In this online world, getting your strategy wrong or failing to spot the signs of an issue forming can have a huge impact on your brand’s reputation.

Looking back over the last 12 months, these three companies got it wrong online in a big way.

In January, McDonalds took to Twitter to promote its use of fresh produce and meat using the hashtag #McDStories.

The hashtag was soon being used by people worldwide – but not in the way that the American fast food giant had imagined. The hashtag had become the bashtag.

Customers with awful experiences of eating at McDonalds usurped #McDStories and told the Twittersphere of their misery with posts such as:

 

#McDStories I just read that McDonalds chicken nuggets have a foaming agent in them, similar to products used for building materials,” said @Cate_Storm

 

2) The crisis was offline. In June, NatWest suffered huge system failures that resulted in their customers being unable to access their money. No doubt they were working hard behind the scenes to rectify the problem from an operational perspective.

Prior to the incident they were quite active across social media but they seemed to disappear when their disgruntled customers vented their frustrations online. Tweets directed at NatWest during this period grew by almost 10-fold and brought further unwanted attention.

The banking giant’s failure to deal with the offline crisis that moved online had an enormous negative impact on their brand.

3) While NatWest attracted thousands of negative comments that went viral, in August it took just one customer complaining to thrust Odeon into the spotlight.

A customer complained about the cost and quality of an Odean cinema via a wall post on the cinema’s official Facebook page. A staggering 122,468 Likes and 10,408 comments subsequently followed.

Odeon were too slow in responding and when they did, their comment was lost among the thousands of other replies.

Lessons for 2013

If you are often a magnet for criticism, like McDonalds, make sure you do a ‘worst case scenario’ exercise before you launch your online campaign.

Trying to hide online only makes the situation worse. Many of the posts aimed at NatWest would not have happened if the bank was feeding their customers information and updates.

Monitor your social media channels. If you had a disgruntled customer in your shop, would you ignore them? Didn’t think so. If there is dissatisfaction online, act immediately to stop the problem escalating. By posting an apology online and offering your assistance by taking the issue offline, you show others that it is being dealt with.