The past few years have held their fair share of social media mishaps as companies learn how best to manage the powerful new outlets. But a particularly sensational story surfaced last week when Amy’s Baking Company began aggressively and offensively responding to its online critics.

Owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo reportedly posted harsh, name-calling, expletive-filled responses on Facebook, Twitter and Yelp to negative comments about the bakery’s food and pricing. As social media followers replied to the nasty posts from Amy’s, the owners continued to engage in destructive discourse with customers.

The Amy’s Bakery PR disaster presents an excellent example of how not to engage on social media and provides a litany of worst practices. Social networks are a great way to reach consumers, but companies should avoid insulting their customers or engaging in personal attacks. Every business will likely receive online criticisms at some point. However, taking action to correct the situation or making a fact-based case for your side of the story (rather than attacking the critic) is usually much more effective and helpful when it comes to maintaining a positive brand image.

Once the flurry of insults had calmed between Amy’s and its detractors, the company did not issue an apology to its fans for its abrasive actions. Instead, Amy’s claimed that its website, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp pages had all been hacked. If the company’s social media accounts were truly hacked, Amy’s owners should be forthright in presenting evidence in order to bolster the credibility of the claims and the company itself.

To help recover from the social media catastrophe, Amy’s Baking Company has reportedly retained PR counsel. A recent press release from Amy’s announced a grand re-opening of the bakery featuring a meet and greet with the owners with a portion of proceeds going to charity.

While such actions may be a good first step to rebuild goodwill in the community, Amy’s still has a long road ahead. It is much easier to keep a customer than to gain a new one, and the true challenge for Amy’s will be whether it can regain the trust of its core customer bases.