SOCIAL MEDIA: Social Media Blunders and How to Avoid Them

by Matthew Givner

The Blunder: Probably the biggest (and one of the better known) examples of a huge social media blunder involves Amy’s Baking Company. The restaurant, located in Scottsdale, AZ, was featured on an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, and the episode did not reflect very well on the owners, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo. Even as the episode was airing, netizens unleashed a flurry of negative comments about the couple and their restaurant.

amys baking company

Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, seen here not engaging in a fruitless social media war

How to Avoid: In this situation, brands generally have 3 options: 1) ignore it and go on business as usual, 2) strongly defend the brand, but in a positive, professional manner, or 3) make the best out of a bad situation by accepting legitimate criticism and making a big show of improving the brand (something along the lines of Domino’s “Oh Yes We Did” campaign).

The Bouzaglo’s, however, chose a fourth option: completely lose control and lash out at any and every negative comment. This Buzzfeed article shows some of their more ridiculous Facebook hysterics.

Read our previous post Your Facebook Marketing Efforts Aren’t Working. Here’s Why

american airlines

The Blunder: Another example of a Social Media Blunder comes from American Airlines. Many large corporate social media accounts have a degree of automation built in. When your company has tens of thousands of Likes and/or followers and receives countless comments every single day, automation can be perfectly understandable. The problem is when otherwise common sense automation leads to a company appearing asleep at the wheel. For some time last year, American Airlines would respond to all Twitter mentions with a simple: “Thanks for your support! We look forward to a bright future as the #newAmerican.” Harmless enough. The trouble started when American sent this exact response after receiving a comment labeling the airline as “the largest, shittiest airline in the world.” Obviously, thanking that user for his/her “support” was not the most appropriate response.

How to Avoid: When it comes to responding to social media comments, brands must find the correct balance between automatic, cookie-cutter responses that save time but run the risk of sounding inappropriate in certain contexts, and overly detailed, custom replies that would really make a brand’s fans feel noticed but would quickly overwhelm even the most dedicated social media manager.

national rifle association

The Blunder: The next example involves two different companies which got in trouble for not paying close enough attention to external events. Following the Aurora shooting on midnight July 12, 2013, many brands posted sympathetic tweets about the horrible events of that evening. However, not all brands were as astute in connecting their social media posts to current events. The morning immediately following the shooting, one of the NRA ‘s twitter accounts, @NRA_Rifleman, tweeted: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” Out of context, this tweet is pretty harmless. Social Media managers often write and schedule posts days or even weeks ahead of time for the sake of convenience. In this case, it is clear that the NRA Social Media manager didn’t take the time to check whether or not the scheduled tweets might come out wrong given events beyond the brand’s control.

How to Avoid: Following major events, especially those with tragic consequences, it is vital that brands immediately review all of their messaging in light of those events to ensure these kinds of SNAFU’s don’t occur.

celeb boutique

The Blunder: The other brand which committed a social media blunder following the Aurora shooting is Celeb Boutique. Their blunder also represented a lack of attention, but to an even greater degree. The morning immediately following the shooting, the brand’s Twitter account @Celebboutique tweeted: “#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress :)”

How to Avoid: Rather than taking the time to investigate why #Aurora was trending, the brand appears to have lost itself in a bout of ego-mania and assumed it was because of their new dress. Of course, both this and the NRA’s tweet were obvious mistakes, but because mistakes committed on the internet are never forgotten, brands must follow that age-old aphorism: “think before you tweet.”


The Blunder: The final example I’ll mention involves a brand that tried to turn a tragedy into a marketing opportunity (*shudder*). Following the Boston Marathon bombings in April, 2013, the popular food website Epicurious tweeted: “Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today.” Apparently the blatant insensitivity of the tweet was lost on the Social Media manager, because shortly after that they posted another tone-deaf tweet: “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!”

How to Avoid: The blunder here should be obvious to anyone: tragedies are NOT marketing opportunities, especially not immediately following the tragedy in question. While one could easily argue for a promotional Social Media campaign on the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, the phrase “too soon” exists for a reason.