Big brand boo-boos, social storm tracking, and informational integrity during Hurricane Sandy | This Week in Social Media

Social web takes retailers to task for poor judgment

When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast on Monday, American Apparel saw an opportunity to boost sales. Customers in the nine states where damage was most devastating were blasted with a targeted email, suggesting that those “bored during the storm” use the code SANDYSALE at checkout to save 20% online. Offended customers immediately took to Twitter, declaring general disgust and even boycotts of the “Made in the U.S.A.” company, who remains unapologetic despite public outrage. “I’m sleeping well at night knowing this was not a serious matter,” American Apparel CEO Dov Charney told Business Week. Gap and Urban Outfitters made similar gaffes and were quickly met with criticism from social media users.

Americans follow Sandy on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

During times of disaster, social media sites can offer users more timely information than traditional news outlets. Popular social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram allowed users to see and experience Hurricane Sandy as it happened, with photos, personal anecdotes, and updates on power outages and transit closures—many tagged with geographic locations, making it easy to track the hurricane’s destruction along the eastern seaboard. As of Monday afternoon, there were already over 200,000 photos on Instagram with the hashtag Sandy, with another 100,000 tagged “HurricaneSandy,” according to the Associated Press.

Fake Hurricane photos storm social networking sites

Although social media can facilitate the efficient distribution of useful information and news, it can also enable false information to spread quickly, before users realize they’ve been duped. Several fake photos surfaced during Hurricane Sandy’s reign, including photos from earlier storms, photoshopped composites, and even a still from the film The Day After Tomorrow. On Twitter, a photo surfaced of three soldiers standing guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier despite the harsh weather. The photo—which was later debunked as an image taken earlier this fall, not during Hurricane Sandy—went viral, and was shared on several major media outlets before being identified as false.