How NOT to Use Social Media for Business

By Lauren Williamson | @LaurenEW90

How you use social media for your business can bring huge benefits... or bring your company to its knees. You can put countless hours into planning and creating a strategy, and spend the time carefully selecting what to post online, but sometimes those things go wrong... very wrong. So, take note (and a few laughs) at some of these examples on how NOT to do social media for your business.

Trending Topics and Timing

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects were widely documented and discussed on social media. It was a HUGE deal (understatement of the year). Retailer American Apparel thought this was the perfect opportunity to earn a little extra revenue by doing this:

Timeliness and appropriate content on social media

American Apparel's SANDYSALE - a social media fail

The retailer offered a special discount to those who were “bored by the storm.” Yeah, you read that right. I mean who doesn’t hate lame hurricanes, right? The was not only terrible timing, but it showed a blatant lack of sensitivity in the face of tragedy. We get that American Apparel is edgy and too-cool-for-school, but a SandySale, seriously? Fail.

And speaking of timeliness and insensitivity, The National Rifle Association sent this tweet just after the Aurora, CO movie theater shooting:

Timeliness and appropriate content on Twitter

Nice one, NRA...  It was likely a pre-drafted, pre-scheduled tweet. Scheduling posts in advance is awesome for time management, but can be devastating when a tragedy happens.

Another example of bad timing is baked goods manufacturer Entenmann’s. During the Casey Anthony trial, Twitter was buzzing with users tweeting their opinions on the outcome of the case. Entenmann’s jumped on the bandwagon, whether willingly or not, with this tweet:


Timeliness and appropriate content on Twitter

Users weren’t impressed with this thinly-veiled attempt at some easy promotion, and the company apologized.

Inappropriate content

I think it goes without saying that you don’t post any words on your company’s social media that need a heavy dose of censorship. But that’s exactly what happened to internet marketplace StubHub.


Appropriate content on social media

It’s so offensive that it’s almost hilarious. Was it a disgruntled employee? An accident? Who knows. But StubHub was definitely embarrassed by the incident and issued an apology.

Venting in ALL CAPS

Remember what your mother always said: if you don’t have anything nice to say, then shut it. And definitely TAKE THAT CAPS LOCK OFF CRUISE CONTROL. Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ, should have taken a breather after receiving some bad press instead of doing this:


Inappropriate content on social media

And that’s just the half of it. The full meltdown can be found here.

Doing it right

Just when all hope seems lost, there’s the Red Cross. They took a social media mishap and remedied it with a little humor. When a rogue tweet appeared on the Red Cross’s twitter page, the company quickly acknowledged the mistake.

inappropriate content on Twitter

The company commented on the incident saying that they deal with crisis situations everyday and this was just a little mistake. To make matters even better, Dogfish Head acknowledged the first tweet and asked followers to donate to the Red Cross. Well done, Red Cross. Disaster averted.


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