Epicurious Becomes Latest Brand To Suffer Social Backlash From Tragedy-Related Tweets

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.

epicurious-tweets

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:

 

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.

There was:

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.

 

Another social automation provider, SocialFlow, did the same for its users, but via email (screenshot below).

social-flow

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.

epicurious-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.

Related Topics: Branding | Channel: Strategy | Features & Analysis | Marketing Tools: Social Media | Social Media Marketing | Top News | Twitter

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Marketing Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Keyserholiday

    Not sure their direct apologies did what the meant to do. Copy and pasting the same message over and over misses the point, plus the term
    Seemed insensitive, negates the apology. I don’t see how turn off an automated tweet sweet would have prevented this at all. Sadly it will happen again.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    There is a very big difference between newsjacking a hot story and trying to turn a tragedy into a promotion. I live and work in Boston and we are doing the best we can to carry on with business as usual (or as usual as we can get it) and while not being able to stop a few auto-send messages right away isn’t the end of the world (provided you catch the next batch) Epicurious crossed the line.

  • http://markfrisk.com/ Mark Frisk

    I don’t understand how Epicurious’s misguided, bad-taste tweets have anything to do with scheduling tools. Unless I’m missing something, the tweets were an utterly tone-deaf attempt to tie in to the Boston tragedy, not tweets that were placed in the queue BEFORE the bombings. Why would Epicurious schedule those tweets to post the DAY AFTER the marathon? Day of? Sure. Day after? Doesn’t make sense.

    P.S. Don’t mean to give the scheduled post concept short shrift. SocialFlow, Buffer and the like are tools that precisely enable scheduled-post faux pas. It’s nice that both companies issued alerts, but at the end of the day these are just tools, and the responsibility for using them properly falls completely on the people who are using them.

  • Matt McGee

    As I say in the article, Mark, I have no idea if these were scheduled tweets. Agree with you that they probably weren’t.

    The story is about the overall issue of brand-based social media during tragedies, not just about Epicurious. That’s why I mention the previous cases of mistakes and how Buffer and SocialFlow tried to proactively help their users from making the kind of mistakes that Epicurious and the others made.

  • http://twitter.com/ZeusofMarketing ZeusofMarketing

    Seriously? At this point it makes you wonder
    if they did it on purpose just to gain attention. Never mind the poor
    execution – it’s just a sick strategy

  • Bridget

    This may be a side issue but in light of Mark’s comment, is there any reason to assume that these tweets weren’t intended to refer to the marathon itself, rather than the tragedy? Especially the breakfast one, which frankly seems more likely to have been thought up in the “gearing up for a big race” context. Hence they would have been scheduled in advance to coincide with a major sporting event…

    I may be misinterpreting the context of the tweets but unless Epicurious has specifically expressed that they were not automated, it seems preferable to give them the benefit of the doubt…in which case this is exactly the sort of situation Matt is talking about, where unsupervised automation leads to unfortunate social media behaviour.

  • http://markfrisk.com/ Mark Frisk

    Those tweets were sent the day after the race, and the tragedy, @disqus_u1GIsdtbMj:disqus. So any “gearing up for a big race” context doesn’t make sense. Even so, “Boston, our hearts are with you” just doesn’t sound like a rah-rah message.

    But let’s go with your assumption that the tweets were pre-scheduled to run the day AFTER the race. Why would one write “our hearts are with you” for a day-after message? It’s not only not rah-rah, it’s language someone would use after something bad has happened.

    I’m reading between the lines, but Epicurious’s apology tweets, wherein they specifically refer to the tweets being “insensitive,” lead me to think that they weren’t pre-scheduled.

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