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Social Media Storm: When Should Brands Keep Quiet?

Fri, Nov 02, 2012

As marketers, we often face the challenge of keeping current, relevant, and engaging – and this problem worsens as social media becomes a source for news bites. We saw FEMA’s suggestion to use social media to let loved ones know you were okay post-Sandy, and we thought it was a fantastic way to use Twitter and Facebook in times of crises. However, a couple of brands have been using social media marketing and email marketing to attempt to make light of a gloomy situation and promote their brand a little more. The backlash was ugly – proving that not all publicity is good publicity.

Gap’s Twitter account (in which the post was taken down later) posted a check-in into the “Great Outdoors” during Hurricane Sandy. They later apologized, but the apology was issued after receiving many negative comments in the Twittersphere. See the offending tweet for yourself:

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Or how about American Apparel’s email to its customer list?American Apparel resized 600

Ouch. Considering how heavy the snow and rain were, how windy it was, or how high the storm surges were…I’m not sure how many of these targeted customers even had internet.

There are a variety of ways to handle public gaffes, and the Red Cross handled their Twitter blunder quite well. Last February their social media specialist accidentally sent out a personal tweet to the Red Cross’ Twitter account.

The Red Cross redacted the statement and later tweeted that “rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys”. Both Dogfish Brewery and the Red Cross had a field day with the extra attention and made the slip-up into a huge donation campaign for the Red Cross, using the hashtag #gettngslizzered. The unlikely pairing of booze and blood ended up benefiting both brands.

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There are a variety of ways to handle social media goofs; most, when phrased well, end up eradicating a good amount of damage done. Luckily for most brands, Twitter is a fast-moving environment; if someone is following a lot of accounts, chances are those 140 characters won’t have a lasting impression on an individual. If you’re going to try and make a lasting impression…make it a good one.

Categories: marketing