Social Media Crisis Examples: Lessons Learned and Best Practices

In today’s digital age, social media has become an integral part of our lives.

It has revolutionized the way we communicate and connect with people around the world.

But as much as it has brought people closer, it has also created a new set of challenges for businesses and brands.

Social media crises have become increasingly common, and they can have a devastating impact on a company’s reputation and bottom line.

In this article, we will:

  • explore some of the most notable social media crisis examples,
  • what we can learn from them,
  • and the best practices for handling a social media crisis.

Let’s get to it!

1. United Airlines’ Overbooking Incident

In 2017, United Airlines faced a major social media crisis when a video of a passenger being forcibly dragged off an overbooked flight went viral.

The incident sparked outrage on social media, and United was heavily criticized for its handling of the situation.

The company’s initial response was slow and inadequate, which only made the situation worse.

It wasn’t until CEO Oscar Munoz issued a sincere and empathetic apology that the company began to regain some of its lost credibility.

✅ Lessons Learned:

Here’s what you can learn from this social media crisis example:

  • Act quickly and decisively: In a social media crisis, time is of the essence. Delaying your response can make the situation worse.

  • Show empathy and take responsibility: People want to see that you care about their concerns and take responsibility for your actions. A sincere apology can go a long way in defusing a crisis.

  • Have a crisis management plan in place: It’s important to have a plan in place that outlines the steps you’ll take in the event of a crisis. This will help you respond quickly and effectively.

2. Papa John’s Racial Slur Controversy

In 2018, the founder of Papa John’s, John Schnatter, used a racial slur during a conference call with a marketing agency.

The incident was leaked to the media and sparked a major social media backlash against the company.

Papa John’s initial response was to distance themselves from Schnatter, but it wasn’t enough to appease angry customers.

The company eventually issued a statement denouncing the use of racial slurs and announced that Schnatter would step down as chairman of the company.

✅ Lessons Learned:

Here’s what you can learn from this social media crisis example:

  • Take swift and decisive action: When a crisis like this occurs, it’s important to take action quickly to show that you’re taking the situation seriously.

  • Be transparent: People want to know what happened and what you’re doing to address the situation. Being transparent and open can help rebuild trust with your customers.

  • Hold those responsible accountable: In a crisis like this, it’s important to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. This shows that you take the issue seriously and are committed to preventing it from happening again.

3. McDonald’s #McDStories Campaign

In 2012, McDonald’s launched a social media campaign called #McDStories, encouraging customers to share their positive experiences at the restaurant.

However, the campaign quickly backfired when people started using the hashtag to share negative stories about the brand.

McDonald’s responded by quickly pulling the hashtag and issuing a statement that acknowledged the negative response.

They also stopped promoting the campaign and moved on to other marketing efforts.
social media crisis example

✅ Lessons Learned:

Here’s what you can learn from this social media crisis example:

  • Be prepared for the unexpected: Social media is unpredictable, and a campaign that seems like a good idea on paper can quickly turn into a disaster. Be prepared to pivot quickly if things don’t go as planned.

  • Monitor social media closely: In a crisis, it’s important to monitor social media closely to gauge the public’s reaction and respond accordingly.

  • Don’t be afraid to admit a mistake: If a campaign or post goes wrong, it’s better to admit your mistake and move on than to try to cover it up. This shows that you take accountability for your actions and are willing to learn from your mistakes.

4. Tesla Model S Battery Fire

In 2013, a Tesla Model S caught fire after a high-speed collision in Washington.

The incident made headlines, and Tesla’s stock price dropped as a result.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, responded to the incident on social media, stating that the fire was due to the impact and that the car’s safety systems had functioned as intended.

Tesla also released a statement outlining the safety features of their vehicles and pointed out that gas-powered vehicles are much more likely to catch fire in a collision.

social media crisis examples

✅ Lessons Learned:

Here’s what you can learn from this social media crisis example:

  • Be proactive in addressing safety concerns: If your company is involved in a safety-related incident, it’s important to be transparent and proactive in addressing the issue. This can help reassure customers and rebuild trust in your brand.

  • Provide accurate information: In a crisis like this, it’s important to provide accurate and detailed information to the public. This can help alleviate concerns and prevent misinformation from spreading.

  • Respond quickly and openly: Don’t wait for the media to force you to respond to a crisis. Be proactive and respond quickly to address the issue.

Best Practices for Handling a Social Media Crisis

Each social media crisis example presented in this article has something to teach you.

But in addition to learning from these examples, it’s also important to have a plan in place for handling a crisis.

Here are some best practices to follow:

  1. Act quickly and decisively: As we’ve seen, delaying your response can make a crisis worse. Respond quickly and decisively to show that you’re taking the situation seriously.
  2. Monitor social media closely: Social media is where a crisis can quickly escalate, so it’s important to monitor social media closely to gauge the public’s reaction and respond accordingly.
  3. Be transparent and honest: People want to know what happened and what you’re doing to address the situation. Being transparent and honest can help rebuild trust with your customers.
  4. Show empathy and take responsibility: People want to see that you care about their concerns and take responsibility for your actions. A sincere apology can go a long way in defusing a crisis.
  5. Have a crisis management plan in place: It’s important to have a plan in place that outlines the steps you’ll take in the event of a crisis. This will help you respond quickly and effectively.

Learn from Past Social Media Crisis Examples

Social media crises are a reality for businesses and brands in today’s digital age. It’s important to learn from them and have a clear plan in place for handling a crisis.

By being proactive, transparent, and empathetic, you can help rebuild trust with your customers and protect your brand’s reputation.

IrinaPogor
Digital Marketing Expert, AI Enthusiast
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