Social Media Hangover

6 Ways to Avoid a Social PR Hangover

Lisa Buyer May 25, 2011

Social Media Hangover

6 Ways to Avoid a Social PR Hangover

Retracing the steps of what happened after a social PR campaign “gone wild” is reminiscent of the movie “The Hangover.” Despite the right intentions, the plan just goes sideways when the mixing and mingling ends up with the wrong crowds, miscommunication, and bad decisions. The result can be quite a sobering (and unpleasant) experience.

Where’s the coffee and two aspirin? Waking up, looking around and realizing the plan didn’t go quite as planned can cause severe social media hangovers like these and worse.

Social Media: One Big Cocktail Party

Some refer to social media as “one big cocktail party.” The tweets flow, the posts fly, the emails ping, and the search results rankings climb. Then, out of nowhere, someone is “over-served” and the party suddenly comes crashing to a halt.

While a hangover usually describes the sum of unpleasant physiological effects following heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages, a social media PR campaign gone wrong can induce the same headache, nausea and possible long-term side effects as a few too many dirty Grey Goose martinis.

Out partying like it’s 1999 (again), it’s a case of:

  • That tweet didn’t chirp as planned.
  • Wait! That email wasn’t intended to be reprinted in the Wall Street Journal.
  • No one was supposed to notice we deleted that negative wall post from Facebook!

Tweet Timing and Appropriateness

Case in point: The brand Kenneth Cole offended just about everyone when they hijacked the #cairo hashtag in a marketing ploy promoting its Spring fashion collection during the height of the Egyptian revolution.


The hangover: TechCrunch offered up a serious tweet and the classic brand wound up with negative publicity in the Huffington Post, MSNBC and Mashable, to name a few. Five months later, negative search results still show up when you search “Kenneth Cole” in Google.

Employees Tweets Gone Wild

Then there was an incident in 2008 at my own agency, when a former employee told an influential blogger to “eff off” in a tweet. This resulted almost instantly in a negative article about my employee and my agency.

The hangover: I still cringe thinking about it. While able to recover immediately by reaching out to the blogger and apologizing, that won’t always be the case for everyone.

Under the Influence of Reckless Emails

Good lessons of what not to do often come in the form of backlashes from media outlets busting PR flacks in the line of duty. Most recently there was the Facebook PR campaign against Google.

The hangover: Being ousted and having your emails published in USA Today and TechCrunch should scare any PR pro into walking the walk of honesty, integrity, and complete professionalism when playing the PR game. Let’s get the story straight before sending an email.

Party or not, social media is serious business and today’s most fluid and digital forms of word of mouth marketing can result in an instant PR success or nightmare.

With the numbers coming in reporting social media delivering as much as 100 percent to 200 percent and in some cases 1,000 percent ROI , the party is more than just a spectator sport for business.

6 Ways to Avoid the Social PR Hangover

  1. Control branded search results before there is a problem. Be proactive by distributing positive and optimized press releases or video releases every 30 days; optimized social media profiles and interactions will offset any negative publicity. It’s much harder to turn negative into positive.
  2. Employee guidelines. Don’t assume your employees know where to draw the line. Stating outright what is – and isn’t – acceptable and having a policy in place will deter the potential unexpected and possibly off-brand communications.
  3. Monitor. Know who’s saying what about your brand. Again, having a standard operating procedure for compliments and complaints alike covers the expectations of today’s online consumer.
  4. Think before you hit send on emails and Tweets. The heat of the moment is typically not the best response time. We’ve all said things we don’t mean before. The beauty of social media is, you have a chance to think about your message and all its implications before you send it.
  5. Inbox Detox. Pick up the phone! Phone conversations can be safer and many times more efficient than email exchanges. There is even a company called Inbox Detox for those that really need help.
  6. Security. Ask questions like: Who has access to your user names and passwords? How many admins are necessary? Social media handles are on a need to know basis. But the more social media contributors, the higher the chance of a Tweet like the infamous Red Cross #gettngslizzer happening to your company. And although the nonprofit handled the mishap remarkably well, the hangover could have been worse.


Social media can be rewarding and also sobering. Cheers to avoiding the social media hangover!

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