Social media PR disasters and mistakes

Social media PR disasters and mistakes

Summary: Social media can be a double-edged sword.. how have some companies impaled themselves?


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  • Domain registrar GoDaddy's CEO Bob Parsons released a video of himself shooting a "problem elephant" in Zimbabwe -- to the shock of the social media community and to the detriment of the business.

    At best, the CEO could have chosen to limit the video to a privacy-secured Facebook profile. Instead, it was released on Twitter.

    Even forgetting how creepy it is to outfit everyone in the village with Go Daddy baseball caps, the footage resulted in campaigns to Boycott Go Daddy -- later repeated by its public support of anti-piracy bill SOPA -- outrage from animal activist groups, and a social media backlash.

    Parsons later defended himself on his blog, arguing that his target was a "problem elephant" that had been destroying crops that supported villagers. However, when you are a public figure, releasing such footage can do no good for the reputation of the company you represent.

    See also: Controlling the uncontrollable: The inherent risks of social media


  • Habitat UK is commonly associated with fabrics and upholstery, but came under fire when it decided to hijack hashtags to promote itself.

    Hashtag are used in order to 'point' a tweet at a certain conversation. Examples include #edtech (educational technology), #jobs and #business. 

    What Habitat decided to do, however, was hijack any hashtags that were trending on Twitter -- and therefore popular -- to market their products. From popular television show #Trueblood to the Iranian's elections' #MOUSAV tag, nothing was safe.

    The online community condemned the company for its social media actions, and it was forced to apologise to the public.

    See also: Gen-Y social media mistakes to avoid in a new business


  • Fashion designer Kenneth Cole caused outrage with a politically insensitive tweet that many believed made light of the protests in Egypt. Perhaps it was nothing out of the common way in terms of pub talk, but as social media lacks tone and businesses need to be extremely careful with how they handle the platforms, it is no wonder the comment caused nothing but bad press.

    The tweet read: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online."

     After Twitter users reacted angrily to the message, Cole removed the offending tweet and issued an apology on his Facebook Page: 

    “I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate. Kenneth Cole, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer”

    See also: Politicians: Think before you tweet

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Semi-literate writing

    " of which the airline gave a total of $3,000."

    Sigh. "to which". Writers on ZD are soooooo.... semi-literate.

    And then: "Customers that loks up the profile were no doubt confused when they met tweets in Taiwanese."

    "loks up" - really?

    Ok, let's face it: At ZD, editing for such minor things as grammar, or even spelling, is clearly secondary to its mission of getting out rarely-valuable articles.
  • Godaddy Suxx!

    As a consequence of Godaddy's support of SOPA and because of the elephant hunting "incident" (which I came to know at the same time godaddy had the bright idea to support SOPA) I decided to end all business relationship with Mr. Parsons' company and advised friends and colleagues to do the same. Just for the record I moved even accounts that weren't going to expire for the next 5 years, to completely cut any ties to with a company that not only didn't read bills before supporting them, but put the interests of its customers after that of Washington's lobbyists showing to be instantaneously ready to kiss a**.

    The animal cruelty only made me more determined to end any connection with the company and just to be clear I am not against hunting or fishing when doing so for food, but as far as I know Mr. Parsons isn't homesteading in Africa and that catch didn't have such purpose. Worse yet, it was actually justified in the lamest possible way as some sort of positive humanitarian help saying it was done to solve a problem where elephants were destroying entire harvests for the poor local communities. And that one elephant ended the problem? Does this guy and Godaddy's P.R. think we are a bunch of 2 years old?
    Obviously no footage of the alleged crop destruction was ever produced, but regardless godaddy should have never taken part in such activities even it they were aiming to "solve a problem" besides at not being in that kind of business, if it was really done to help locals, there would have been no cameras and above all no reasons to take a gruesome trophy photo. On the contrary, one would have taken no pleasure in having to shoot an elephant down. I am rather confident there would be a very numerous list of individuals and companies qualified to do that before godaggy would've been called upon. Also the right company would have been involved in removing the "problem elephant", it would have been shot with a sedative and relocated to a more appropriate remote location solving the problem for the locals and keeping the animal alive.

    Mr. Parsons should've just continue to stick to his shtick of featuring attractive chicks, leaving politics and animals alone.