Social media disasters in the UK

Social media disasters

Social media disaster? Read about how to recover.

There are some good examples of effective social media advertising campaigns now it’s time to shine a light on how it can go wrong and more importantly, how to recover.

Weak practice in social media in the UK happened when where prominent companies left themselves open to criticism after their social media strategy went slightly wrong. They are examples from a few years’ ago so it’s easy to recommend ‘how to recover’.

Snickers social media ads using Twitter and questions about their teaser campaign

An advertising campaign for Snickers chocolate bars by parent company Mars some years ago led to an angry backlash from Twitter users. Stars such as former Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand and TV personality Katie Price tweeted comments that were out of character, such as Ferdinand’s claim that he was knitting a cardigan. These were followed by a photo of the star smiling, with the slogan, “You’re not you when you’re hungry,” while eating a Snickers bar. Angry Twitter users felt that the tweets didn’t make it clear they were advertising a company, and the advertising standards association intervened and set out their ruling but did not find Mars in breach of the standards.

How to recover from this social media disaster: Ensure adverts are more authentic! Be prepared for negative comments on ads and talk to the audience to explain the rationale.


NatWest – the helpful bank on Twitter

20160622 NatWest twitter help

NatWest Bank launched a Twitter feed in order to establish a direct, immediate point of contact for customers. However, after a major crash of their online banking system, leaving customers unable to access their account, no-one updated the NatWest Twitter. Their following increased by around 50% during the crisis, with angry customers voicing complaints, leading to the negativity going viral. Since then a third-party website has been established to notify users when the site has crashed.

How to recover from this social media disaster: An in-company Twitter wall or social listening programme would have identified the situation immediately. Adopt technology, listen to customers and have a plan in place for what to do in a crisis – ensure the PR team are fully integrated in all aspects of digital marketing.


Odeon Cinema cat napping over a holiday weekend

2012 Odean cinema negative on Twitter

Odeon Cinema didn’t respond quickly to a post by a dissatisfied customer on its Facebook wall. This led to negative feedback – about allegedly poor service and high prices – going viral. It received 292,000 likes and 24,000 comments. Odeon could have nipped it in the bud quickly by responding positively, rather than having a massive amount of negativity spread across social media. The challenge was that this occurred over a bank holiday.
How to recover from this social media disaster: Social listening software isn’t enough in this situation. The key is to ensure staff work on a rota system and cover messages 274/7 or at least at times when the service (such as cinema viewing) is available. If this isn’t possible, ensure the rules of engagement (when you’re available) are clearly displayed. Alternatively, adopt a traditional marketing method and provide a telephone number for people to call – this should be retained by the senior marketing person so they can respond as needed.


To avoid social media disasters, adopt some extra technology. If your budget doesn’t stretch to an enterprise wide system, there are many tools, some of which are free, to help monitor your social media. Read our article on 7 useful social media tools to learn what is right for your business.

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