The recent social media own goal by Ryanair (see below) and the resulting social media uproar had us musing in TMMC towers on the many times brands have caused their own social media firestorms.
Here’s a few of the most memorable brand own goals on social media.
The Skinny: Look before you piggyback on trending news.
In 2012 there was a shooting at a cinema in Aurora in Colorado during a midnight showing of the newly-released Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” At the time, the attack had the largest number of casualties in one shooting in modern American history, with 12 people killed and 70 others injured. It caused a huge outpouring of grief and outrage on social media, and obviously #Aurora started trending worldwide. Which makes it very strange indeed that the social media person in charge of Celeb Boutique’s twitter didn’t check exactly why Aurora was trending, just decided to piggyback on it as a marketing ploy.
The reaction on Twitter was fast and furious, and ranged from utter disbelief to complete contempt. The business quickly deleted the tweet and tried to apologise, saying their PR person wasn’t US based, but it was too late and the damage was done.
They rebranded as House of CB the following year.
The Skinny: Sending the legal team in to shut down a passionate advocate on social media is never a good idea.
Right back at the dawn of social media there was an American blogger called Sara Rosso who started World Nutella Day (5th February) in homage to the hazelnut and chocolate spread. This proved exceedingly popular and by 2013 the Facebook page had 40,000 likes and over 7,000 followers on Twitter.
A lot of fun and enjoyment was had every year, creating wonderful (free) publicity for Nutella. Rosso edited and managed the website and associated social media for free and had a good relationship with their marketing team. She said at the time: “This is something I do as a fan. I have a full-time job; I’m not trying to make a business out of this.”
Clearly someone should have told parent company Ferrero Rocher’s lawyers because in May 2013 Rosso was issued with a cease and desist notice, which triggered an outraged response on social media.
Luckily the brand listened and not only withdrew the notice but eventually took over the management of Nutella Day themselves. It still remains a stand out case study in why legal teams shouldn’t be allowed near social media without talking to marketing first.
The Skinny: How NOT to use social media to do customer service.
After being scheduled to last two days in April 2018, a failed IT upgrade to the TSB bank’s systems led to a week-long outage, with customers unable to access online banking for days and some able to see other people’s accounts. All of which is already bad enough.
When you add to that a lack of information on social media from the brand (TSB did exactly the opposite of O2 when they had an outage) exacerbated by the wrong information being put out on social media by the CEO it’s hardly surprising that the whole debacle prompted a live stream on a national newspaper and a huge social media firestorm.
The upshot? One of the worst brand social media crisis’s EVER. Following the outage the Financial Conduct Authority rebuked CEO Paul Pester over the bank’s failure to be open and transparent with customers when the botched IT upgrade locked up to 1.9 million people out of their accounts. Pester stepped down from the Chief Executive position four months later.
DGPT (Disc Golf Pro Tour)
The Skinny: Don’t mess with a winning format and then delete negative comments
Disc golf is a growing sport with big popularity in the US and Scandinavia, and increasingly in the UK. Over the last few years two YouTube channels (Jomez and CCDG) have developed high-quality coverage of major tournaments for the sport, gaining hundreds of thousands of followers. Although they didn’t get paid for the coverage, they covered their costs with the YouTube revenues. During this time the Disc Golf Pro Tour (DGPT) formed to help improve the quality and consistency of a range of tournaments through America.
DGPT then shared that for 2019 season they were going to bring coverage of their events in house. The online community was assured that there wouldn’t be a drop in quality and it would enable further advances, including live coverage to help make the sport more mainstream.
As the 2019 season started, live coverage of the first tournament by DGPT was extremely poor. The camera work was unprofessional including a wrinkly bed sheet backdrop for the commentators.
Post production content was slow to appear, and was equally poor quality. Social media reacted negatively, especially in the comments on the YouTube DGPT videos. In response the head of the DGPT put out a statement saying they were turning off comments to “allow the post production team to focus on the content rather than being bombarded by the negative responses”.
The Skinny: People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
After a British Airways flight to Dusseldorf mistakenly landed in Edinburgh, Ryanair decided to taunt its competitor online.
Which is exactly what you would expect if you have even the slightest knowledge of Ryanair. However, this fact had escaped its social media team, who scored a spectacular own goal with their tweet as Twitter seized the opportunity to remind the airway of how they’d left tens of thousands of passengers with cancelled and delayed flights the previous year. As the BBC said:
The lesson here is that taunting a rival online might seem like a grand idea in the moment, but not if you haven’t got a good reputation with consumers. For example, Ryanair have had to issue their own crisis response in recent years – and haven’t handled it well – which meant it was always going to be an own goal because consumers remembered.
Takeaways – how to avoid a social media crisis
• Be prepared – establish a robust social media presence and strong integrated brand presence before any upsets. Download our free guide to Managing a Social Media Crisis and make sure your brand is prepared.
• Be transparent and truthful. Keep consumers informed and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
• Don’t attack your advocates and supporters.
• Check first – especially before using hashtags or trying to use current affairs as a way to promote your brand or products.
• Don’t try and stop negative comments. They will find a way to talk about you and your brand will still get trashed.
• Don’t try and gain points against a rival brand if your own reputation is flawed. You have to super clean and transparent before you can get away with it.