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Home » Engagement, Industry Case Studies & Presentations, Infographic, social media advertising, social media marketing, Social Media News

Social Media Screw-ups: the updated history from Kryptonite to Kenneth Cole (and beyond)

Submitted by on September 5, 2011 – 2:20 pm12 Comments

Custom Communication compiled a history of social media misadventures

Last year, SMI published one of its most popular pieces of research, a history of the social media crisis and its impact on corporate communications and brand reputation. Published last October, “Social Media Screw Ups – a short history” was viewed over 150,000 times on Slideshare. We’re pleased to announce we’ve just updated it with a series of new cringeworthy corporate gaffes from the past year that include insights into how they occurred and how they could be avoided in the future.

What are the big take-away points from our history of social media screw-ups? We’ve gone back to the Kryptonite lock fiasco of 2004 when this iconic brand foolishly underestimated the power of the blogosphere, a gaffe that cost the company $15 million in sales. The good news is that companies are much more attuned to what the everyday consumer is saying about them and their products. But they’re still messing up, forgetting that most basic rule: you’re dealing with humans, not a credit card number or email account or username; be human yourself!

Case in point: one of the biggest reputational flubs of the year came from Airbnb, which allegedly tried to shush up a blogger who’d been burgled by an Airbnb customer. Why? The founder didn’t want the bad vibes to sink a pending funding round.

There are a series of other mistakes, some new (dropping the F-bomb on Tweetdeck, only to seeing the offending Tweet end up on the brand’s main Twitter feed) and some old (callous misuse of hashtags, or trying to shoehorn a Tweet for a new clothing line in amid updates about brave souls trying to topple the autocratic Mubarak regime in Cairo.)

There are plenty more examples, so I’ll just get right to the presentation. We hope you enjoy it! And, as we say at the end, let us know if there are any you’d like to see mentioned in the next update.

Social media Screw Ups – An Updated History from Kryptonite to Kenneth Cole (and beyond)

Editor’s Note: Learn from the digital pioneers, brands like Coca-Cola, Carnival Cruises, Whole Foods, Vodafone and scores of others. Their social media blunders – in the areas of crap customer service, plain dumb marketing or simply being caught short in a crisis – provide valuable lessons from which to shape future corporate comms policy. It all can be found in our new e-book, #FAIL: The 50 Greatest Social Media Screw-Ups and How to Avoid Being the Next One. Buy the book today on Amazon UK, Amazon or on Lulu where you can find it in paperback and epub.

Email: training[at] for more information.


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