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12/03/2013 by

Brands & Social Media: The Biggest No-Nos In 2013 So Far

2013 is only 3 months in, and already brands’ social media disasters are piling up. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest no-nos of this year so far.

The year is only two and a half months old, but there already are a number of social media disasters that give us some clues about what not to do when it comes to brands and their social media profiles. Following is a top 5 of social media crises, and what can we learn from them.

5. Dominos announces gamechanger, anti-climax outrages social media.
At the beginning of this month, Dominos promised their fans a game changing announcement.

After bringing out a series of teasers to let people know about the upcoming changes, an ad was released on the promised date, featuring CEO Don Meij, announcing the introduction of new pizza toppings.

This anti-climax brought complaining social media users to Dominos’ brand pages, on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The lesson here? Don’t oversell your products through social media.

People can talk back on social networks, and aren’t afraid to put their opinions out there.

4. HMV employee live-tweets mass-firing… on official account.
HMV, the UK’s chain of record- and bookstores, has been in some financial trouble lately. Inevitably, a mass-firing took place at HMV headquarters in late January.

And we got frontrow seats to see the show: an upset employee who happened to have the login details of HMV’s official Twitter account live-tweeted the entire event.

So what can we learn from this situation? Don’t give just any employee access to your brand’s social media pages.

A disgruntled employee, like the one tweeting on HMV’s page, will stop at nothing to get back at your brand.

3. American Airlines’ automated reply tweets.
American Airlines’ social media guidelines clearly state that every tweet should get a reply, no matter the tone of the tweet. Leave it to a lazy employee to use automated thank you tweets.

As soon as people got word of this, the insults were piling up. And of course, American Airlines even thanked those who were insulting them. 

People like it when real people, representing brands, tweet them. Not automatons.

So respond to every tweet individually. Be real, and be serious.

2. Australia’s will donate generators… if you like its’ Facebook page.
In January, Tasmania was battling bush fires. announced they would donate generators to help out, but the amount of generators they would donate depended on the amount of people liking the SellItOnline Facebook page.

The brand’s Facebook likers complained, after which the posting was removed. What can we learn from this? Be genuine! Think of the people in a crisis before thinking of your own brand. People don’t respond well to self-centred brands.

Don’t be afraid to admit your brand made a mistake. Removing a posting that causes social media users to rage against your brand, is not an option. Apologize!

1. Applebee’s fires employee over privacy issue… and doesn’t know how to stop apologizing to disgruntled Facebook mass.
The biggest social media crime, at least according to me, was committed by Applebee’s (American restaurant chain).

An employee in one of their restaurants in St. Louis was fired recently for posting a photo online of a receipt a customer left in the restaurant.

The customer, who happened to be a pastor, refused to pay a sufficient tip, stating on the receipt: “I give God 10%, why should you get 18%?”.

The receipt contained the pastor’s full name. By posting a photo of the receipt online, the employee violated customer privacy policy, and was consequently fired by Applebee’s.

However, another (positive) customer-written note was posted on Facebook by Applebee’s itself, causing outrage among social media users: firing the employee for posting a negative note became a hypocritical action.

The issue went viral, and people demanded the waitress be given her job back.

Here comes the kicker: after about 17,000 comments were posted on Applebee’s status update, they began responding to the comments that were posted… At 3 am.

That’s not all. After more and more negative comments were posted by users, Applebee’s allegedly started deleting negative comments and blocking people from its Facebook page. And obviously, censorship is never the answer, and infuriated people even more.

Cue Applebee’s: the Facebook page’s community manager starts tagging people, and responding to their comments with the same reply over and over again, after which the matter blows up to epic proportions.

The whole situation escalates when Applebee’s endlessly starts arguing with and offending people, while using bad grammar. Applebee’s officially becomes a laughing stock.

What’s important here? Let a professional handle your brand’s social media, someone who knows what to do when disaster strikes. Don’t let your brand become a laughing stock, and lose numerous customers, because one person doesn’t know how to handle situations like this.

My Opinion
I think it is important to learn from these cases, because using social media as a brand always needs trial and error, and error is human.

However, common sense is also a big issue. When it comes to Applebee’s for example, anyone in their right mind knows that replying to a mob of angry people in the middle of the night, without consulting your superiors, is a horrible idea. The person responsible was clearly not suitable for the job, and not prepared for situations like this.

We are increasingly seeing how important it is to incorporate social media risk management in your social strategy. Be prepared, and have guidelines at the ready for when disaster actually strikes.

What About You?
What do you think about these particular cases? Do you know of any other ones we can learn from?

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About the author
Marion aan ‘t Goor is a Social Media Consultant at Share Force One. You can connect with Marion via Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


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Comments (3)

  • Igor Beuker 12/03/2013, 18:52

    I think your insights and very relevant examples have convicenced many of us!

    Thanks for sharing real actionable insights.

    The brand is a company’s most valuable asset. One that you want to invest in very seriously.

    A solution for CMOs?

    Invest a few % of your total media budget in: social strategy, skills, training, policies, guidelines, relations, community management, helpdesk, social crm and social NPS.

    If not, also fine. But stay the hell out of: the blogosphere, the social and interest graph.

    And even staying away from social is not an option either: if you don’t invest in client satisfaction -> consumers will demolish your brand in social media anyway.

    There is no way out: Shouting ads (lipstick on a pig) won’t save your brand.

    How the CMO can break down his social media budget?

    If you want help for 2013, try one of our consultants here:

    We like to sell knowlegde rather than ads.

  • Laurens Bianchi 12/03/2013, 20:36

    I agree with Igor: just invest a few % of the total media budget and take social serious. If not: stay away!