Regrettably, how you innocently represent yourself and your business across social media can sometimes be misconstrued, misinterpreted, taken offence to, or cause widespread anger and outrage.
The inherent danger here is that any social media user can immediately 'call out' or respond to online acts they perceive to be wrong, and this is especially problematic if you come to be seen as mean or arrogant.
For example, while making fun of a competitor in crisis or belittling its products can not only come across as pretentious and nasty, it can also blow up in your face in the worst of ways.
An unfortunate incident took place in September 2014 when the French office of South Korean multinational appliance manufacturer LG attempted to lampoon the structural 'bending' problems associated with Apple's newly launched iPhone 6 Plus.
An employee posted an image on Twitter of its curved G Flex phone alongside text that translated to, “our smartphones don’t bend, they’re naturally curved.”
The post received widespread publicity for one terribly wrong reason – it had been obviously posted on Twitter from an iPhone!
If that wasn't bad enough, no apology or explanation was ever offered – the tweet simply disappeared (not before millions of people noticed).
Another scenario involves adopting a 'business as usual' approach when your company is obviously in crisis, such as experiencing serious, well-documented technical difficulties or is publicly in major financial trouble.
Qantas attracted widespread criticism in November 2011 when it invited its Twitter followers to post their idea of a “luxury experience” under the hashtag #QantasLuxury.
The campaign was launched just weeks after the grounding of its entire fleet in response to industrial action. In total 108 aircraft were thought to have been grounded in 22 airports around the world.
The resulting angry responses to their idea of 'Qantas luxury' included “Getting from A to B without the plane being grounded or an engine catching fire”, “More than 3 mins notice that the whole service has been grounded” and “Flights that leave on schedule because Management doesn’t arbitrarily shut down the airline”.
Then, of course, blatantly ignoring customer comments and questions, achingly slow replies, or responding in a self justifying, abusive or dismissive way is a sure-fire way to appear callous and condescending, or much worse.
Probably the most notorious and well-documented example comes from a restaurant in the US, Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro.
In response to a raft of social media complaints in May 2013, the best (or worst) in a string of subsequent posts from the company's Facebook page included:
“I AM NOT STUPID ALL OF YOU ARE. YOU JUST DO NOT KNOW GOOD FOOD. IT IS NOT UNCOMMON TO RESELL THINGS WALMART DOES NOT MAKE THEIR ELECTRONICS OR TOYS SO LAY OFF!!!! ”
To make matters worse, Amy's owners later (falsely) claimed their Facebook page had been hacked and they were not responsible for the hours-long tirade!
You may not be surprised to learn that this restaurant is now closed.