. She quelled the backlash and earned the group 4,000 new members in the process.

Other notable examples

Burberry: You would think fashion brands would know celebrities more than most, right? Not in Burberry’s case. The British luxury brand tweeted what they thought was actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits. However, the image they actually used was of actor Riz Ahmed. The faux pas was made worse because both men have sub-continental origins, leading one user to accuse Burberry of thinking ‘all brown people look the same’. The company issued a public apology, and said they would be ‘checking our processes to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. One can only assume they were referring to their approval chain, which clearly failed them on this occasion.

British Airways: The British national carrier has previous with social media crises, but they clearly haven’t quite learned their lesson. The airline’s Facebook account somehow shared a post about visiting London from one of their major rivals – Virgin Atlantic. As if to make the situation worse, the post included two calls-to-action leading their audience right to their competitor’s website. Virgin understandably responded with delight, thanking their rivals and saying, ‘So kind of you to share!’. British Airways could have left it there, but their response was appropriately light-hearted considering the humourous tone of the error. They re-shared Virgin’s original post, this time with the comment, ‘Finally we agree on something expect for how to get there. #FlyBAtoLondon’.

Seoul Secret: What should have been a routine ad for a much-used beauty product created a global controversy. Skin-whitening products are popular in many Asian countries, but one company caused a storm with an online advertising campaign. Seoul Secrets shot an ad that showed an Asian woman turning black, to her apparent displeasure. A whiter version of the woman then says, “Just being white, you will win”. Even allowing for any cultural differences, the ad was always going to cause a storm. The company responded quickly, issuing a ‘heart-felt apology’ on their Facebook page, and removing all materials relating to the campaign. The damage may have been done, but the apology quelled the storm and no doubt lessons were learned.

HSBC: Any brand will tell you that communication is key – even more so when the issue in question is the delayed launch of a major new product. HSBC bank were supposed to be launch partners of Apple Pay when it came to the UK, only for launch day to come and go with no sign of HSBC. But rather than informing their customers in advance, the bank waited for their disgruntled users to start asking questions on social media. Brandwatch analysis (below) illustrated the depth of ill feeling caused by the incident. However, at least they learned their lesson: when they were finally ready to launch, they announced it to their Twitter followers 48 hours in advance.


6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Here we present a number of examples where brands have shot themselves in the foot. In most cases the mistake was completely avoidable, and indeed would have been with a little more care and attention.

NB: This article was originally published in 2013, but has been updated to include examples from 2017 and the very recent past.

How not to handle a social media crisis: Carolina Girls

What happened: It all started when a teenage girl named Casey Syler decided to visit a fashion store in South Carolina to shop for a new wallet. According to Casey, as soon as she walked through the doorway a saleswoman looked up and allegedly said “Shoplifter” to one of her colleagues. For context, Casey is black.

Casey’s mother Rene (a successful blogger) shared the experience on her Facebook page. The post went viral, which prompted an appropriately contrite response from Carolina Girls on their Facebook page. Left there, the fire would have been extinguished and everyone could have moved on. But the store later posted a further Facebook message claiming an investigation had unearthed no evidence of any such comment being made, pinning the blame on ‘young shoppers’ in the store at the time.

The post inevitably poked a hornets’ nest that had begun to settle down. The store’s page was bombarded with critical comments, many of which were deleted by the page admin. To compound their mishandling of the situation, Carolina Girls ended up deleting their entire Facebook profile.

The owner of the chain brought further attention to the unfortunate saga by speaking to a news channel. Stephanie Davis insisted she had attempted to set up a meeting with Rene Syler and her daughter, but the horse had already bolted and the interview simply succeeded in attracting more online scorn.

What we can learn: The old adage about the customer always being right is as true today as it always has been. No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.

Carolina Girls initially did the right thing by publicly apologising and reaching out to the aggrieved party privately. But inexplicably they then inflamed the situation by insisting they were not at fault and censoring negative comments rather than engaging with an angered online populous. Deleting their page was akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand with a pride of lions closing in.

Be open and contrite from the outset, try to take the issue out of the public domain, and make sure your response is sufficient to throw a blanket over the fire. If not, you risk a full-scale wildfire – which will be much harder to extinguish and could irreparably damage your brand.

A social media crisis handled with honesty and speed: JoJo Maman Bebe

What happened: JoJo Maman Bebe is a UK-based baby clothes retailer targeted at mothers with large disposable incomes. Its premium prices have led to a number of second-hand selling groups being established on social media. One such group, JoJo Maman Bebe Pre-Loved Buy and Sell, has more than 20,000 members. Its popularity was clearly seen as an irritant by the company itself, and culminated in its founder posting a late-night message on the page questioning why users would want to pay near full price for her company’s products.

“Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy,” wrote Laura Tenison. “We don’t charge postage so you could get a new one for less!” The response from the group’s members was predictable, with the message being described variously as ‘incredibly rude’, ‘snotty’ and an ‘epic PR fail’.

Tenison’s response was rapid, contrite and relatable. “Late-night posting is never a good idea,” she said. “I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake.”

She apologised to the group’s members in a subsequent post, “You are wrong if you think I am condescending towards this group. I LOVE IT. Of course it is up to you to pay what you like but I often see prices which are higher than our sale prices, plus you pay postage! I do think this is a bit daft – but it’s up to you and I accept none of my business.”

What we can learn: First of all, this example emphasises the importance of a robust social media approval process. No matter how important they think they are, company owners or CEOs should not be permitted to post personal messages in the name of the brand. Else why bother hiring a marketing team or agency?

However, if a big cheese does open a can of worms, it has to be their responsibility to close it. Bringing in the brand account to clean up the mess will only make it look like the boss is hiding – which will inevitably invite more criticism. Tenison handled it well, admitting to making a mistake in a way we can all relate to. She quelled the backlash and earned the group 4,000 new members in the process.

Other notable examples

Burberry: You would think fashion brands would know celebrities more than most, right? Not in Burberry’s case. The British luxury brand tweeted what they thought was actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits. However, the image they actually used was of actor Riz Ahmed. The faux pas was made worse because both men have sub-continental origins, leading one user to accuse Burberry of thinking ‘all brown people look the same’. The company issued a public apology, and said they would be ‘checking our processes to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. One can only assume they were referring to their approval chain, which clearly failed them on this occasion.

British Airways: The British national carrier has previous with social media crises, but they clearly haven’t quite learned their lesson. The airline’s Facebook account somehow shared a post about visiting London from one of their major rivals – Virgin Atlantic. As if to make the situation worse, the post included two calls-to-action leading their audience right to their competitor’s website. Virgin understandably responded with delight, thanking their rivals and saying, ‘So kind of you to share!’. British Airways could have left it there, but their response was appropriately light-hearted considering the humourous tone of the error. They re-shared Virgin’s original post, this time with the comment, ‘Finally we agree on something expect for how to get there. #FlyBAtoLondon’.

Seoul Secret: What should have been a routine ad for a much-used beauty product created a global controversy. Skin-whitening products are popular in many Asian countries, but one company caused a storm with an online advertising campaign. Seoul Secrets shot an ad that showed an Asian woman turning black, to her apparent displeasure. A whiter version of the woman then says, “Just being white, you will win”. Even allowing for any cultural differences, the ad was always going to cause a storm. The company responded quickly, issuing a ‘heart-felt apology’ on their Facebook page, and removing all materials relating to the campaign. The damage may have been done, but the apology quelled the storm and no doubt lessons were learned.

HSBC: Any brand will tell you that communication is key – even more so when the issue in question is the delayed launch of a major new product. HSBC bank were supposed to be launch partners of Apple Pay when it came to the UK, only for launch day to come and go with no sign of HSBC. But rather than informing their customers in advance, the bank waited for their disgruntled users to start asking questions on social media. Brandwatch analysis (below) illustrated the depth of ill feeling caused by the incident. However, at least they learned their lesson: when they were finally ready to launch, they announced it to their Twitter followers 48 hours in advance.


Watch the video: ΦΥΣΙΚΕΣ #ΚΑΤΑΣΤΡΟΦΕΣ στον πλανήτη στις 5-7 Απριλίου 2021. Έκρηξη ηφαιστείου Σακουρατζίμα. Πλημμύρες.