35 Examples of #SocialMedia Fails

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We talk a lot about social media around here. And there’s good reason for that. We want to provide useful information that can enhance your experience on each and every social media outlet. Whether that’s using Vine as a part of your social media campaign to increasing the amount of followers you have on Instagram, we try our best to make sure that you go away with a better understanding of how to optimize social media.

Sometimes you also have to take a look at the bad.

It’s not to be mean or place ourselves on a pedestal. It’s to provide you with examples of mistakes that you should never make on social media. While it may give you 15 minutes of fame, it’s totally not worth it. You’ll spend more time defending yourself than actually doing whatever it is you do. For example, take a look at the following social media fails. They were epic mistakes that will tarnish a brand’s name for some time to come.

1. The Epic Amy’s Bakery Meltdown

Has there ever been an epic meltdown like that from Scottsdale’s Amy’s Baking Company? In case you forgot all the shenanigans, here’s what happened. Owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo were featured in a memorable episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. While things rarely run smoothly on the series, this was an exceptionally difficult episode. In fact, it was so challenging that Ramsay walked off. But, that’s where the journey just begins.

After the episode aired, the couple received a lot of negative feedback, which forced the Bouzaglos to defend themselves on Facebook. The result? Some of the most legendary and infamous tangents of all-time. To make matters worse, they kept also tried to defend their restaurant on Reddit and Yelp, which only caused another batch of insanity. Eventually, the Bouzalos’ even tried to profit from their viral insanity by selling t-shirts and hats. You stay classy Mr. and Mrs. Bouzaglo.

2. Epicurious Promotes Scones After Boston Marathon Bombing

On April 15, 2013 tragedy struck Boston. And, we can all agree that on that particular day it was not the time or place to plug your business. However, cooking site Epicurious didn’t get that message. The company thought that they could help their 480,000 Twitter followers cope with the Boston Marathon bombing by sharing recipes for their whole-cranberry scones. Right. Because that’s exactly what everyone was thinking at that moment.

3. Kenneth Cole Strikes Again

During the protests in Egypt in 2011, Kenneth Cole thought it would be the perfect time to promote his clothing brand. We get it. He was trying to lighten up the situation. But, the insensitive tweet didn’t sit well with people, obviously, and the tweet was deleted. End of story, right? Nope. Fast forward to 2013 and Cole sent out the following tweet during the situation in Syria: “Boots on the ground” or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear”. Some people never learn.

4. JP Morgan Cancels Twitter Q&A

In theory, this sounded like a great idea. Why not engage consumers via a Q&A session on Twitter? The problem is that people really aren’t that fond of major banks right now. So the enlightening Q&A with vice chairman James B. Lee Jr.  from JP Morgan became an open invitation for people to vent their frustrations, which in turn, forced the session to be cancelled. In short, don’t ever underestimate your social media audience.

5. The Real #mcdstories

Here’s another example of a brand  just asking for a backlash on social media. It goes all the way back to January 2012 after McDonald’s attempted to engage customers through two promoted trends on Twitter: #meetthefarmers and #mcdstories. Instead, the fast food chain received a fury of horror stories about the quality of the food, the  treatment from employees, or the sanitary conditions of the restaurants. At least McDonald’s quickly realized that the Twitter campaign “did not go as planned”.

6. Bad Timing for the American Rifleman

On the morning of July 20, 2012 the journal American Rifleman, which is associated with the National Rifle Association, posted this friendly tweet: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” Unfortunately, more details surrounding the tragic shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, CO were being released around the same time. The tweet was most likely pre-scheduled through Hootsuite, but was still seen an inappropriate. Several hours later the tweet and the account were both deleted. Even though this was probably a case of bad timing, if someone had checked the news in the morning this message may have never been sent out.

7. CelebBoutique’s Hashtag Fail

Unfortunately, the NRA weren’t the only ones to mishandle their Twitter account following the Aurora shooting. Online retailer CelebBoutique wanted to take advantage of the trending topic by posting a promotional tweet with #Aurora. For some reason, no one at the company bothered to see why Aurora was actually trending. An epic PR fail.

8. London Luton Airport Finds Out That Plane Crashes Aren’t Amusing

In March 2013, London Luton Airport thought it would be amusing to have some fun with plane crashes. However, the photo that they used for the Facebook post came from a 2005 incident in Chicago where a plane slid off the runway, which resulted in the death of a 6-year-old boy. Hilarious.

9. Kmart’s Newton Promotion

Shortly following the horrific shooting in Newton, Connecticut, Kmart made an extremely unwise decision. The retailer attached a promo code in the following tweet: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrible tragedy. #PrayforNewtown #CTShooting#Fab15Toys. Why wouldn’t people get upset about this?

10. Pepsi’s Voodoo Ronaldo

If you really want to offend people how about creating a voodoo doll version of a beloved sports star and then have said doll’s head get crushed on train tracks? Sounds a little vicious, but that’s what happened with an ad from Pepsi’s Swedish branch in November 2013. Fans in Portugal were not happy with the ad depicting soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo in this manner and they formed an anti-Pepsi Facebook group. The group, which gained over 100K fans in only one day, was more than enough for Pepsi to pull the ad.

11. Spearmint Rhino’s Underage Discovery

The Melbourne branch of strip club chain Spearmint Rhino thought it would be entertaining, or something like that, to have Facebook users guess which performer’s baby picture was shared on Facebook in November 2013. Besides being tacky, visitors quickly noticed the date on the screenshoot from the VHS, 1998. That would have made the stripper only 14 years old. That’s just wrong on so many different levels.

12. Home Depot’s Racist Tweet

We may never know for certain if the infamous ‘racist tweet’ from Home Depot was actually indeed racist or just plain stupid. But, we do know that someone definitely dropped the ball with this ad. After the Twittersphere blasted Home Depot, the tweet was deleted and someone lost their job.

13. HMV Is Taken Over

Whether you’re the one doing the layoffs, or the person receiving the bad news, getting a pink slip is a delicate and private matter. Then again, when some 60 staff members are losing their jobs, it’s understandable for people to get upset. And, that’s what happened with UK entertainment retailer HMV after rogue employees took over the company’s Twitter account. Despite the attempts from senior managers, new posts kept popping up. Not only did HMV handle the mass layoffs poorly, why didn’t they lock the account?

14. American Airlines, You Don’t Have to Auto-Respond to Everything

There are situations when an auto-tweet, or any type of automatic response is appropriate and acceptable, like if someone just subscribed to a newsletter. But when a customer calls your airline “the largest, sh—iest airline in the world,” we don’t think that you should automatically be thanking them for their support.

15. Pigalle Goes Off

Pigalle, a restaurant in Boston, was not pleased after a customer ranted on Facebook about her Thanksgiving meal in 2012. Instead of reaching out and not only finding out why the customer was unsatisfied or offering a promise to be better the next time, chef Marc Orfaly overreacted.  During his tangent he even told the customer to “go f– herself.” Even though both parties have patched things up, that’s still some stellar customer service.

16. No Wants to See a Dog Receive CPR

Here’s a lesson that Pearl Izumi learned the hard way. Don’t ever miss with man’s best friend. The sports apparel company created an ad that tried to illustrate how long lasting their shoes were by outlasting a dog. The dog was in such bad shape that CPR was required. This was more than enough to anger the numerous dog lovers out there.

17. Offering 20% Off Clothes Won’t Help You Survive a Hurricane

This should be common sense, but you probably should never ever use a devastating natural disaster as an opportunity to run a promotion. But, that’s what American Apparel did when the brand offered 20% off to anyone living in states that were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

18. There’s a Hurricane, Let’s Go To The Gap

Oddly enough, American Apparel wasn’t the only retailer to anger everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Gap encouraged people to do some online shopping as the storm approached, instead of you know, preparing to deal with a powerful hurricane. The company eventually removed the tweet and offered apology, if you want to call it that.

19. Defriend People For a Whopper

In 2009. Burger King launched an interesting Facebook contest called the “Whopper Sacrifice.” The purpose was for users to remove 10 of their Facebook friends, and in return, they would receive a coupon for a free Whopper. Since Facebook is all about connecting and adding friends, this caused some confusion. Also, since it violated Facebook users’ expectation of privacy, Facebook pulled the plug on the campaign.

20. KitchenAid Gets Political

During the first presidential debate in October 2012, President Obama mentioned his grandmother. This angered KitchenAid, who sent out the following tweet to its 24,000 followers: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president. #nbcpolitics.” At least the company promptly removed the tweet and issued an apology. It turns out that a member of its team had accidentally posted it from the company handle instead of from their personal account.

21. Entenmann’s Found Guilty

During the Casey Anthony verdict in 2011, Entenmann’s sent out a tweet stating: “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want.” This was either the tasty treat maker having a good time with the controversial verdict or it was completely clueless on the decision. Naturally, there was just a little bit of backlash.

22. Stuck in a Stubsucking Hell Hole

Ticket broker StubHub faced its own social media mishap in 2012 after an anonymous person shared an obscene tweet from the company’s account, which included the person calling the company a “stubsucking hell hole.” The message was live for about an hour before StubHub deleted it. The company also apologized for the vulgar tweets.

23. Ketchum Has a PR Crisis

How on Earth would a public relations/marketing agency let this happen? In 2011, Ketchum was in Memphis to meet up with one of its biggest clients FedEx.  On the morning before the big meeting with FedEx, one of Ketchum’s vice presidents had tweeted that he would “die if he had to live in Memphis.” Needless today, the Memphis-based company was just a bit upset.

24. Nokia Finally Snaps

In a way you can’t fault Nokia for getting a little frustrated. At one time, Nokia was an important player in the mobile phone market, but has since faced tough competition from heavyweights Apple and Samsung. Still, that really isn’t an excuse for employees in its New Zealand office to tweet a simple, yet to the point, expletive in November 2013.

25. Chick-Fil-A Creates a Facebook Supporter

During the middle of 2012 Chick-Fil-A faced two infamous battles.The first backlash against the fast food chain occurred after CEO Dan Cathy spoke out firmly against same-sex marriage. That statement resulted in the company’s Facebook page receiving a flood of posts that had absolutely nothing to do with its delicious chicken sandwiches.

Albert Costill
Albert Costill is a co-founder of evolvor.com and a freelance writer who has written for brands like ForRent.com and Search Engine Journal. When he’s not writing and brainstorming content ideas, this New Jersey native spends his time traveling, blasting music, and keeping his chocolate lab at bay.

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7 thoughts on “35 Examples of #SocialMedia Fails

  1. These are some great examples of not thinking before posting. Thoughtless posts can be devastating to a brand and once a comment is on the Internet, it lasts forever! Thanks for the great list.

  2. The JPMorgan incident was my favorite by far! The best tweet they received was “Do the Mexican drug cartels tip well?”

    You can’t get any more terrible than that!

  3. This is some of the best examples of giving negative feedback in social media sites and the impact it has created. Hence it is better to be safe while you are posting or tweeting your comments on social media sites

  4. This list made my day! I do know the mishaps of some these but I would have never heard about most of these if it wasn’t for this list! I laughed out hard with McDonalds stories and somebody’s going to get fired at NZ Nokia! Awesome post!

  5. This is a great list and full of hilariously bad ideas. That said, I suggest the piece be edited. “Whooper”?