A revised SHORT HISTORY OF SOCIAL
MEDIA SCREW-UPS
….And the sustainability lessons to be learned.
Social media pilot error - US Airways - 2014
It’s hard to spend a day online nowadays without some brand committing a soci...
Hacked Off – Kryptonite in 2004
The first major social media fail. A Kryptonite lock is picked apart with a bic pen and th...
Caught Faking it - L’Oreal in 2005
L’Oreal is skinned alive by the first big fake blog fiasco. It is forced to admit that ...
Just a few months after receiving a battering by blogger Jeff Jarvis, who published the infamous Dell Hell rant
against De...
Don’t Trust the Crowd - Chevy Tahoe in 2006
Chevy’s Design Your Own Tahoe competition was one of the first attempts by a m...
Crisis Management in Real Time – Jet Blue in 2007
It used to be that what happened behind the locked doors or airplanes st...
YouTube Agitprop – Unilever in 2008
Unilever’s Dove brand found itself on the receiving end of an aggressive Greenpeace so...
Birth of the Twitter Swarm – Motrin in 2008
Motrin’s sassy commercial aimed at Moms backfired spectacularly after a Twitte...
Who Owns Your Brand? We Do – Tropicana in 2009
PepsiCo’s Tropicana major rebrand found itself pulped following an outraged...
Hijacking the conversation – habitat in 2009
Habitat seemed to be getting the hang of the Twitter thing– until it was caug...
Creative Complaining – United Airlines in 2009
United Airlines handles hundreds of lost and damaged baggage complaints eac...
Mind your language – vodafone uk 2010
The world is full of swearing and sometimes offensive people. Just make sure they’re...
Facebook Fiasco – Nestle in 2010
Nestle became the poster child of how not to run a Facebook page when it went all ape ove...
The Fail Whale – BP in 2010
In the first three months after the Deepwater Horizon spill, BP poured an estimated $60 millio...
McFAIL – McDonald’s 2012
McDonald’s launched a sponsored hashtag campaign, #McDStories, to get the public talking about th...
Unexpected delivery – fedex in 2012
What Dave Carroll would have done to have had a camera handy when United broke his gui...
Firing the gatekeeper – hmv in 2013
If you’re going to lay off employees, make sure they don’t still hold the keys to your...
Learn more about sustainability, reputation and
authentic Communication
at Sustainly.com
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Sustainly's Social Media Screw Ups

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US Airways may have committed the most shocking social media failure but is it the biggest? We revisit the short but thorny history of social media screw ups to see what, if anything, brands have learned over the last 10 years.

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Sustainly's Social Media Screw Ups

  1. 1. A revised SHORT HISTORY OF SOCIAL MEDIA SCREW-UPS ….And the sustainability lessons to be learned.
  2. 2. Social media pilot error - US Airways - 2014 It’s hard to spend a day online nowadays without some brand committing a social media screw up. That said, US Airways’ “bumpy landing” Twitter #FAIL may go down as one of the biggest ever social media screw ups. The explicit image of a woman masturbating with a toy jet plane that the airline posted on its Twitter feed guarantees that this particular story has got worldwide publicity. This is no doubt another case of social media pilot error. But is it the most damaging example of a company getting social wrong? We’ve gone back through a decade of big fails (and our own book #FAIL) to highlight the mistakes that have really cost companies dear. They show that, when it comes to behaving badly, the airline is in good company.
  3. 3. Hacked Off – Kryptonite in 2004 The first major social media fail. A Kryptonite lock is picked apart with a bic pen and the “how to” instructions are posted first on a bike message board, then a tech blog and finally by the New York Times. The brand is slow to respond and it costs them millions in product recalls.
  4. 4. Caught Faking it - L’Oreal in 2005 L’Oreal is skinned alive by the first big fake blog fiasco. It is forced to admit that a beauty blog praising its Vichy brand penned by “Claire” was actually the fictional work of its advertising agency. It’s the first instance of brands running into the problem of being authentic and transparent when using social media.
  5. 5. Just a few months after receiving a battering by blogger Jeff Jarvis, who published the infamous Dell Hell rant against Dell’s terrible customer service, the PC maker’s reputation was further damaged after leading tech blog, Gizmodo, published photos of an exploding Dell laptop. It showed to companies the power of a single image if it is shared online. Dell was forced to recall more than 4 million laptop batteries. Reputation Up in Smoke - Dell in 2006
  6. 6. Don’t Trust the Crowd - Chevy Tahoe in 2006 Chevy’s Design Your Own Tahoe competition was one of the first attempts by a major brand to harness the power of crowdsourcing for a marketing campaign. It ended badly when environmental campaigners hijacked the campaign, vilifying the brand producing gas-guzzling SUVs. This was one of the first instances that a big brand realised it had no control when it comes to social media marketing.
  7. 7. Crisis Management in Real Time – Jet Blue in 2007 It used to be that what happened behind the locked doors or airplanes stayed on those airplanes. But the advent of smartphone publishing combined with blogging and YouTube meant that when hundreds of passengers were stranded on planes for up to 8 hours during a Valentines’ Day snowstorm, Jet Blue’s problems went viral. CEO David Neelman realised the reputation risk and quick crafted a YouTube apology, the first of its kind. Alas it wasn’t enough for Neelman. He was gone a few months later.
  8. 8. YouTube Agitprop – Unilever in 2008 Unilever’s Dove brand found itself on the receiving end of an aggressive Greenpeace social media campaign against palm oil-driven deforestation. The NGO took a hot thing (Unilever’s original “Onslaught” campaign), changed the message to attack the company and turned its own campaign into a viral sensation. Directly, or indirectly, this form of YouTube agitprop pushed Unilever to change its palm oil sourcing policies and created the blueprint for social media activism.
  9. 9. Birth of the Twitter Swarm – Motrin in 2008 Motrin’s sassy commercial aimed at Moms backfired spectacularly after a Twitter-army of motherly discontent swarmed. Johnson & Johnson quickly apologised and remade the commercial. It was the first time that such a small yet vocal group of influential consumers had used the social media megaphone to such effect. Twitter, as many other companies would learn, really can give you a headache.
  10. 10. Who Owns Your Brand? We Do – Tropicana in 2009 PepsiCo’s Tropicana major rebrand found itself pulped following an outraged online reaction by consumer fans. Following the redesign, sales dropped 20 percent costing the company an estimated $33 million. As Stuart Elliott, the New York Times longtime Madison Avenue reporter cracked, “It took 24 years, but PepsiCo now has its own version of New Coke.” The redesigned product lasted just 8 weeks on store shelves.
  11. 11. Hijacking the conversation – habitat in 2009 Habitat seemed to be getting the hang of the Twitter thing– until it was caught promoting new products using hashtag spam, including the Iranian election. This was just the first in a long line of brands committing the same social media faux pas of thinking their brand alone gave them the right to drop into any conversation. Kenneth Cole, GAP and Celebrity Boutique are just a few examples.
  12. 12. Creative Complaining – United Airlines in 2009 United Airlines handles hundreds of lost and damaged baggage complaints each year so they didn’t care too much about responding to musician Dave Carroll’s protests about his broken guitar. Until his YouTube protest “United Breaks Guitars” went viral that is. Indeed, Carroll’s plight probably would have ended up as just another chapter in the annals of bad airline customer service were it not for the fact that he could broadcast his catchy rant direct to YouTube – and that he had the creativeness to compose a song that made people sit up and listen. Don’t dismiss the little guy (especially if he can sing).
  13. 13. Mind your language – vodafone uk 2010 The world is full of swearing and sometimes offensive people. Just make sure they’re not in charge of your social media presence. Vodafone UK made this mistake and, since then, brands like the Red Cross, Chrysler, Kitchen Aid and, of course, US Airways have done so too. Each time they’ve hurt their reputation thanks to a lack of publishing checks and balances combined with the immediate, viral and undeletable medium of social media.
  14. 14. Facebook Fiasco – Nestle in 2010 Nestle became the poster child of how not to run a Facebook page when it went all ape over a Greenpeace campaign that targeted KitKat’s use of non-sustainably sourced palm oil. The campaign however only took off (and became a global story) after Nestle started deleting negative posts and doctored KitKat logos that Greenpeace had created from its page. That infuriated even non activists who accused Nestle of censoring speech on Facebook. Nestle’s Facebook page was paralysed with negative comments. Nestle soon apologised and later agreed to improve its palm oil sourcing.
  15. 15. The Fail Whale – BP in 2010 In the first three months after the Deepwater Horizon spill, BP poured an estimated $60 million into PR, including TV and press ads and a sophisticated online search campaign. Yet at first it neglected to consider Twitter or Facebook. Until it got skewered by the spoof @BPGlobalPR Twitter feed, set up by Los Angeles-based comedian Josh Simpson. It had gained 18,000 followers in just a few days, undercutting with sharp humour BP’s own online efforts to tell its own story. BP would quickly learn not to underestimate the power of social media and today has a comprehensive social comms operation.
  16. 16. McFAIL – McDonald’s 2012 McDonald’s launched a sponsored hashtag campaign, #McDStories, to get the public talking about the quality of a McDonald’s meal. Instead, the campaign was overrun by animal rights activists and other Mickey D haters. It was quickly pulled. Other companies like Chase and Waitrose have made the same mistake – forgetting that if you ask social media users to contribute to your campaign you have to be prepared for everything they are going to tell you.
  17. 17. Unexpected delivery – fedex in 2012 What Dave Carroll would have done to have had a camera handy when United broke his guitar. One FedEx customer was more prepared and filmed his special delivery and the wreckage after it had literally been dropped off. This sort of vigilante customer service was first seen back in 2006 when a New Yorker videoed a Comcast cable guy asleep on his couch. It would soon be repeated by UPS and more FedEx customers.
  18. 18. Firing the gatekeeper – hmv in 2013 If you’re going to lay off employees, make sure they don’t still hold the keys to your corporate social media account. This was the oversight shown by HMV last year and also by a UK pub that unceremoniously fired their chef (and chief Tweeter). In both instances the firers got flamed through social media.
  19. 19. Learn more about sustainability, reputation and authentic Communication at Sustainly.com

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