Social Media #SOS: How Keeping Up With The News Can Help Avoid Brand Disasters

Any social media community manager worth his (or her) salt will tell you that online reputation monitoring is much more than just having TweetDeck open and scrolling on a second monitor. It’s about true awareness, diligent listening, and a dedication to staying up to speed on trending topics and breaking news extending beyond the scope of brand terms and @mentions.

Far too many brands, organizations, and celebrities (who are, in effect, their own brand), appear to lack any common sense when it comes to publishing or promoting social updates, Facebook posts, or tweets when current events might dictate a change in social strategy.

Social activity is becoming increasingly connected to search and news. We often find out first from the Twitter-sphere when news breaks, products launch, or tragedy strikes. Shouldn’t community managers and social marketers, who exist in that social environment daily, be on top of the latest… whatever it might be? You’d think so. So why do crushing and humiliating social media blunders continue to occur?

Is it that brand managers aren’t taking the time to think about how their messages will mingle with current events? Or is it that CMs are completely oblivious to said current events to begin with?

Let’s dig into some social media #facepalms and truly hideous faux pas to see if we can’t learn from these brands’ mistakes.

Tragedy in #Aurora
When @CelebBoutique noticed “#Aurora” trending on Twitter, they thought it would be a great idea to capitalize on the hashtag by promoting their #Aurora dress. Yikes. You can imagine why that didn’t go well, seeing as the reason for the hashtag trend was the sudden tragedy that struck at an Aurora, Colorado Movie Theater the night before.

@CelebBoutique Tweet

Takeaways: In addition to researching trends, community managers must remain nimble and aware of what they have on deck for their next post.  Clearly, the now defunct @NRA_Rifleman, Twitter face of the journal affiliated with the NRA, experienced backlash after tweeting, “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”  the same morning of Celeb Boutique’s social blunder.

While it was reported that the tweet was scheduled prior on HootSuite, is that really an excuse? Not really. It was a damaging tweet that made the journal appear insensitive and ultimately may have led to the deletion of the profile. Tools that automate elements of a CM’s job are fantastic time-savers, but it’s never a good idea to leave social channel posts on autopilot without checking in, especially when breaking news and tragedies rock the nation.

Pleasure Cruise From Hell…
Here’s another social media embarrassment that could have been completely avoided with a little thoughtful research. @RoyalCaribbean spent mega dollars over this past weekend with promoted tweets to win a cruise.

@RoyalCaribbean Tweet

Unless you’re living under a rock, you saw at least some of the stranded cruise coverage from last week with reports of no power, spoiled food and sewage running amuck onboard a Carnival cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, the CM for Royal Caribbean did not.

Takeaways: Hello! It may not have been your brand stuck with a dead boat and thousands of unhappy passengers, but it might not be the best time to promote a tweet about winning a cruise. In the days following an industry fiasco, it’s smart to lay low until the negative trend passes. There’s no sense in putting yourself in the crossfire of a sh*tty situation (pun intended?) that didn’t even involve you to begin with. Let the nightmare news story settle, before you pounce with your clever promotion.

People who saw the tweet had the same kind of reaction. (My favorite response might be, “With or w/o plumbing?” .)


Moral of the Story
If these case studies teach us anything, it’s that community managers must understand how messages resonate at the time they are received, and that just because you have approved content set to go “live,” current events might dictate the need for a detour around social disaster – whether that is to lay low, such as putting a stop to tweeting the day of a tragedy, publishing an empathetic update during sorrow events, or changing a message so it’s more on par for the days news cycle – whatever it might be.

This opens the door to a larger debate, namely: Should public relations or marketing run social profiles? But that’s for another blog post…

© javier brosch –

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