The 5 Biggest Social Media Blunders by Fortune 500 Companies

Posted on December 8, 2011 
Filed Under General, Internet Marketing, Social Networking

There’s a lot we can learn from other people’s you run a small to medium sized business, there’s a lot you can learn from the mistakes of larger companies. Big companies tend to be run by committees and boards, meetings and managers. As a result, they can’t be as nimble or as fast as smaller businesses.

Where they’re weak is often where you have the advantage. You can avoid these kinds of mistakes if you’re careful, because it’s much easier for you to change course if you see red flags.

Here are five of the biggest social media blunders made by Fortune 500 companies, analyzed so you can learn from them.

Mistake #1: Unclear Communication

Unclear communication from GoogleWhenever you put a message out to your market, you should make sure it’s crystal clear and that there are no conflicting messages.

Google made a big blunder with this when they released Gmail on April Fools Day.

Traditionally, Google had done an April Fools joke every year prior. For example, one year they announced Google PigeonRank, where websites were ranked by pigeons instead of technology.

When Google announced Gmail, most of the world took it as a joke. At the time, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail were both offering only 10 MBs in storage and Gmail comes out with 1 GB.

It took several days before the announcement was actually taken seriously and by that time they lost a lot of the initial momentum. According to a CNN article, Google’s VP of product did say that they did a bit caught up in the April Fools spirit even while launching a real product.

Mistake #2: Telling the User They’re Wrong

When Apple released the iPhone 4, there was a small bug with the antennae system. If you held the phone without a case in a specific way where you were touching one of the corners with your finger, you would completely kill the reception. Telling the User They’re Wrong

Steve Jobs’ response? “Don’t hold your phone that way.”

While Jobs was right that the bug really wasn’t that big a deal, his response was posted all over social media and was interpreted as them not caring about what the customer thought.

The whole ordeal almost killed the launch; until Jobs changed course and announced free cases for all iPhone 4 purchases.

Mistake #3: The Insincere Apology

Chapstick-Deletes-Facebook-Comments-About-Controversial-AdAn insincere apology can be even worse than no apology at all. Nothing tells your fans “we didn’t get the message” more than an apology that didn’t really acknowledge the mistake.

Chapstick was a prime example of this. When Chapstick’s “Where Do Lost Chapsticks Go?” ad generated a social media firestorm, they first started by deleting comments. When they realized what a bad idea this was, they came out with an apology.


Essentially, they blamed the ad deletions on Facebook’s policies. Furthermore, they never even admitted they were wrong. As a result, many of their long time fans felt alienated.

Fans Comments

Learn more here: Facebook Fail: Chapstick Turns Discussion Into Disaster

Mistake #4: Restricting Your Customer’s Free Speech

WalmartIn 2010, Wal-Mart decided to restrict what customers could say on Facebook. This created a huge uproar in the social media space.

Instead of just posting complaints of disagreements on Wal-Mart’s wall, dissatisfied customers went on a posting spree on other pages.

Instead of having a real dialogue with their customers, Wal-Mart essentially stifled discussion on their own pages. As a result, they got even more negative publicity, but distributed all over cyberspace rather than just in one place. A far worse result than just letting people express their own opinions.

Learn more about this here: A Failed Facebook Marketing Campaign

Mistake #5: Not Being Transparent With Mistakes

Late 2011, Sony’s PSN online gaming system was hacked, exposing personal data from more than 93,000 accounts. It was estimated that over 32,000 credit card numbers were also exposed.PlayStation-Network-hacked

What did Sony do? They covered it up for a week.

Although they did eventually come out with the story, the damage was done. Consumers were furious that their personal data was compromised for a week, allowing hackers time to sell or use their credit card numbers without any notice from Sony.

Even in the announcement, Sony was rather vague and shifted blame from themselves. The lashback from social media was very clear: People were angry and distrustful of Sony. Not because they got hacked, but because of their poor communication in the crisis.

These are five prime examples of how not to run your social media. Your social media should be a lively two-way dialogue between you and your consumers, rather than a way to portray a standoffish brand. Avoid the mistakes above to help cultivate a healthy and vibrant online relationship.

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