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Social Media Screw Ups In Any Language Cause Pain for Brands

As much as we might hate to admit it, it is important for the social media industry to police itself on many levels and not just allow stupid social media tricks to go by unexamined, or unpunished, depending on your mood.

The latest to grace the Social Media Hall of Shame is KFC Thailand. According to an AP story the folks running the Facebook page for this group thought it was a prudent move to try to sell some chicken as people were dealing with the earthquake and the fears of a possible tsunami this past Wednesday:

KFC Thailand has apologized for posting a Facebook message that urged people to rush home during Wednesday’s tsunami scare and order a bucket of KFC chicken.

As people were being urged to evacuate from beaches, the company posted this message: “Let’s hurry home and follow the earthquake news. And don’t forget to order your favorite KFC menu.”

Hundreds of angry commenters on Thai web boards denounced the company as insensitive and selfish.

By Thursday, the message was removed and replaced by one that asked for forgiveness.

Here are the translations copied verbatim from Google Translate from the KFC Thailand Twitter feed:

Sorry for the mistake I made . We have deleted this post and be careful not to make this event happen again.

And from the Facebook Page

The team knows what KFC Thailand Fanpage in error and sincere regret for the improper use of a disaster situation occurs.

KFC Thailand Fanpage same team to make every customer a high hit me again.

OK, so the translation on that last one is a little fuzzy but notice the number of Likes the apology received. All things considered it appears as if the people of Thailand can be a forgiving bunch.

An article from The Bottom Line at msnbc.com reports

A message left with Yum! Brands, KFC’s parent company, was not immediately returned.

There are so many warnings in this particular incident but it’s not as if this was even preventable. People do and say stupid things. Nowadays, the unfortunate thing is that the mike is always on with social media so more and more gets out of peoples’ heads and into others eyes and ears. International brands must be vigilant worldwide because as we see in this case, what happens in Thailand apparently doesn’t stay in Thailand.

if you would like to be reminded of other cringeworthy moments in social media history visit the MSNBC article where they have a nice recap of some of the all time greats. From Microsoft promoting Bing following the Japan earthquake, to Amy Winehouse’s death used as a way to sell her music, to the recent Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea insensitivity around the Trayvon Matin case, there is plenty to pick from.

I am sure that we will continue to see these types of mistakes despite our best efforts to police ourselves. Why? Because people are in a hurry and many people who are at the helm of social media efforts don’t have any common sense. Based on the human race’s track record that will never change so buckle in because we are just getting started.