10 Oct 2017

Social Media Plans Gone Wrong

by Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner, Durban,
Practice Area(s): Social Media / Cyber Crimes |

This weekend I was asked to comment about an advert that had caused a Twitter outrage.  This is something that is increasingly in the spotlight with companies making social media gaffes which incense the public and cause huge brand damage.  It is often very difficult to anticipate how the audience will interpret an advert or whether it will cause offence.  What is clear though is that in South Africa the sensitivities are magnified and the public are very quick to express their outrage on social media platforms calling for boycotts of products.  Also, these examples are not often covered by any common law because the advertising complained about is not overtly unlawful but rather “in bad taste” and it is very difficult to legislate that.

Insurance underwriters are starting to develop social media liability insurance products to protect companies as well as individuals from these types of incidents.  It may be very difficult to quantify the types of financial losses that a company has suffered in these cases and how they would deal with the claims however, there are products to assist with public relations management when these types of crises occur.

The starting point, however, is a strong social media strategy and a very experienced team dealing with social media campaigns.  We would recommend a diverse group to “test” the campaign before it goes live so that the particular sensitivities of the population are considered.  Obviously this slows down the campaign which flies in the face of advantages of social media however brands will not regret taking a little more time to avoid these types of disasters.