If only Epicurious had been using Social Flow or Buffer, it might’ve avoided the headaches associated with social media’s latest tragedy-related faux pas.
But it appears the food-lover’s website wasn’t using either of those social management services, and sent out a couple tweets on Tuesday that looked like an attempt at self-promotion in the aftermath of a terrible event.
Twitter user Thomas Powell seems to have been the first to notice (that’s his image above), and coverage on other websites has quickly picked up steam, as is always the case when brands take this route with their social media posts during tragedies.
After seeing the backlash on Twitter, Epicurious sent out more than a dozen direct apology tweets and ended with a public apology that said:
Our food tweets this morning were, frankly, insensitive. Our deepest, sincere apologies.
— epicurious (@epicurious) April 16, 2013
Tragedy = Social Media Screw-Up Waiting To Happen
This kind of thing has become so commonplace that when a tragedy happens, many people aren’t wondering if some brand is going to screw-up, but which one and when.
- Kenneth Cole’s tweet during the Egypt unrest in 2011
- a very similar tweet from Celeb Boutique after the Aurora, Colorado shooting last year
- American Apparel and The Gap were both blasted for marketing messages sent out during Hurricane Sandy
Epicurious wasn’t the first, and surely won’t be the last company guilty of what’s generally considered poor taste in marketing during national tragedies.
Buffer & SocialFlow Tried To Help
As soon as news spread Monday of the Boston Marathon bombings, my Twitter stream was filled with tweets from marketers urging brands to turn off their automated, pre-scheduled posts to avoid anything like what happened in the examples above.
Two social automation providers were part of that chorus.
Soon after the bombs went off, Buffer sent out a couple public tweets, along with numerous direct replies, telling users how to pause scheduled tweets.
Quick Buffer tip: To pause your scheduled tweets, open your Schedule Tab and click the days to turn them off; click again to unpause.
— Buffer (@bufferapp) April 15, 2013
Another social automation provider, SocialFlow, did the same for its users, but via email (screenshot below).
There are numerous other social automation providers, and some may have also helped users with a reminder about turning off scheduled tweets or Facebook updates. Let us know in the comments if you know of similar messaging that went out yesterday or today.
What about Epicurious, you may be wondering? Did it see these messages? Probably not. A look at the company’s tweets shortly before the tragedy show that messages were being sent via Hootsuite.
It’s certainly not Hootsuite’s fault in any way that Epicurious posted what it did, but we did contact the company to ask if they alerted users to the need for caution after Monday’s bombings.
A Hootsuite spokesperson told us that it “did not send out messaging to our entire global userbase yesterday after Boston Marathon’s incident – [but] our community and customer service teams were on their regular 24-hour support shifts to quickly assist anyone who reached out with questions on how to silence their existing scheduled messages.”
It’s not clear to me if today’s Epicurious tweets were pre-scheduled or not. But it is clear that they’re the latest example of the need to be extra careful on social media in light of breaking news.
Postscript: The original version of this article has been edited to correct what we believe is the original source of the screenshot showing Epicurious’ tweets.