Social Media Crisis Examples – Wins and Losses

Social Media can be a Public Relations nightmare if people aren’t communicating to their audiences the right way. Businesses and organizations of all kinds are learning to be very aware of their communication techniques in order to avoid arguments as well as potential crises arising. We’ve compiled a few stories from the brands who have experienced big-time social media disruptions, as well as their different methods of resolution.


The Red Cross had a tweet mistakenly sent out by one of their social media employees in 2011, stating “Ryan found 2 more four bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…. When we drink we do it right #gettingslizzerd”. The employee obviously meant to tweet from their personal account, and the Red Cross confirmed this with a simple apology for inappropriate content, adding in a light-hearted joke. Admittance of fault, authentic explanation, and an apology – this is a perfect approach. Twitter was very forgiving, and happy to know that the Red Cross was not, in fact, getting slizzerd. 

In 2012, a Facebook photo went viral which accused Ruffles of selling bags of air. The photo said “70% air, 30% chips.” Ruffles reacted quickly and effectively, by sharing their own photo, which explained why air was used in packaging (without air in the package, chips get crushed en route from the factory). People were very pleased to see this brand reply to their consumers in a positive and informative light.


After the Boston bombing, Epicurious sent out a collection of tweets urging people to buy breakfast food, “in honor of Boston and New England”. First off, they made the mistake of advertising for the sake of advertising, simply because a certain subject was trending on twitter. This is the worst kind of social media, and it can be smelled from miles away. Second, these tweets were in the absolute poorest of taste. People got very upset and Epicurious responded by replying to everyone with a copy/pasted apology, using the phrase “our tweets seemed insensitive”. The whole situation was taken poorly and they just weren’t able to fix it – huge loss for Epicurious.

HMW, for those unfamiliar, is a British entertainment retailing company. In 2013, they fired over 50 employees, one of these people being the twitter moderator. (Yes, they fired their twitter person without first having them log off the company account.) As soon as the firing scheme begun, this employee started live tweeting the whole scenario. Apparently these employees, who all claimed to be happily loyal to the brand, had no reasonable explanation for their termination. There’s no way to know how badly this truly affected the company’s reputation, but it’s safe to say it was much worse than the Red Cross’s innocent rogue tweet. Granted, this was not just a social media crisis, but also a blatant mistreatment of employees. HMV really lost on this one. They went home crying.

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