How Woolworths Bounced Back From a Social Media Disaster

In News, Social Media by Ali Kibao

Woolworths was all over social media for all the wrong reasons this week.
A mother, Paula Chaplin wrote on Woolworths SA Facebook  raising an issue she has with the toddler clothing.
She highlighted how the brand doesn’t understand the meaning of toddler by trying to sell toddler clothes that should be worn by girls in their 20s, among other issues.

Within hours, the post received thousands of comments, mostly from people who agreed with Paula.

The way Woolworths handled this however leaves little to be admired. So let’s examine what they did wrong and how they recovered from it.

First: How They Messed Up

1. Stay away from standard replies if you can

As with most big brands, Woolworths gave a standard reply and asked Paula to send her contact details.

woolworths social media reply

Of course most people have been here, they ask you for your details and nobody ever contacts you. So of course people noted that Woolworths wasn’t taking the issues seriously enough and then the barrage of comments and replies started.

People told Paula not to fall for it

Woolworths social media

Woolworths social media fall

Lesson: If you have a standard response be sure you do follow up, it might come back and bite you someday.

2. Woolworths just didn’t get it

This is crisis management 101, LISTEN. Paula was very clear about what she was trying to say. She took the time to write this post and everybody read it and understood what she was trying to say.

Everybody but Woolworths that is. Because after hundreds of comments they had this to say.

Woorworths social media fall and recovery

Of course that wasn’t the issue, people noted and of course they pointed that out.

Woolworths SA

Woolworths SA

All in all it wasn’t a good day for Woolworths SA. This continued for the whole day. By this time I’m sure the Woolworths PR team was scrambling to find a resolution.

It didn’t have to get here though, if they handled it earlier and more appropriately, the situation could have been diffused long before it got out of hand.

The Recovery

So after what must have been a long night of deliberation at Woolworths Head Office or wherever it is that they deliberate, they finally came up with a solution. A very impressive one too I must add.

What’s nice about this solution is that they finally understood what the complaint was about. They took measures to address the cause of the problem.

Here was their statement

Woolworths SA response

This turned the conversation around a little bit, though the damage is already done. The comments is this case were more positive and appreciative of the brand’s efforts.

However, this is something they should have done way before this post. Perhaps it shows that Woolworths doesn’t really understand a  good portion of their customers. There are deeper underlying issues which need to be addressed by the brand.


Always take every social media post to your brand as seriously as you possibly can. Understand why any given issues is being raised and address it accordingly.

Take the time to read the comments to get a better understand of the issue.

All in all, timing is absolutely crucial. If Woolworths waited a whole week to give a statement, the damage could have possibly been irreparable.

What do you think? Could they have done things differently?

PS. You can read Paula’s full post and comments, here

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Written by Ali Kibao

Ali Kibao

Hype-free marketing advocate and social media strategist.