L&T invites you to to join us for a hilarious and informative presentation on social media’s biggest blunders, presented by Simon Heseltine, who is currently the Global Head of SEO at HP Enterprise, and previously Senior Director in charge of Organic Audience Development at AOL Inc.

L&Team is psyched for June 28th’s presentation and happy hour, titled Social Screwups and How to Avoid Them. Our keynote speaker, Simon Heseltine, is a social media whiz, with great anecdotes from his work in audience development at AOL, and ample experience in social training for brands and non-profits on the side.

We were able to steal a sneak peek at his presentation and guarantee that it’ll have you in stitches. It’s equally amusing and mind-boggling what select brands and individuals think is appropriate behavior on social media, and giggling at other’s misfortunes can be very cathartic after a long week in the trenches of Silicon Alley. However, Simon’s presentation won’t (only) stoke your schadenfreude: be prepared for some great takeaways in social media management and high level discussion of how to leverage social to grow your brand message as well!

For example, a couple of key takeaways from Simon’s presentation are:

  1. Stay true to your brand message
  2. Respect your customer

Seems simple enough, right? Well, one case study from Simon’s presentation on online retailer Black Milk Clothing, outlines the real business consequences that one social screwup can cause:


When Black Milk, an Australian-based online-only retailer that specializes in women’s fast fashion, posted this meme on “Star Wars Day” (May 4th=May the “fourth” be with you), their Facebook following was less than impressed. The above post was intended to be a humorous and light-hearted “Expectation v.s. Reality” meme, but numerous commenters raised the point that putting the model on the left next to Amy Farrah Fowler, Mayim Bialik’s character in “The Big Bang Theory,” on the right, insinuates that Bialik’s look is inferior and undesirable in comparison. It also breaks Black Milk’s own brand “commandments,” namely, #5: YOU SHALL NOT MAKE CRITICAL COMMENTS ABOUT OTHERS’ BODIES.

We reached out to our own social media manager, Shayna Robinson, for comment on Black Milk’s numerous faux pas at each stage of this social media scandal:

Stage 1: The Initial Post


Shayna’s thoughts:

“I think [this post] is saying that geeky goddesses are actually ugly and kind of frumpy, and that the reality of them is not hot at all. I could see Black Milk’s audience being offended by it. I would potentially be offended by it…I think it is demeaning towards women.”

After reading Black Milk’s brand commandments:

“I would say someone should have gotten in trouble over this. That’s a complete violation of commandment #5. Putting that out on social media categorizes women in a black and white, unrealistic manner.”


It looks like Black Milk’s facebook followers had similar feelings, because the comments section quickly filled with criticisms of Black Milk’s body-shaming and sexism.

Stage 2: Responses from “Alicia”

An employee on Black Milk’s social media team began responding to commenters and deleting “negative” comments. Many commenters were also banned from the page in the process.


Shayna’s thoughts:

“They banned people and deleted comments?! Because it ‘wasn’t conducive for a positive environment and that’s what we’re trying to create here’? Well, Alicia, I would say that the irony is not lost on me there. By posting that image they actually created a negative environment for a lot of women and customers, and by banning people and deleting them, they’re trying to sweep it under the rug and not take responsibility.”

“As a brand you’re going to have screw up moments, but part of being a good brand and maintaining customer loyalty is taking responsibility and being humble.”


Stage 3: BM Team Response

After several hours of drama has ensued, the Black Milk team put out the following post on their facebook page:


Shayna’s thoughts:

“They say they won’t apologize because they have integrity but it sounds more like arrogance to me. Offending customers is doing ‘something wrong,’ as the customer is always right. I think it’s disparaging to women, and their response is disparaging to their customers.”


Stage 4: Damage Control/Final Apology

After two days of terrible press and the loss of thousands of facebook followers, Cameron Parker, head of sales and marketing at Black Milk, released the following statement:

I want to start off by saying I am incredibly sorry for everything that has happened over the last couple of days.

We made a mistake and we apologise sincerely.

The intention behind the meme was to share a personal experience, and never meant to offend anyone. We misjudged the line between funny and offensive, and underestimated the true impact it would have. I am so sorry.

The senior management at Black Milk take full responsibility for the post and the way complaints following the post were handled. Any criticism should be directed there, and not to the social media team who were simply acting under the direction of management.

I want you guys to know that this wonderful, diverse community means so much to me personally. Having gone to meet ups and being involved in all the amazing things you guys do for each other is such a humbling experience. I don’t want to think that what has taken years to build could be jeopardised.

We are taking ownership of this situation, from the original post to the way complaints were handled. I will work together with the Black Milk team to ensure we learn from this.

We are a small, passionate team who truly value the friendships we have with you guys. I hope that the past four years are a testament to how proud we are of the diversity and inclusiveness within our communities. In saying that, we are human and unquestionably have made a mistake.

Again, we are truly sorry for everything that has happened. I really hope any damage caused over the last few days can be repaired.

This community is such a special place and we want everyone to fun and share the love.



Shayna’s thoughts:

“Well that actually sounds sincere, but after losing thousands of Facebook followers and customers with the previous responses, it might be too little too late. This should have gone out immediately after the first blunder.”


Moral of the story? Be true to your branding, cognizant of your customer’s demographic makeup, and humble in the face of criticism.

For Simon’s take on the Black Milk saga and more social screwups, be sure to get your tickets now for our June 28th Happy Hour! We hope to see you all there!