Lessons from American Apparel’s 4th of July Social Media Fail

Jonathan Bernstein crisis management, Crisis Prevention, Erik Bernstein, internet crisis management, internet reputation management, Jonathan Bernstein, online crisis management, online reputation management, PR, public relations, reputation management, social media, social media crisis management, social media reputation management 1 Comment

Major mistake highlights importance of experienced guidance for social media managers

Why is it that organizations feel perfectly comfortable handing full control of their social media accounts over to employees barely old enough to drive, or outsourcing to someone who doesn’t even live in the same country as their audience?

It’s been proven time and time again that one misstep on social media can cost you dearly in terms of both reputation and cold, hard cash. Heck, this blog is FULL of examples, but putting your good name at risk to save a bit of money, or trusting somebody to handle more responsibility than they’re able because you can’t be bothered to understand is still devastatingly common.

On July 3, American Apparel joined every every other retailer in the States as it posted social media messages celebrating Independence Day. Problem is, one of the brand’s celebratory Tumblr posts, tagged with #smoke and #clouds and placed on an ever-so-tasteful fire engine red background, was not an image of a fireworks display, but the iconic photo of the 1986 Challenger shuttle explosion.

American Apparel Challenger post

Users on Twitter and Tumblr quickly took notice, and the brand took a steady beating until posting the below response:

While some users stated they accepted it as an honest mistake, quite a few had more questions, or simply used the opportunity to take a dig at American Apparel:

Being a social media manager is about more than knowing how to put all of the platforms to work. If the people behind your accounts aren’t doing their homework, if they don’t know how to spot potential crises, and they aren’t intimately familiar with their audience – including its past – you’re going to run into trouble.

That said, it is often a great asset to have people from a variety of backgrounds, age ranges and cultures as part of your team. In that case, you can avoid help crises by ensuring you have a social media manager who meets the qualifications above vetting every post before it goes live.

Is it a lot more work than handing over your accounts and walking away? Absolutely. But isn’t not only avoiding crises, but also improving the efficacy and impact of your social media communications, worth it?

The BCM Blogging Team

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