Answer: When it’s some other form of corporate cock-up.
I toyed, a while ago, with the thought of creating a wiki of social media crisis, the objective of which would be to provide a place that told the definitive tale of each of our favourite case studies. For example, it would have pointed out that while Dell Hell is a good example of how a lone voice in the blogosphere can make huge waves. It probably helped that the blogger in question was journalist Jeff Jarvis, and therefore probably more influential than most bloggers at that time. A detail that occasionally slips a speakers mind as he tries to persuade his audience of the importance of social media.
I didn’t get round to creating that wiki, but it looks like someone has created a very good starting place with this presentation of Social Media Crisis, or Social Media Screw Ups – A history, which I recommend you flick through. As you do, you might notice that most of the screw-ups weren’t actually social media related. For example, twitter had nothing to do with United’s physical mis-handling of Dave Carroll’s guitar. Facebook was equally blameless in the terrible customer service that he received. What social media did was help Carroll get his message out and then for others to amplify it. An offline crisis made worse by social media, which is what most of the examples contained within the deck are.
However, it’s a useful reminder of how once something goes wrong, on or offline, if you ignore it. It’s not going to go away, it will only get worse and then you’ll end up as an inappropriate case study.
On a final note, wouldn’t it be nice to have an opposing deck of examples where social media helped save a companies reputation after a snafu?