The Retail Dangers Of Social Media Going Viral Strike Again

Retailers looking to leverage social media are quickly learning that it's a powerful tool—and it's sometimes far too powerful. That's a lesson Groupon learned in January, when it tried launching a new service in Japan. For those who need another reminder, a 16-year-old girl in Australia is only too happy to oblige. Seems that the girl posted an invite to her 16th birthday party on Facebook (with her address) and didn't properly set the privacy settings.

It went viral, and almost 200,000 people said they would show up at her house. The party was canceled (which is a shame, given that the family apparently didn't calculate the potential eBay revenue from selling all of those gifts), but it's a critical reminder for retail. If a promotion goes viral, what seemed like a great idea can quickly morph into a disaster. Think Sorcerer's Apprentice: social media is the magic spell and your impressively unhappy customers are the water. And those angry customers—facing hand-scribbled out of stock signs, huge lines and terrible customer service— will likely not forget. They won't be bringing gifts, either.