US Airways Blunder and Beyond: How to Avoid Failing on Social Media

Samantha Pena

April 15, 2014

US Airways Blunder and Beyond: How to Avoid Failing on Social Media

While some may say that bad publicity is better than no publicity, this particular line of thinking becomes highly questionable when companies adopt that line of thinking for their social media strategy. Although there are certainly some brands that leverage the power of social media in a positive and productive manner, others make marketing mistakes so bad that it’s a wonder if they recover from it. While there are a lot of things to be said about their lackluster branding efforts, there are also lessons you can glean from this social media mishaps. Here is the winner and runner-up for the top social media marketing fails from the past year and the lessons you can learn from their mistakes:

Pornographic tweet by US Airways
Perhaps the worst marketing fail from this year was by US Airways, whose customer service on social media was somewhat lacking. After a customer tweeted her dissatisfaction with her flight, US Airways responded with an extremely graphic photo with the caption, “We welcome feedback, Elle. If your travel is complete, you can detail here for review and follow up.” Although US Airways took the photo down an hour later, the story has been trending on the Web for the last two days and the airline has gained media notoriety almost overnight. No amount of apologies on their end could erase that photo from people’s memories.
US Airways Apology Tweet 

Lesson learned: Brand consistency is key
Aside from the obvious tip that you should not be posting any sort of nudity or graphic content online, especially when you are writing on behalf of your company, the lesson to take away from this US Airways debacle is to ensure that all of your employees are on the same page when it comes to representing your company. Perhaps the employee who sent that tweet out was disgruntled or should not have had access to this account in the first place. Ensuring that all employees with access to your precious social accounts are familiar with your brand’s writing style and voice is essential. Learn from their folly and consider creating a brand guide that details how you want your company represented in the public. Then, distribute the guide to all your current and future employees to read through it and keep it on their desk for reference, so that everyone is clear on what they should and should not write for your company.

Insensitive Tweet by Epicurious
While there are some advocates of real-time marketing who swear by their success and effectiveness, there are certainly some drawbacks to creating advertisements based on current events. The biggest real-time marketing fail from this past year was by the food-website Epicurious, which used the Boston Marathon bombings to advertise their two new breakfast recipes. Although Epicurious apologized for the tweets and instantly deleted them, their attempts to clean-up their fail ultimately didn’t matter; the damage was done. In a matter of hours, their tweets circulated all around the Web like wildfire.
Epicurious Boston Marathon Bombing Tweet

Lesson learned: Tragedies are not your tools
Sure, big events garner big press on social media, but we’re talking events like the Super Bowl, the Grammys, the Oscars, not war, not social upheavals, and most certainly not domestic bombings. Using tragedy to leverage your products is not only insensitive but also counterproductive. Your audience will not be more inclined to buy your products in the name of a tragic event – if anything, they will probably find it a bit tasteless, and will not hesitate to say so on their social media accounts.  

Epic Facebook Meltdown by Amy’s Baking Company
Though there are certainly many chef celebrities who are famous for frequently losing their temper on air, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, owners of Amy’s Baking Company, tops all the rest for the angriest tirade on social media. After their bakery received some negative reviews on the Web, they wrote posts upon posts of insults and curses directed at their audience on their official Facebook page for their bakery. For what reason? We’re not entirely sure. But what we do know is that this is not the way to your audience’s hearts and wallets.
Amy's Baking Company Facebook Rant

Lesson learned: Save Your Ranting for Later
If your company receives negative reviews online, the answer is not to go off on them. There is a time and place to unwind and let out any frustration you may have, but social media is never, ever the appropriate time or the place to do so. The purpose of your company’s social media accounts is to build brand loyalty and to foster a sense of community with your audience, not to curse them out. Instead, what you must do if your company receives bad reviews is to address them immediately and kindly. Apologize to them for their bad experience, and then address the problem internally. Taking out your dissatisfaction publicly, like Amy’s Baking Company did, will not only lose you valuable customers but will also make you the brunt of many social media jokes.

Because of the nature of social media and its fast-paced environment, it’s become very hard to take back a statement posted on Twitter and Facebook, especially with the non-stop retweets and reshares on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other social media outlets. Therefore, use caution and good ol’ common sense when marketing your product on social media to avoid vitriolic social media backlash.

Samantha Pena

This article was published by Samantha Pena.

Samantha Pena is a Content Strategist at Hudson. Her main focus and passion is creating amazing content that is accurate, up-to-date, and (most importantly) interesting. Her main obsessions are social media, trending topics, and anything web-related. When she has the time, she likes to read, write, and travel. Follow her on Twitter.