Social Media Blunders: How Reckless Social Can Lose You More Than Money
No matter how big or small your brand is, presence on social media is hugely important in this day and age. People rely on social media to keep up with their favourite companies, check for sales, and get a good look at the places they’re shopping, so maintaining your presence online can be crucial to your brand’s success. But alongside the new digital side of business are the subsequent dangers, and companies are now placed under much more scrutiny from the public. One blunder can be immortalised if it’s made online, with savvy consumers always screenshot ready to catch retailers out.
In recent years, a few major retailers have made serious mistakes, with the repercussions coming back to haunt them on social media. If you’re a business starting to get active on social media, it’s worth reading on to figure out where they went wrong, just to keep yourself safe. Clever social use might earn you money, but mistakes could cost your business’ reputation and respect.
Black Milk Clothing: May the 4th Be With You
For a brand that is openly against women shaming other women, online retailers Black Milk Clothing made a massive blunder in May of last year. The brand released a range of Star Wars themed clothing, just in time for “Star Wars Day,” and took to Facebook to promote their products. Unfortunately, whoever was in charge of the social media posts for that day made a bit of mistake, breaking their own self-imposed rule for their Facebook page: “You shall not make critical comments about others’ bodies.”
As expected, the Internet didn’t take kindly to Black Milk’s comparison, and the backlash was fierce. Long time supporters of the brand immediately responded, filling the comments section of the posts with their (totally justified) concerns. And whilst the picture itself was troubling, Black Milk’s response was what made things really turn ugly.
Rather than doing the sensible thing and removing the post and offering an apology to their followers, Black Milk Clothing decided to get defensive instead, and what came next was downright embarrassing for the brand. It started off with them deleting the posts made by concerned followers, who were offering legitimate criticisms of the brand. Refusing to admit any wrongdoing, Black Milk Clothing said the choice to post the picture was “best for the business” and that those criticising the picture were “dragging” everyone else.
Whilst the company eventually ended up taking down the offending post, they still refused to apologise for what they had done. Despite being body positive and speaking out in the past against body shaming, they insisted their post was just a joke, and stood firm on their decision to ban members permanently from their Facebook page, despite those members having just voiced their concerns in a rather respective manner.
It was a messy situation that could have been easily remedied with a quick “Delete This Post” and hastily written apology, but instead it sent Black Milk Clothing down a rabbit hole of aggressive replies, banned members, and a loss of respect from their consumers. Hopefully they will learn from their mistakes, but for now, the damage is already done.
Zara’s Anti-Semitic Debacle
Spanish fashion retailer Zara has a rather embarrassing and incriminating history with anti-Semitic wares, starting with the production of a handbag in 2007 that featured swastikas, though the brand vehemently denied any malicious intent behind the design. After the offensive design was pointed out, the retailer pulled the stock from all their stores, but photos were already being spread across the Internet.
Flash forward to 2014, and Zara were up to it again, releasing a striped pyjama shirt for children featuring a six-pointed star. The garment was remarkably similar to shirts forced onto Jewish people in concentration camps, and the media were quick to notice the similarities. Targeted at toddlers, the long-sleeved pyjama top held too many similarities akin to the garb worn in concentration camps, but somehow Zara didn’t pick up on the mistake until it was too late and the items were already in-store.
To their credit, Zara responded quickly, apologising profusely for the apparent slip-up. Despite the clear resemblance to the anti-Semitic clothing, Zara claimed the shirt was supposed to be inspired by old Western films. If you look closely at the shirt, there is a faint print of the word “Sherrif,” though the text is barely discernible.
Of course, the image went viral across social media, particularly on Twitter were people were quick to jump up and criticise the brand for their careless and tasteless designs. Though the company has maintained its popular worldwide status, they still certainly lost a great deal of respect from a large portion of their customer base, particularly as it was a repeat offence with their anti-Semitic views.
Victoria’s Secret’s “Perfect Body” Campaign
The lingerie brand have been criticised repeatedly for their models, who all adhere to the same, generally unattainable body type, but their 2014 adveritsing campaign for their line of bras. Though the brand might have thought the location of their quotation marks would mean they could avoid criticism, the company’s website came under fire for featuring ten models alongside the words, “The Perfect “Body.””
The campaign wasn’t limited to an online presence, with posters featuring similar images and the same quotation were put up in stores across the UK, featuring backlash from local shoppers. The concerned shoppers then took to the Internet to voice their frustrations at the brand, using a tool that is becoming remarkably common these days: online petitioning. The petition, made on Change.org, was signed by over 30,000 people, who were staunchly against Victoria’s Secret’s attempts at body positivity.
Though they didn’t issue an official apology or statement on the matter, Victoria’s Secret caught onto the growing dissent amongst their customers, working quickly to change the slogan, though keeping their trademark slender models in focus. The changes, however, were only made on their official website, but the original offensive posters remained in store.
The changes came too late, though, as the Internet had already taken hold of the advertisement, and were quick to come up with their own responses. Brands posted their own images, pulling text straight from the original advertisement and pasting it across images featuring women of varying shapes and sizes, and their statement was remarkably more powerful than Victoria’s Secret initial post.
And whilst they might not be huge advocates of body positivity for varying body shapes, Victoria’s Secret will continue to face the backlash from their consumers until they decide to make the switch to diverse models that actually fit the “average” woman’s body. Until then, this blunder will continue to exist on the Internet, alongside the lingerie brand’s other, similar advertisements.
You might have thought that as a business, not offending your consumers would be obvious, but apparently a few things can slip through the cracks, even for multi-million dollar international companies. Keep a sharp eye on your social media before you post, and consider who will be reading it and what might offend them.