This year has seen a lot of new and innovative uses for social media and content creation. Both big and small businesses had marketing pieces go viral in 2013. How can we forget #DancePonyDance or the timeliness of Oreo’s Super Bowl Blackout tweet?
While 2013 has had some gems, there were some posts that not only flopped, but also caused a public relations catastrophe. Check out my top picks for worst social media mishaps of the year.
Home Depots Racist Tweet
When news of this post swept media outlets, I cringed. I wouldn’t give this post more visibility if it weren’t such a good example of a bad attempt at humor. During College GameDay Home Depot tweeted a photo that was beyond offensive because it was racist. Whether the undertone of the tweet was intentional or not, that was how it was perceived. Home Depot quickly pulled the tweet and released on official apology stating “We have a zero tolerance for anything so stupid and offensive.”
Humor can be very tricky. When crafting a post, look at it from the viewpoint of your audience. Make sure that any group of people won’t be ostracized or offended. It is always a good idea to run the post by another person to see if they can pick up on anything that you aren’t picking up on yourself.
What was the Onion thinking?
For those of you who aren’t familiar, The Onion is an American satirical news website with over 7.5 million unique visitors per month. In addition, the Onion’s Twitter account has over 5 million followers, so the messages reach far and wide. During their live Oscar coverage in February, the always edgy “news” source tweeted, “Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a c@&#, right? #Oscars2013.” Immediately the backlash started rolling in and the tweet was taken down. The Onion later released a public apology to the nine-year-old actress that can be found here.
Do not be edgy for the sake of being edgy. Sometimes it is okay for companies to push boundaries when creating a post, but unless you’re prepared to live with the backlash, never take the route that could offend anyone. My philosophy is there is never an appropriate time for derogatory name calling in social media marketing.
Epicurious Epically Fails at Using Trending Topics
This past April, tragedy struck our nation as the Boston Marathon turned from a time of celebration to one of panic and fear. Many businesses, non-profits, organizations, and individuals sent hopeful thoughts and prayers via Twitter during the breaking coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombings. Epicurious, a food and recipe website, decided to use this tragic trending topic as a way to promote recipes and drive traffic to its website. Later in the day the tweets were removed and Epicurious tweeted this apology, “Our food tweets this morning were, frankly, insensitive. Our deepest, sincere apologies.”
While using trending topics is a great way to gain followers and create engaging posts, think twice before hitting send. In times of crisis and tragedy it is never okay to capitalize on a terrible situation.
Hopefully we can all learn from other’s mistakes, especially when it comes to maintaining our brand’s online reputation. Take these lessons from 2013 and keep them in mind when creating great posts for the New Year. Here’s to a successful and user-engaged 2014!