How to respond when Social Media Attacks Your Brand


This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

For all the praise that brand advertisers have for social media, they must be aware that it’s very much a double-edged sword. And for all the free marketing, advertising and brand promotion via Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Linked In, and other platforms used to help build an identity and relationship with your customers, it can just as quickly turn on you and your brand.

Social media disasters occur for a number of reasons, the first being that your company probably messed up. It may not have been intentional, but something, somewhere down the line, went wrong enough for someone to complain and it was enough for others to vocalize that complaint en masse. One mistake is all it takes for social media to turn against your brand.

No one is perfect and you can’t expect to please everyone all the time, so the best trick is to be prepared for how to handle things if your company finds itself under attack in the social realm. Here are three examples of companies who were attacked by social media and how they handled, or should have handled the situation. Learn from their mistakes or successes so you can stay on social media’s good side.

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  • Thanks for this piece, you've clearly given this a lot of thought. However, I do wish that the fact that the majority of abuse women face online is highly sexist, and often very scary . And it would have been great to see some advice for this sort of abuse – something I have recently been researching around – to be mentioned, to make the advice more relevant to the realities of gendered abuse online. Points like 'start an offline conversation' aren't particularly helpful if your attacker has randomly found your profile picture on twitter and decided you are a 'slut [he] wants to rape'. Also advising people to think about 'how they present themselves online' ignores the realities of a lot of abuse that takes place, which is based on your identity (race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, etc) – sure<a href=""&gt;,</a> if I didn't say I was a woman, I may get less abuse, but is that the solution? I do really think there's some useful stuff in here, and it's important not to panic, respond to attackers, etc, but I think that the nature of abuse really varies, and when it<a href="">'</a>s identity based (which is most often is) the issue becomes a lot more complex.
    Also, relying on social media policies is difficult, particularly when you look at their attitudes towards gender-based abuse. For example, Facebook lets numerous pro-rape pages or rape jokes go unchecked<a href=""&gt;,</a> but censors pictures women consensually put up of themselves. I suppose the point is that while these neutral options do exist, the identities of the people involved at the nature of the attack means that the response to it – personally and by social media – can vary.