How to Nip Social Media Rumors in the Bud


In some ways, the Internet is like a giant version of high school. Gossip and rumor on social networks can very quickly explode to every corner of the net. Without having done anything wrong, you can find one day you wake up and your brand’s reputation has taken a beating, and sometimes take permanent damage. Simply releasing a statement saying that a rumor isn’t true is often not enough to win in the court of Public Opinion. Let’s take a look at how a few brands successfully refuted nasty online gossip.

Taco Bell- Meatless Taco Meat

In 2011, Taco Bell found itself subject to a somewhat bizarre rumor: there wasn’t actually any meat in their taco meat. A small Alabama law firm sued Taco Bell alleging that they were lying about what was in Taco Bell’s tacos. News of the lawsuit spread on social media, and soon Taco Bell had a full-blown PR disaster on their hands. Taco Bell’s response: they released the full ingredient list of their tacos, including the exact percentages of the ingredients which were in fact mostly meat with some spices and other flavoring.

Apple- Steve Jobs’ Health Problems

Before he passed away, Steve Jobs suffered from cancer for years. When news of his illness became public knowledge, rumors circulated constantly that he had died. If Jobs didn’t appear publicly for a few days, the internet would explode with death rumors. Unfortunately for Apple, the best way to refute these rumors was for Jobs to make appearances despite his health, which he did when necessary.

Beneful- Dog Food Kills Dogs

The previous two rumors were completely baseless. What do you do if the rumor you’re dealing with actually has some basis? In 2007 (and again in 2013), Purina’s Beneful Dog Food was rumored to be killing dogs that ate it. Specifically, reports came in that previously healthy dogs that switched to Beneful began dropping dead after eating it. Beneful took the step of contacting the dog owners and their veterinarians. They had the vets run tests on the dogs and their food to see if it was causing the problems that had been reported. Once they had the results, and it was confirmed that Beneful was NOT to blame, they released the results to the public.


Sunlight is the best disinfectant. That is to say, the truth is the best way to combat a rumor. However, it is absolutely essential that you don’t just say “this rumor is untrue.” You need to SHOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that any rumor is completely baseless.

To see a successful campaign from Taco Bell, check out our article on Taco Bell’s breakfast campaign.