The Social Observer

The Social Media Marketing Blog by SNHU Students

Social Media Train Wrecks – How to Avoid Disasters for Your Brand

social media train wrecks and disastersSocial media is the best marketing tool to reach people in the 21st century. However, social media train wrecks can also derail your branding efforts and cause a very negative response that can go viral in seconds. So how do you protect yourself and your business? Below are some simple tips, along with a video, that can help your business avoid social media train wrecks.


 Develop Social Media Guidelines

Every company should have a set of very clear rules concerning social media. Inside the guidelines should be detailed information about usage.

  • When should social media be used at work?
  • In what capacity should social media be used?
  • Who should have access to social media admin pages?
  • What is the approval process for posting material?
  • What are the expectations concerning language use?
  • What denotes a crisis situation? Who should be contacted at that point?

Don’t like writing policy? No problem. There’s a free policy tool available that will help generate a policy for you based on a 12-question survey and can be customized to fit your company.

Once you have your policy written, be sure to communicate it clearly to your employees either through a training session or by creating a video they are required to watch. New employees should be trained as soon as possible.

Having guidelines in place will set the standard, hold your employees accountable, minimize risks, and protect your brand from damages and loss of revenue from potential social media train wrecks.

Learn from social media mistakes

Learning from past social media mistakes means and other people’s social media train wrecks will ensure that your company doesn’t have to learn from making them. You’ll be learning the easy way instead of the hard way. Reviewing case studies of social media train wrecks and taboos is a great way to illustrate the dangers social media present to your brand and how you can avoid them for your business. Here are a few tips to remember:

Always think BEFORE you post.
Never capitalize off a tragedy.

Don’t use popular hashtags to capitalize off of a moment of crisis. Sure you will get more traffic from it, but you’ll be the one paying the price if you have any social media train wrecks.


This kind of action will definitely result in a revolt against your brand and leave people shaking their head.

Look at the example to the right of how one company tried to use the hashtag #Aurora – a horrible tragedy in Colorado where many people were killed –  to promote fashion by Kim Kardashian. It left many people disgusted – an example of classic social media train wrecks.

Be genuine, show respect, be kind


The golden rule even applies to social media.  Treat people how you want to be treated. Go in with the attitude that the customer is always right and you’ll always come out the winner. The Facebook post to the right shows how one company went in the wrong direction when it came to responding to criticism about their bakery.

Don’t link personal accounts with business – it’s a mistake waiting to happen

So many people and businesses have been caught by this one. The employee thinks they are posting to their personal account and they end up posting on the corporate account. This results in people losing their jobs and brands being embarrassed.

Have employees set up non-personal accounts that are only used for admin purposes for your social media pages. Simple solution, social media train wreck diverted. See the example to the right of just how devastating this mix-up could be to your brand.

Stay alert

Social media can be monitored around the clock so that you don’t get caught off guard. There are many ways to monitor the message about your brand.

  • Receive social media updates about your business simply by being a follower or a subscriber
  • Set up Google Alerts that tell you when your brand has been mentioned on the web
  • Use a monitoring software like Hootsuite to view conversations about your brand

Always provide good customer service. If someone has responded negatively it is your job to respond in a positive manner, if a response is warranted.

 Have a crisis plan in place for social media train wrecks

Social media is always on, so be prepared. Anything can happen from a hostile employee trying to damage your brand to a hacker trying to create chaos. Create a plan of action that details how your company should respond to a crisis situation. Don’t be caught off guard. Time is money, especially in terms of a crisis. With social media every minute counts because the world is waiting for your response. Don’t let your brand go up in smoke. Get out in front of the situation before it gets out of control.

Here are some tips for developing a crisis plan to avoid social media train wrecks:

  • Understand and define what a crisis is and what it is not.
  • How will you respond? Remember, a response is not an admission of guilt.
  • Define who will respond and who approves the message.
  • Who is responsible for dealing with media inquiries?
  • Prepare a media response kit so your image appears polished even in the midst of a storm.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Network with a firm that specializes in Public Relations.
  • Remember, once you have a plan in place, stick to it. That’s why you have a plan.
  • After a crisis go back and review your plan and make adjustments as needed.

I hope these tips will help you and your business avoid social media train wrecks!

Have suggestions for how to avoid social media train wrecks? Please share your tips with us in the comment box below.

Category: Social Media Marketing 201