Social Media #Fails and how to #React!

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FailThere have been many examples of social media antics that have brought companies reputations into the firing line and very recently there was yet another clanger (more about that in a minute). In this case it was slightly different from the ‘Facebook slaggings’ that have previously caused issues for employers (think of Virgin Atlantic staff who called customers “chavs” (amongst other things) or the Argos employee who was sacked for commenting on his Facebook), in this case it was a legitimate account and acknowledged by the company to have come from an employee.

It’s one thing having social media guidelines in place to limit this damage but what about when you have a legitimate admin of your online presence going haywire? Take these three examples…

Last Friday for some..?

A few Friday’s ago saw an errant Tweet appear from @VodafoneUK that  any company would be horrified to see anywhere near their company. I’m not going to detail the content (you can read it here for yourself) and it’s unclear whether it was a deliberate attack or a simple (albiet distasteful) mistake but either way, Vodafone’s reputation will have suffered. Once something is out there on the Interwebby it’s pretty much there for all to see as the previous link shows – Vodafone may have deleted the offending Tweet as fast as they can but unfortunately there’s always going to be someone who’s faster at taking a screenshot!

Exhibit A M’Lud.

It’s not only the big names that get attacked. I once worked someone (many moons ago) who owned an e-commerce cart. His site had been up and running for months when we received a frantic phonecall…it seemed that ‘someone’ had logged into the admin area of his cart and uploaded both obscene comments about the company director and also uploaded explicit adult content to an area that dealt with products for children. Now, it was never made clear to us whether the culprit had been found or not but we were led to believe it may have been a legitimate user of the cart who had since left the company but not had their admin rights removed.

Ryanscary comments

I just love, love, love referring to this comment as an example of what not to do. Last year a blog post was put up slating the Ryanair booking system. The post was noticed by Ryanair employees who dutifully responded in an ever so slightly negative way, this went on for a short while until it was picked up by the media and started to take on a life of its own. My absolute favourite comment though was from an official spokesman who came up with this gem in an effort to put and end to it:

It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.

Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel.

Ouch! They sure missed an opportunity to ‘rise above it’ and react positively didn’t they?

So what are the first steps to take when your reputation has been compromised online?

Take time to respond :

Never respond in anger to a comment or post regarding your companies reputation. Take a deep breath and respond factually without emotion that could get you in further trouble. Calling the object of your fury a ‘lunatic blogger’ for example will only add fuel to their fire and could get picked up by more people than you ever thought possible!

Worth a little research?

I had a comment recently on a personal blog which, on first reading, made me think ‘no, no, no…what should I do..?’. I thought about the comment for a while and came round to thinking that certain parts didn’t really add up. I looked at the website he’d supplied and Googled his name…before long I had a whole lists of sites where he’d used a similar comment but with vital parts to it altered (showing it was just very clever spam!) Tempting as it was to respond to his comment with a link to all his conflicting comments in the end I decided it wasn’t worth it and I’d do myself more damage by responding. Sometimes it’s better to rise above it!

Acknowledge the issue:

As I said before, once posted there is always the chance that someone has noticed the comment etc before you have had a chance to react. Acknowledge the problem and apologise. In the case of Vodafone they apologised profusely (and a little mechanically), far better to have one sincere apology that really shows you’re trying to rectify it.


While you don’t want to respond in anger you do want to ‘bury’ the comment etc as much as you can – you don’t want it appearing too highly in the search results do you! Get some SEO going to try and get it’s pushed futher down the search engine rankings so there is less chance of it being found. It’s not getting rid of it completely but it’s helping ‘bury’ it.

However you decide to react make sure you turn it to your advantage – no publicity is bad publicity (or so they say!)

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1 Comment
    • Ryan
    • 25th February 2010

    With news today that the British Museum has made its UK Web Archives available to the public and are looking to archive an estimated 8m websites without asking for permission (, any comments, forum posts etc could be around even longer than you may think!