This week Facebook fails at the most ironic thing possible, and created a negative PR storm for itself, by responding poorly to a user trying to help Facebook. We expect this to happen to brands on Facebook, but to Facebook itself? Yikes. You can find a more-detailed account of the story here (entrepreneur.com) but the basic timeline is this:
- Helpful hacker (“Khalil”) finds bug in Facebook code
- Khalil reports code to Facebook, expecting the $500 Facebook promises as part of Facebook’s bug bounty program
- Facebook denies that the code he found was a bug
- Khalil uses the bug to post the information he found on Mark Zuckerberg’s wall
- Facebook fixes the bug, then kicks Khalil off Facebook. Still denies him reward.
From our perspective, it’s curious to wonder what broke down internally to cause this situation. Were incentives mis-aligned (i.e. making someone defensive of the bug bounty funds)? Did nobody identify this as a potential PR disaster? Has this happened before and this is just the first time we’ve heard of it because it involved Mark Zuckerberg? Either way, use this as a cautionary tale – on social media, everything is extremely transparent, and you can control very little. If you know the rules of engagement, you can do more than just avoid failure – you can create huge success for your brand.