5 examples where social media jeopardised online reputation

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CEO and shot elephant social media backlashAccording to Warren Buffet “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”. With the rise of social media it feels like it can take  less than five minutes to potentially damage your online reputation. Here are five cases where social media either created or amplified a potentially damaging situation for a brand:

1. Urban Outfitters – copied products exposed by a small “tribe”

A small producer of jewellery on Etsy.com discovered that fashion retailler Urban Outfitters had copied her work and was using similar language to market it.

The story spread widely on Twitter and Tumblr, starting from a knit of highly engaged craft enthusiasts. These users might not have had massive followings but the quality and unity of their social networks resulted rapid, heightened awareness, eventually even gaining celebrity support with a tweet from Miley Cyrus.

2. GoDaddy.com – CEO posts elephant hunting video

Bob Parsons, founder of the American domain registration and hosting company GoDaddy.com, blogged and tweeted a video of him shooting an elephant while on holiday in  Zimbabwe.

The graphic video featured Zimbabweans stripping the elephant for meat, while wearing GoDaddy baseball caps, with AC/DC’s Hells Bells as the soundtrack – it’s hardly a shining example of positive branding.

Parsons received an extremely negative backlash from social channels, especially from animal rights groups such as  PETA who closed their GoDaddy account and encouraged sympathizers to do the same. Parsons responded to the criticism on the grounds that the hunt was on humanitarian grounds to stop elephant-caused damage to crops.

While there may be legitimate reasons for keeping elephant numbers in check, it would probably have been more sensible to distance this kind of debate from the company’s brand, especially considering that Parsons is no stranger to blogging.

3. Amoy – ‘Asianate Yourself’ Facebook app

Unlike the other examples, this misguided use of social media featured an entire application which probably went through several stages of approval before being released.

Crude and offensive in both taste and execution, the Amoy ‘Asiante Yourself” Facebook app clearly wasn’t very well thought through and shows that you should always consider the global scale of the audience when implementing your social media strategy – what may be acceptable in one market can provoke strong, negative sentiment elsewhere.

4. Chrysler – personal tweet sent from corporate account

Unlike the GoDaddy situation, here an employee with access to Chrysler’s twitter account mistakenly sent a a tweet under the @ChryslerAutos account thinking that he was using his own. The fact that it was critical of Detroit drivers and also featured an expletive made the case much worse.

5. Paperchase – plagiarised artwork leads to twitter storm

Another case where social media amplified a message to reach a massive audience.  Once Twitter user Neil Gaiman, with 1.5million followers was made aware of Paperchase’s apparent plagarsim,  a single tweet was enough to launch this into a UK trending topic on Twitter. The sentiment even carried over onto Paperchase’s Amazon reviews, meaning that potential shoppers who may’ve otherwise been unaware of the discussion would be exposed to words like “boycott”, “stolen” and “plagiarised”.

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