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One of the most epic social media train wrecks occurred a few weeks ago when a small restaurant in Arizona crashed and burned on Facebook. Its owners also trashed Reddit and Yelp “haters”, used four-lettered insults and displayed a level of craziness online that would put Amanda Bynes to shame. If you haven’t already guessed it, we’re talking about Amy’s Baking Company and what has to be their deliberate attempt to commit brand suicide.

Amy’s example got us thinking about other instances when companies behaved badly on social media. These occurrences are 1) hilariously entertaining and 2) educational; there is always a lesson to be learned whenever an online #brandfail happens. Here are the top three social media train wrecks committed by companies and what we can learn from each one:What We Can Learn From Social Media Train Wrecks

1) Amy’s Baking Company: Don’t Retaliate Against Customers


Even before Amy’s made their disastrous debut on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, the restaurant’s owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo had already been “retaliating” against complaining customers since 2010. In response to a Yelp reviewer who said that he experienced “underwhelming” food and slow service, Amy handled the situation with the elegance of a eighth grader and labeled the reviewer  a “moron”, “tramp” and a “loser”. Reddit users saw the ultimate opportunity to troll and quickly organized an Amy’s Baking Company shaming wagon. As Amy and Samy continued to crusade against Reddit and Yelp, contempt against the restaurant grew proportionally (go figure).

The number one lesson we can take away from Amy’s -besides the obvious one being that a business should never launch tirades on major social media channels- is that when it comes to social media, there IS such a thing as bad publicity. In the ever transparent, highly vocalized and galvanizing medium that is social media, damage can be instantly magnified when users share, retweet and forward examples of businesses behaving badly. A brand can easily compromise its credibility, suffer customer backlash en masse and lose control of its own image faster than the time it takes to come up with a #scathing hashtag.

In one week Amy’s Baking Company was able to attract 3 million+ angry Reddit users, thousands of negative Facebook comments and viralize a video of their antics as quickly as fire moves through dry California underbrush. Congratulations ABC, for failing so successfully!

2) Celeb Boutique, Kenneth Cole & NRA: Don’t Be Painfully Ignorant

Take it from @CelebBoutique, @KennethCole and @NRA_Rifleman – the best way to damage your own online reputation is to simply not pay attention. Last year, in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado shootings @CelebBoutique mistook the trending #Aurora hashtag as a sign of the growing popularity of one of its dresses.


On the day of the same tragedy, the National Rifle Association (@NRA_Rifleman) demonstrated exceptionally poor timing when one of its automated tweets got posted, wishing a cheerful “Happy Friday” to all “shooters”. It goes without saying that the twittersphere was appalled by the tweet’s insensitivity.


@Kenneth Cole was equally oblivious and/or insensitive when it tweeted how the trending hashtag #Cairo proved that people were excited about their newest Spring collection. Right… we hope that the folks @Kenneth Cole realized that the world was actually tweeting about the Egyptian protests taking place at the same time.


Not only did these brands appear totally oblivious, their ignorance ruffled more than a few feathers. The biggest lesson from these social media disasters is that you need to be aware of what and when you’re posting, tweeting and uploading. Don’t schedule posts in advance, run away and never come back to check up on them. As the world changes constantly so does the context of social media. Make sure you’re aware of any new political, economic and social factors that could potentially color your content.

 3) EA: Don’t Come Off As A Jerk

Social media done the right way should make a company more human and likable. Social media done the wrong way can seriously damage a business’ credibility. Case in point: When Electronic Arts was named the 2012 Worst Company in Company in America  (after beating out Bank of America) EA’s CEO at the time, Peter Moore didn’t issue a flood of apologies as one would expect but instead wrote a blog post trying to shrug off EA’s responsibility for having delivered such overwhelmingly bad service. When Moore argued that there are “hundreds of millions” more EA lovers than haters, a flurry of commentators quickly commented on his post and tore his claim apart.

 The biggest lesson here is that all companies, large and small should be reachable via social media. Businesses don’t build strong brands by boasting of their own popularity online; they cultivate trust and a following by embracing a customer’s advice on how to change, by taking the time to respond to each Facebook post and by thanking each Twitter mention. Know that whatever you post online can come back to haunt you. Steer away from potential social media train wrecks by representing your brand humbly and genuinely while on social media.

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