Heather is passionate about helping companies deliver marketing that is hyper-relevant to the customer and drives profit for the business. As an experienced strategist with 20 years developing integrated marketing strategies across a range of industries, she advocates a data-driven approach to marketing.

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Why Do Corporate Social Media Scandals Keep Happening?

positive-scandal-featureSocial media is not the new kid on the block any longer. Think about it… Facebook was created nine years ago (2004) and Twitter has been around for seven years (2006).

If my local drycleaner and florist can manage to navigate the social media landscape successfully, then why can’t large organizations with a dedicated social media team? It seems as though each week we read about another major faux pas committed by corporate America’s social media “experts”. Let’s recap one of the worst social media scandals in recent memory:


Arguing with fans in public? Need I say more? Applebee’s managed to take an HR issue and parlay it into one of the biggest social media disasters in recent memory. For the uninitiated, the entire debacle is here. Among their mistakes: engaging in a no-win battle with angry fans, deleting negative comments (to the tune of 90,000 comments), posting a comment to their status update at 2.53am, publicly arguing with fans on their Facebook page. So why do these kinds of awful screw-ups keep happening? Obviously I’m not privy to exactly what’s happened, but I suspect that it’s due to one of the following reasons:


Lack of social media policy

Even if you’re not actively participating in social media, you should have a social media policy that outlines your expectations of your employees if they engage in discussions surrounding your brand online. Add it to your employee code of conduct and have your employees sign it when they start and as part of a yearly review. Intel has a great social media policy that demonstrates trust, yet clearly outlines what is and isn’t acceptable.

Least experienced people managing social

How many organizations do you know that have their intern or summer student managing social media? It’s often delegated to someone lower on the totem pole because others just “don’t have time”. But think about it… would you let your intern send out unedited press releases? Would you allow them to post to your website? Delegating social to someone less experienced is fine, provided they have media training, and you have an approval hierarchy/process that gets followed. This sounds like too much trouble to you? I’m pretty sure those Applebee’s comments at 3am weren’t posted or approved by a manager. What is your brand worth?

Crisis communications do not include social media

Often times, social media blunders can happen simply because no one thought about the impact a poorly timed tweet could have in times of an organizational crisis. If an airline has an incident in San Francisco, it would be incredibly insensitive to see them posting about a seat sale to San Francisco.

Lack of awareness on current events

If a topic is trending, it’s worth investigating why. Remember Celeb Boutique? They’re best known for tweeting about a dress after noticing that #Aurora was trending. The two seconds it would have taken to learn that it was due to a mass cinema shooting would have saved them from a PR disaster at the worst possible time.

celeb boutique tweet


Remember, if you’re on social media, and you should be, it simply can’t be an after thought. It can have major implications on your brand if it’s mismanaged or not monitored. Though we should be getting better at it, here’s a list of some organizations that have already had a major social media scandal in 2013.

Can you think of any other reasons that businesses keep failing at social? Let me know in the comments!