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Published December 6th 2012

The 9 Circles of Social Media Hell: When it All Goes Horribly Wrong (p1)

Every brand and social media manager has nightmares about making an embarrassing, damaging or potentially career-wrecking mistake or something going horribly wrong one day.

There have been enough instances of social media ‘fails’ over the last few years for us all to be aware of what could go wrong – and to learn that once those incidents happen, there’s no going back.

One rogue tweet, bad post or angry conversation will be screenshotted before you can even think about deleting it, and brought up again in countless articles just like this one.

But, mistakes happen, and some situations are out of your control, but hopefully we can all learn from these mistakes and experiences of others … and how to deal with them.

Here is the first half of our list that details the 9 things you really don’t want to happen to your brand in social, but also takes the care to list the remedies you’ll need to cure them. Catch part two tomorrow.


   1. Getting trolled



Most people these days are aware of trolls and will have some idea of how to deal with them. If you blog, you should expect to get trolled. Most of us will experience it at some point to varying degrees.

Ironically, our own article about trolls has been trolled. We like to leave those comments there for our own amusement, but of course trolling can be much more damaging than this.

What to do: Ever heard the phrase ‘Don’t feed the trolls’? Well, that’s the main advice – trolls want a reaction, so don’t satisfy them by giving them one.

We wrote a guest post earlier this year with more detail about how to deal with trolls – read it here.


   2. Your social media manager losing their rag



You may or may not be aware of the incident involving a Dublin restaurant, Cinnamon, last month, but this was a prime example of how not to do customer service on social media.

When a customer complained about a 40 minute wait, the Cinnamon account replied defending the restaurant, saying it was a busy day.  The conversation continued and the restaurant took things from bad to worse, when it told the customer that they would be happy to have ‘one less person in the Q’. And then called them an arsehole.

The story was reported on several news sites, and the restaurant eventually apologised on Twitter and posted a statement on their Facebook page. They also offered a €1 coffee to customers mentioning ‘twittergate’.

They blamed the tweet on a ‘moment of madness’ by a member of their staff, but one wonders if this is just an excuse, given the fact that the tweets certainly sounded as if they were from management, the apology tried to claim “there’s two sides to every story” (yep, and we’ve read both sides) and the manager clearly is not well-versed in social media, as when asked why the offending tweet had not been deleted, the manager said that she ‘didn’t think tweets could be deleted’.

What to do: There’s really no excuse for being rude to your customers online, but if this does happen, then an apology – both to the customer personally and to everyone else, and some sort of goodwill gesture is the best you can do. Disciplining/speaking to the responsible staff member, if applicable, would also be a wise move.


   3. Your hashtag campaign gets hijacked



We all know about the many examples of this happening – #waitrosereasons, #mcdstories and #qantasluxury being perhaps the most well-known.

The last thing you want when you’ve spent time (and possibly lots of money) on crafting a hashtag campaign is for it to be taken over by disgruntled customers or people just looking for an opportunity for an easy joke.

What to do: Make sure that your hashtag cannot be twisted against you, especially if your brand has a ‘variable’ reputation.

Take time to consider the possible uses of the hashtag, and also to consider what you will do if it does get hijacked. Are you going to ignore the tweets? Acknowledge them? Respond to them? Make sure that you have decided this before you kick off your campaign, in case the worst does happen.


   4. You get hacked or impersonated



Jetstar will know all about this. Recently, the budget airline suffered the misfortune of being impersonated on Facebook. Another user set up an account name ‘Jetstar Australia’ and started to respond to comments on the official Facebook page in a, er, less than polite manner.

Fortunately, Jeststar seem to have their heads screwed on and responded promptly, posting a statement on their own page stating that they were working with Facebook to stop the account.

What to do: It’s advisable to act quickly if you are hacked or impersonated, in order to secure your account, distance yourself from the fake posts and also to stop rumours being spread online about the messages before your reputation suffers.  For Jetstar, although the incident brought out a few comments about their own customer service, the result was merely some (moderately amusing but insulting) posts due to their speed at dealing with the  incident.

And remember, we’ll be back with the final five tomorrow, so come back then!

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