Usability view: social media fails

22 May 2013
Ben Logan

Ben Logan


Passionate about improving services and experiences for the people that use them.

Usability can help social media

As usability practitioners, we are fascinated by psychology and communication.  We are also very used to trying to see things from other people’s perspective.  In a sense, that’s what a lot of usability is – trying to appreciate that other people may not see things the same way as you do.  If you’re in any doubt about that, watch a usability testing session sometime!


One of the reasons we’re so interested when companies get social media wrong is that it shows they have not ‘got it’.  They are using social media to serve their own needs and they’re viewing it entirely from their own perspective.  Any usability practitioner will tell you that that’s a losing proposition.  Here are a couple of examples where organisations should have put on their ‘usability hat’ and seen things from the other side.



While most companies are desperately trying to encourage audience engagement on social media, Nutella recently took legal action against a fan who created a ‘World Nutella Day’ Facebook page.  The page had gained more than 40,000 likes and encouraged people to celebrate their love for the product.
Nutella’s reaction when it found out about the page was to issue a cease and desist notice to its owner.
Unsurprisingly, Nutella caught a storm of criticism for their action on social media and have now removed their objections.  Nutella have apologised for their response and said that their initial reaction had been “a routine brand defense procedure”.



For an eye-watering example of a brand getting things very wrong on social media, check out this spat between a customer and Cineworld on Twitter:


Cineworld’s tone in this exchange is petulant and childish.  Not only that, but the dialogue (if you can call it that) goes on and on and on.  A couple of highlights from Cineworld’s side include:

“you ‘say’ we’re definitely going to go bust in 1-5 years. If you’re psychic can you tell me the lottery numbers?”


“Fine OK we’re just evil millionaires who are trying to destroy cinema, you’ve blown it wide open. Enjoy Odeon :]”

Usability perspective


Both of these examples show a big brand not really understanding how audiences use social media.  They also illustrate the importance of  appreciating your audience’s point of view and thinking carefully about how your responses will be perceived.


More and more brands are choosing to actually relinquish some control and give fans access to brand assets, hoping this will encourage them to create their own content around a product or organisation.


The final thing that these examples prove is that it’s always funny when this stuff happens to someone else 🙂


Ben Logan - Director

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