Viral videos, self-destructive Facebook feeds, and the disrespecting of dead children. It's here, it's terrible, and it's true.
Social media is a great tool to wield—but just like a hammer or a knife, using it the wrong way can leave you in an embarrassed or even severely damaged state. Need some examples to convince you to be careful? Here are 10 prime examples of social media negatively (and sometimes humourously) affecting companies and people, from using it the wrong way to letting it get used against them.
SOCIAL MEDIA GONE WRONG
1. News company distastefully tweets a child's funeral. In September 2008, the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News reporter Berny Morson ill-used social media tool Twitter: he covered the event live via frequent feeds, done in an insultingly distasteful manner: "coffin lowered into ground" was one tweet. No caps or punctuation. In fact, "earth being placed on coffin." was the only tweet to even include a period. There was a backlash, with people wondering who the hell thought it was a good idea. Worst of all, the tweets are immortalized online.
2. Agency and Skittles pwned by pranksters. Agency.com is a well-reputed advertising firm, but a major blunder on their record is a project they launched for Skittles, the candy giant. They crowd-sourced content on the Skittles homepage, which relayed consumer posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter. But pranksters had a field day: "Skittles got stuck in my mouth while I was driving, forced me to slam into orphanage, killing hundreds," read on tweet, alongside "Skittles are poisoning the sheepish brains of the social media echo chamber."
3. United Airlines gets serenaded in the worst way. In the spring of 2008, for $3,500, the airline company could have replaced Dave Carroll's guitar, damaged by baggage handlers when his band Sons of Maxwell landed in Chicago. But the airline gave Dave the good ol' run-around. The consequence? Sons of Maxwell uploads a music video, aptly titled "United Breaks Guitars," and it garnered close to 9 million views on YouTube, as Dave punches out blunt lyrics such as "You broke it, you should fix it / You're liable, just admit it." He went on to make 2 more songs, the trio of which have been viewed well over 11 million times, and have some of the highest Like-to-Dislike ratings on the site, with waves of comments crashing against United's shores to this day—despite being uploaded over a year ago, the original video still garners multiple comments per day, the majority of which scathe the airline company for its poor service.
4. Sony prevents pirating, bloggers blast sucky side effect. This one dates back half a decade, to when Sony in 2005 decided to place special copy protection on its CDs. The purpose was to prevent pirating, but the software created vulnerabilities on computers, rendering them exploitable to malware. The story broke out online like a bad case of the chicken pox, and bloggers rumbled out posts, causing a quake of criticism. Sony made the ill-decision to stonewall these bloggers, which served only to fuel the fire. Millions of dollars fled Sony's wallets after a series of class-action lawsuits.
5. Moms don't mask their malice against ill-measured Motrin media. The innocent International Baby Wearing Week was slandered by Motrin's social media campaign, which featured the below video. While the video is well crafted, it made babies out to be fashion statements, triggering an enormous backlash from displeased mothers everywhere. Twitter and blogs were on fire from furious moms who didn't exactly appreciate the notion behind the campaign. Boy, did Motrin mis-gauge their audience on that one!
6. Globally dissing a job offer. A recent university graduate was offered a job from Cisco in the midst of the recession. Instead of outright celebration, Connor Riley took to Twitter to let the world know: "Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work." A Cisco employee tweeted back, "Who is the hiring manager. I'm sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web." Connor was hilariously dubbed "The Cisco Fatty" and comically ridiculed for ruining a delectable opportunity. (Note: Connor is a slender female who claims the tweet was taken out of context. But who cares? "Cisco Fatty" is classic!)
7. Do you have spit-flavoured dip for my pizza? Pizza maker Dominos took a reputation hit when some staff uploaded a YouTube video of two employees wiping mucus on sandwiches. Dominos reacted well by responding quickly to the scandal and immediately addressing consumer concerns with video and Twitter apologies. And, presumably firing the hell out of those employees.
8. Fumbling on Facebook. Automobile manufacturer Honda Motors must have had some rosy, blushing cheeks after this one: a Facebook user, not associated with the company, pointed out that a string of positive comments on Honda's fan page promoting the new Crosstour vehicle were actually posted by a Honda product manager. Oops.
9. Still not learning; more fumbling on Facebook. Even in 2010, companies are still eating their words after misusing social media. A recent example: in March, Nestle insulted Facebook visitors who were posting negative comments regarding a Greenpeace YouTube video that spoke out against Nestle's use of rainforest-harvested palm oil, and how it affected orangutans. Needless to say, Nestle's insulting approach fanned the flames. It didn't take long for their Facebook page to be swamped by angry comments. More than 100,000 consumers blasted the company with emails of grand displeasure and sheer outrage.
10. Some confessions are best left unconfessed. Under the Twitter handle "keyinfluencer," Ketchum PR guy James Andrews decided to publicly insult the city he was landing in (Memphis) to meet with FedEx (where FedEx is headquartered, by the way). An employee of FedEx read it and sent an email to James, as well as all the high-ups within FedEx. But the email was overly scathing on James, and made its writer look just as bad, especially once it was leaked. A few public apologies, and life went on—but lessons had definitely been learned.