3 Social Media Horror Stories

October 31, 2011

Yes, it’s all hallow’s eve, and while the kiddies are thinking about candy and costumes and spooky houses they’ll visit tonight, business people have a different idea of what’s truly scary. Especially PR and marketing professionals who are watching social media speed up the reaction time of their customers to light speed. How can we keep up? For your reading pleasure a few horror stories and near misses from businesses around the world. There is a lesson in every single one, so pay attention!

Social Media is no new medium to Frank Eliason, SVP for Citibank, so when Occupy Wall St protesters heard that Citibank staff had called 911 when protesters entered a branch in New York and the word went out on multiple social media channels that people were being arrested, he didn’t sit on his hands hoping it would all blow over. He didn’t waste any time gathering as much data and content as he could so people could get a better picture.

Sure, there was the video of protesters being arrested, prevented from leaving the building, but there was also video from inside the building during the protest which basically showed the protesters disrupting business, not canceling accounts, but asking for support from the staff.

In the stupidest public relations move in history, Citibank had customers arrested for closing their accounts ows : lcranston1939 125337914996563968 | In-A-Gist

Now Frank was on his way to speak at PivotCom, where he could have expected a lot of tough questions about leaving his office at a critical time to attend a conference. He opened his talk with the video of the arrests followed by the video of what was going on inside which prompted the staff to call 911.

The lesson?
By doing this, Frank reached thousands of people through Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook and several blogs, possibly many more than the Occupy Wall St folks simply because of his own network combined with the powerful networks who were at Pivotcom. Basically leveraging social media to show the whole story and showing at the same time that transparency is ALWAYS best.

Ragu sauces thought they could take a poke at Dads’ apparent ineptitude at cooking dinner for the kids fairly safely, and many years ago mebbe so, but with today’s social media savvy dads, many of whom make the choice stay at home to care for the family and/or work at home– it just wasn’t so smart to launch their “Dad Cooks Dinner” video channel. Needless to say Dads didn’t think it was funny.

Dad Cooks Dinner: What is Dinnertime Like When Dad Cooks? - YouTube

Then somebody at Ragu got the bright idea of reaching out to some Dads on Twitter, notably CC Chapman, a blogger and social media celeb who is also known as a “Digital Dad”. Ragú® (ragusauce) on Twitter

CC went on a pretty good rant on the subject and of course other social media people picked up the flag and ran with it, although not all of them took his side in the discussion, including the mommy bloggers who gave their opinions in the video. In fact I brought it up in a panel on Social media for brands at OMMA Social in San Francisco last week.

In the end CC decided to make his own sauce, showing that yes, Dads CAN cook too. He even offered a little social media advice for Ragu, just in case they were paying attention. It’s good advice too. Click the link and go read it. It doesn’t look like Ragu did though.

What did Ragu do? Eventually they called CC to talk to him, but their initial reaction was to stick their head in the sand and ignore it. The videos are still up, showing they either decided to ignore the whole mess, or they really just don’t care, but not before it got a little out of hand.

The lesson?
After being dissected in social media circles for weeks, in the end Ragu leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths. Why? Because they didn’t do their homework and they didn’t engage their target market in a genuine way. Rather than offering the videos up as a sauce in your face slap, they might have posted a contest that pitted both Moms and Dads against each other for the most innovative recipes and put a positive spin on Dads in the kitchen instead. They could have reached out to Dads and asked them for their secret ways to use the sauce to spice up meals instead of pitting Mommy bloggers against Daddy bloggers. Lastly they should have researched who they were reaching out to sop they would have a clue as to how it would be received.

As you’ve seen above not all of these social media nightmares are huge worldwide disasters, and if responded to in some way that engages the people involved things can settle down and people can be reasonable. But if you don’t talk to them, or try to muffle their voices it’s going to get ugly. Take Chapstick for example. They posted a pretty silly add of a woman up-ended over her couch, hair flying, apparently looking for her long-lost tube of Chapstick on their Facebook page above the catchy title “Where do lost Chapsticks go?”. Apparently the image needed to be explained, and they wanted to invite people to share their thoughts on this riveting topic on their Facebook page.

ChapStick Butt

OK, silly image right? No big deal right? Well, some people posted comments on the Facebook page complaining about the ad and blogger Margot Magowan didn’t think it was funny. She blogged about it and then posted on the wall of the Chapstick Facebook page. Chapstick admins deleted the comment. Others posted their thoughts on the subject and Chapstick deleted those too. Then they took down the ad and replaced the picture of the girl with one of some tubes of Chapstick. Problem solved right? Oh no, this opened a Pandora’s box of complaints and user launched “Butt seriously, Chapstick” a page on Facebook all about the whole mess where people could complain to their heart’s content. Golly, we can hardly wait to see response to the new campaign featuring Australia’s top model with the tag line “Never let your lips go naked”….

Had they not pulled the comments down it might have all blown over with a simple heart felt apology for any offense.

The lesson?
Seriously. It wasn’t the ad itself, it was how it was handled. Chapstick had a great opportunity here to reach out to the consumer and say something like “Gee, we’re sorry you don’t like the ad, we didn’t mean any harm”. and call it a day. They could have made a series of images with people in equally silly situations searching desperately for lost tubes in odd places. Really, their only mistake was trying to cover it up by deleting comments. Negative comments are an opportunity to learn from your users and to let them know you are listening. To correct a negative assumption.

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  1. It is pleasing to see that  a few people who think that its cool to defame and/or bully others on the social media sites are now being successfully sued.  Judges stating regardless whether its true or not, be very careful what you put in these sites or you may have to put your money where your mouth was!!

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