Social Media Worst Case Scenarios

There are countless little brands out there today using social media sites and hoping that one day they will become big brands, internationally recognized and rolling in the dough. And however nice that may be, the old adage proves time and again to be true: more money, more problems. This seeming fact of business was on full display in 2012, as the world witnessed some of the worst social media disasters in history.

Below, we will take a look at a few of these social media worst-case scenarios, explain what went wrong, and tell you how to avoid the same outcome. Although you’re undoubtedly operating on a smaller scale than these big boys, you can still use some practical advice to pre-empt the type of situation that would completely eviscerate your brand.


The Skittles Situation

There wasn’t a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for Skittles when they launched their new homepage, comprised of a bunch of social media elements. Taken on its idea, it seems pretty cool. Show various social elements on the main website. What they didn’t account for, however, was that troll-happy Twitter – the site that’s half awesome, half cesspool. Any tweet with the hashtag #skittles was redirected to the page. As you might imagine, this went south in a hurry.

How you can avoid this: If you’re going to show social elements as a way to tie everything in, don’t do it in live-time. There needs to be a screening process. Unfortunately, there are millions of trolls out there hungry for attention. A screening process will allow you to toss the idiocy aside and use the good stuff.

Falling like Domino’s

Domino’s encountered a social media disaster of epic proportions when a couple of employees decided to stuff cheese up their nose, blow snot on sandwiches, and actually post the videos! After getting a million hits on YouTube, the videos were pulled. But the damage had been done. Domino’s took a huge hit, and those employees were brought up on felony charges.

How you can avoid this: Well, since this video wasn’t actually a company decision, and more of two people trying to be funny, it’s hard to prevent your business from this type of bad PR. But if it happens, try to act immediately. If you decide to pull the videos, or whatever it may be, do it fast, or perhaps there is a way that you can turn the whole message into your favour. Make it something funny, which the original intention probably was.


TGI Fridays decided they felt a little froggy and ended up leaping out of the frying pan and into the fire with their failed social media promotion. They created a fake fan, Woody, and said that if his page could get 500,000 fans, then the first 500,000 would be entitled to a free burger or chicken sandwich. Before the promotion really got started, there were nearly 100,000 fans, and they reached and exceeded that 500,000 in no time. They were not ready to give away so much free food, at so many different locations, with so many coupons. The restaurant took a huge hit and had to give away 1,000,000 freebies just to quell the frustrations.

How you can avoid this: Never bite off more than you can chew! At TGI Fridays, their food is their bread and butter. Of course people wanted free stuff for nothing more than becoming a fan. It was way too big of a prize to offer for no real payoff. With your business, you need to keep promotions limited to what you can handle and what you can afford to give away.

Although there are only three big disasters listed here, there have been hundreds of these in social media over the past few years. As a business owner, it’s up to you to ensure that your social media reach doesn’t exceed your grasp, and that you’re always aware of the potential consequences.

Article produced by: Craig Robinson, Editor for Qwaya.