By Matt Pigott - March 5th, 2015

Whether or not you believe there's no such thing as bad publicity, one thing is undeniable: a lot of huge brands get their social media marketing very wrong.

In September of last year, Apple's public relations machinery went very awry. Via Instagram, a 'first person' post appeared on Joan Rivers's Facebook page stating that she had just bought the new iPhone 6. This new phone was to replace, after four years, her 'badass' iPhone 5. The post itself doesn't raise any red flags. However, at that time, the 81-year-old comedienne had been dead for two weeks.
The posthumous post left Apple with more than a little egg on their face, not least of all because it became abundantly clear that an Apple rep had been putting words into River's (dear, departed) mouth. Although the post was quickly removed, sharp-eyed and gossip-hungry journalists and bloggers had already spotted the gaffe, and pretty soon it was all over the web.
If there’s a moral to the story, it’s this: do at least try to remember to switch off a sponsored celebrity’s auto-scheduling after their demise... before 'set and forget' begins to take on a whole new meaning.
It stands to reason that some of the very best (or worst depending on who's in the firing line) social media blunders have an air of the macabre about them, and the recent fowl up at Krispy Kreme is no exception. At a UK-based branch of the global doughnut franchise, managers keen to do some good in the community set up Krispy Kreme Klub Wednesday. KKK Wednesday for short. It wasn't long before those with even the most limited amount of socio-historical knowledge pointed out that the triple-K acronym was more commonly associated with the eponymous American race hate group.
With the innocuous Krispy Kreme Klub developing sinister associations, there was no time to discuss semantics and, rather than have their tantalizingly glazed doughnuts forever reminding us of pointy white hats and racism, top management had the online flyer promptly torn down. Despite their rapid response, more than 200,000 Facebook followers–some of them delighted journalists–had already spied the faux pas and, shortly after, the ill-conceived promotion became a token tale that went viral.


Twenty years ago it’s unlikely that anyone would have picked up on such a story. And even if they had, would they have known what to do with it? After all, there was no established digital realm to fan the flames of this type of trivial news. So it’s a fair bet to assume that, having raised a few eyebrows and a few laughs among a few people a couple of streets away, Krispy Kreme’s tenuous connection with the Ku Klux Klan would never have gained any sort of traction. But today, when every tech-savvy teen is armed with a digital camera and has an array of instant global distribution channels at their fingertips, it doesn’t take long for an established company with a sturdy reputation to become an international laughing stock.
In light of these things, it’s well worth considering that the Internet–aside from being a complex medium for mass communication–is gigantic pool of virtual formaldehyde: whatever gets put in is preserved forever, permanently available, always retrievable. Which is why it’s vital for companies in the heady pursuit of expansion and ‘positive’ consumer engagement to be extra vigilant, and ensure that their latest social media campaigns are capable of standing up to intense scrutiny, at local, national and global levels.
Now, hitting 'Enter' has more potential to tank your brand than it ever has before.
The Corporate Social Media Awards

June 2015, New York

The Useful Social Media Awards sets the standard of corporate social media excellence. The #CSMAwards recognize those in social media who are driving social business forwards

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