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Learn from These Social Media Marketing Mishaps

Just about everyone knows how important it is for companies to have a social media presence. Without one, brands lose a chance to connect with current and potential customers in a more personal setting. However, a few companies (and major brands) have learned that one slip-up on social media can become a viral disaster.

Learn from these social media mishaps to prevent disaster for your company:

A Negative Response (Or No Response At All)
Every brand is sure to have its critics, but the key is to know how and when to respond to these complaints. A few years ago, Greenpeace protested Nestle on various social media sites for their use of palm oil in products. Harvesting palm oil has been linked to deforestation, so Greenpeace activists bombarded Nestle’s Facebook page with comments and altered brand logos. Instead of responding professionally and addressing the fan’s concerns, Nestle was rude and defensive. This only made their critics angrier and produced a lot of extra negative attention that could have easily been avoided.


Negative press or reviews are bound to happen, and it’s always a good idea to have a strategy in place for when it does. Apologize publicly and if possible, offer a solution. Even if the other guy is unreasonable, at least everyone else will see you tried. It’s important to respond quickly, but don’t respond if you think you’ll say something in the heat of anger — the Internet doesn’t forget!

Insensitive or Offensive Posts
Unfortunately, many major companies have fallen victim to this mishap. Social media is all about knowing what to say and when to say it — a major crisis is not the time to be focused on marketing your company. Gap, Urban Outfitters, and Sears all tweeted that they were offering free shipping during Hurricane Sandy, which was probably not a priority of those affected.


Capitalizing on tragedy makes you look thoughtless, insensitive and is a sure way to lose some followers. Make sure every post is sincere and not always focused on making a sale.

Hashtag Backlash
Hashtags are keywords that people use and search for on just about every social media platform. Hashtags can be a great way to make your post “pop” when people search for that hashtag or a way to generate buzz for something. Many brands will create custom hashtags that fans can use, one example being McDonald’s #McDStories. Unfortunately for McDonalds, fans used that hashtag to tell all the terrible experiences they have had at the restaurant, which probably wasn’t what the fast-food chain was hoping for when launching their campaign.


What is important to know about hashtags is that they cannot be controlled. Those posts are completely consumer-generated, so it’s smart to think about how your brand is perceived, and how your hashtag could be abused. Be prepared for those negative comments and always have a back-up plan (and a sense of humor).

Engaging with fans on social media can be extremely beneficial for businesses of any size. Making sure that you know who is controlling your social media activity, and that they align with your brand values. Create a strategy for your social media content and always have a strong, professional defense when things go wrong. Don’t let a social media mishap define your brand!!

Need marketing advice? Contact the DofM team.