This article is the sequel to the series of ‘Social Media Gone Badly Wrong’ articles. In this third part, a further three case studies are presented to illustrate the magnitude social media risks can have on business.

1. Unethical behavior:  Samsung has been the subject of major controversy regarding the way it conducts its production process after the China Labor Watch published a report on the matter. The non-for-profit organization released, in September 2012, a full report about how Samsung’s Huizhou factory showed many labor violations including, as listed by the organization, ‘forced and excessive overtime, extensive labor contract violations, forced work without pay, abuse of underage workers, […], lack of worker safety, a lack of a living base wage, and a lack of any effective complaint mechanisms’, among others. Thousands of discontent tweets followed after the news broke out, bringing the issue to world attention and affecting the company’s credibility on a global scale. What this case thus shows is that if a company today engages in unethical behavior, the potential for this to be uncovered and publicized globally is very likely with social media. As people are becoming increasingly more conscious consumers, more and more attention is given to the ‘story’ behind the product. If unfair, inappropriate or unethical behavior eventually emerges, this has the potential to affect brand reputation permanently.

2. Lack of explanation: After Verizon quickly announced its plan to add a 2 dollar fee to all those making single bill payments with the company, thousands of angry tweets were made in just two days. The tweets were accompanied by online petitions and criticizing blog posts. The flow on online criticism that followed the announcement pushed the company to cancel its decision just one day after making its announcement. This case thus shows that companies need to conduct enough market research and be adequately prepared in managing customer response before announcing new action plans. People, today, want to make informed decisions that are backed up with proper explanation, especially in times of change. Insufficient explanation and hastened announcements are not effective ways to forge the way for new decisions. Verizon not only lost time on its business strategy, but also hurt its image by creating thousands of angry customers and potential customers too.

3. Lack of involvement: Carnival Cruise Lines is the subject a very interesting case study in regards to the risks involved with social media when a company decides not to use it. Carnival Cruise Lines, the parent company of the Costa Cruise ship that capsized off the coast of Italy in January 2012, killing 32 passengers in the process, decided to withdraw its social media activities for a while as a result. Exactly 6 days after the disaster, Carnival Cruise Lines posted on its Facebook page: ‘Hi, everyone. Out of respect for all those affected by the recent events surrounding our sister line, Costa cruises, we are going to take a bit of a break from posting on our social channels’. This statement created a reaction amongst thousands of people who posted disapproving comments, questions and remarks about both this decision and the disaster that had happened. Someone even posted back: ‘If the CEO of Carnival Micky A. would actually “own” the problem and stop hiding maybe, just maybe this great cruise line will survive. Way too many mistakes and embarrassments going on in this entire tragedy.’ This case study thus raises an important question as to what kind of attitude needs to be adopted during a crisis. Withdrawing social media involvement is, as this case shows, not the best strategy to adopt. Rather, showing increased engagement and a proactive move to be present as much as possible is a more effective one.


In order to prevent or manage a social media crisis, a solid social media strategy needs to be in place. Having a fully integrated strategy within your organization will help optimize social media benefits whilst reducing social media risks, thus taking your business one step ahead of your competitors.


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Posted in: Social Media Cases, Social Media for Executives

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