Social media campaigns have become an essential part of most businesses’ internet marketing strategies. When used properly, social media can be a cost effective way to get your message out there. By providing links to your best content, your followers and friends will (with any luck) share that content to their respective networks. See your name spread for relatively little expense. Think of it as crowdsourced advertising, in a way.

However, this potential to reach a tremendous audience can be a double edged sword. While your social media efforts could dramatically increase your exposure and secure you new customers, it can just as easily turn into a public relations disaster if you do not act responsibly. The clothing line Celeb Boutique learned this lesson first hand on Friday, June 20th when countless people suddenly became aware of the company…for what is probably the worst reason you can imagine.

As everyone knows, on June 20th Aurora, Colorado experienced a tragedy that the entire country is still reeling from and trying to process. In situations like this, the world turns to Twitter to get up to the second news. The hashtag #Aurora ended up being the biggest trending topic for the entire day as news developments and messages of mourning flooded the site. According to Celeb Boutique, the people who handle their PR aren’t based in the US. They also didn’t apparently bother to read any of the tweets associated with #Aurora. Seeing an opportunity, they tweeted:

#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress ;) Shop: [ URL to product page]

In record time, Celeb Boutique was met with harsh backlash from basically the entire internet. In the end, the company paid dearly. Their reputation is tarnished and they’ve pledged $500,000 in support of the victims of the shooting. While this is a nice gesture, the company continues to receive widespread criticism.

The lesson here is simple: Always do your research. Not only could you end up damaging your brand, you could end up offending people.