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35 Examples of #SocialMedia Fails

Let's hope the parties involved in these 35 social media failures, from mom and pop shops to multi-national corporations, will learn from their mistakes.

35 Examples of #SocialMedia Fails

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.

In response, Chick-Fil-A went and created a fake Facebook account for a sweet and innocent girl named Abby Farle to come to the company’s defense. Why? Because Chick-Fil-A had recently recalled a line of toys from the Jim Henson Co. after Hensen’s organization disapproved the company’s views on gay marriage. Chick-Fil-A tried to deny that it created Abby’s account, but they were caught red-handed.

26. Tesco Needs to Hit the Hay

UK supermarket giant Tesco had a very challenging January 2013. It had to pull its Everyday Value burgers off of shelves because food investigators discovered that horse-meat was found in nearly a third of the burgers. Unfortunately, no one from Tesco notified the social media team who went ahead and posted a pre-scheduled tweet that contained the phrase ‘hit the hay’.

27. Hijacking Popular Hashtags Doesn’t Pay Off

Habitat, a UK home accessory and furniture retailer, was looking to gain more followers on Twitter, and who doesn’t? But, the approach that it took wasn’t the best tactic. Instead of relating its tweets to popular topics that were relevant to its field, it tried to take advantage of popular hashtags, such as #Apple and #iPhone. This is the perfect example of how not to use Twitter.

28. Qwikster Was Doomed From the Start

Remember back in 2011 the unpopular plan for Netflix to launch Qwikster? The idea was to break-up Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service and its online streaming service. This did not win over users who simply wanted one account for both services. Not only was the separation a mistake, but so was Netflix’s social media strategy. Netflix subscribers discovered a friendly, drug-using Twitter  user when they tried to follow @Qwikster. Even though this Twitter user had nothing to do with Netflix, it gave people another reason to hate on the Qwikster idea.

29. “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer in Court”

Progressive was involved in a messy social media crisis in August 2012 after the sibling of Katie Fisher posted the Tumblr post with the following headline: “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer In Court.” In short, it was claimed that the person who ran the red light that struck and killed Katie Fisher was represented in court by her insurance company, Progressive. This revelation set off  Twitter. And, how did Progressive respond? By using an automated message through the service TwitLonger. This, of course, angered more people on Twitter. The amount of responses became so great that Progressive’s account on TwitLonger was banned for spamming.

30. Snickers Pays For Celebrity Endorsements

It was discovered in 2012 that Snickers had paid several celebrities in the UK to tweet pictures of themselves enjoying its candy bars. However, the ad campaign didn’t exactly go over well with the UK’s Office of Fair Trading. Why? In the UK, companies must state when a product is being endorsed. The OFT launched an investigation into the Twitter ads and found nothing illegal. Still, that’s a bit embarrassing. Always double-check rules and regulations.

31. The Kansas City Chiefs Need to Get a Clue

Sports fans can get very passionate. And, sometimes that passion can frustrate people. Especially the people associated with a sports organization. But, just because an upset Kansas City Chiefs fan tweeted that that owner is greedy doesn’t give you the right to respond unprofessionally. But, that’s exactly what happened to the fan in September 2012 after he received a direct message on Twitter from the team telling him to “get a clue.” The fan took a screenshot of the message, posted it to Reddit, and the rest is another example of an epic social media fail.

32. Toyota Caught Spamming

For a chance to win a new Camry, Toyota asked people to tweet the hashtag #camryeffect during its Super Bowl ad campaign in 2012. However, the campaign accidentally sent back tweets that were considered spam to anyone who used the hashtag. This forced the numerous accounts created by Toyota for the campaign to get suspended by Twitter. Smooth.

33. Chrysler’s Ironic Tweet

Back in March 201,1 Chrysler gained a lot of attention because of the following Tweet: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to *bleeping* drive.” No. It wasn’t part of some edgy viral campaign. Just another Twitter fail that was the result of an employee from a social media agency in charge of a brand’s social media accounts. Maybe instead of using outside agencies this could be done in house?

34. The Red Cross is Getting Slizzard

The American Red Cross had to deal with its own disaster in February 2011 after its social media specialist Gloria Huang had tweeted that everyone was getting #gettingslizzerd, aka drunk. The Red Cross recovered nicely and only minimal damage was done. But, the fail was that their social media specialist had meant for that tweet to go out on her private account. But, she accidentally sent it on the Red Cross handle because she wasn’t familiar with HootSuite. Make sure that you know how to properly use programs like HootSuite before something like this happens again.

35. Ryanair is Getting Too Frisky

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary is no stranger to controversy. In 2012, he stated that “stupid” passengers deserve fees. Well, what customer doesn’t enjoy being called an idiot, right? But, O’Leary made another major mistake a year later after he tweeted “Nice pic. Phwoaaarr! MOL” to woman during a Twitter Q&A. We’re pretty sure that if that happened in the office, there would be a lawsuit.

What is the most cringe worthy social media fail you’ve ever seen?


Featured Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

CategorySocial Media

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Albert Costill


Albert Costill is a co-founder of and a freelance writer who has written for brands like and Search ... [Read full bio]

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