You’re sitting at your desk pottering on with your daily activities when your brand's social media notifications start multiplying rapidly.
“Fantastic!” you think; your latest piece of content has hit a sweet spot with your audience.
You check the winning tweet and your heart sinks. It turns out that one of your social media strategists has sent out a tweet containing the f-bomb, under the impression they were posting to their personal Twitter account.
That’s just what happened to Chrysler back in 2011. Hot on the heels of an advertisement celebrating Detroit, an employee from their Twitter management company, New Media Strategies, sent out a not-so-complimentary tweet about Detroit drivers meant for the employee’s own account, not the official Chrysler handle.
Aren’t you glad it wasn’t you?
Needless to say, the employee was terminated by NMS, and so was the contract between NMS and Chrysler. An overreaction for an honest mistake? Potentially. But it goes to show how a simple error in judgement can land you in hot, if not boiling, water.
Here are five other social media fails that you’ll be glad you weren’t responsible for:
1. Susan Boyle’s Album Party
I couldn’t start this list without the unfortunate mishap of Scotland’s own Susan Boyle. Her social media team tried to promote the songstress’ new album to the public with the hapless hashtag, #Susanalbumparty.
Susan HQ's awkward gaffe
It goes without saying that the lack of capitalisation and unfortunate reading of the hashtag highlighted an alternative message to Twitter users who ruthlessly mocked the mishap.
Susan’s PR team quickly rectified the issue by replacing the hashtag with #SusanBoylesAlbumParty, but not before it was cemented as one of the cringiest/funniest/unfortunate hashtag fails in Twitter history.
2. DiGiorno’s Pizza Blunder
Context! Always research what a trending hashtag is about before you post with it. Unfortunately for DiGiorno Pizza, the person(s) in charge of their Twitter account didn’t manage to get that far.
Always check the hashtag context
Jumping on the hashtag, #WhyIStayed, DiGiorno Pizza tweeted, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” In pretty much any other context this would be a welcome tweet, not so much when the hashtag was about victims of domestic abuse, and why they stayed with their partners.
The tweet was swiftly deleted and the company posted “A million apologies.” Basically, let somebody else make the mistake, albeit an honest one, so you don’t have to.
3. Don’t Ask SeaWorld
This was never going to go down well. Back in 2015, SeaWorld decided that it would be a good idea to hold a hashtag campaign of #AskSeaWorld in order to answer questions relating to SeaWorld’s killer whale care.
A recipe for disaster, orchestrated by SeaWorld
As you can imagine, animal rights activists quickly jumped at the chance to quiz SeaWorld on their questionable practices with tweets like “Are your tanks filled with Orca tears?”
To make matters worse, SeaWorld then tweeted multiple times about those asking questions being trolls, getting users even more frustrated with the company.
User-generated content is a fantastic way to engage consumers and get them involved in your brand… Unless you’re McDonalds.
Unfortunately, the brand was not adequately prepared for the backlash of their well-intentioned #McDStories hashtag in an effort to get customers to share positive experiences they’ve had with the brand.
McDonald's weren't anticipating a hashtag hi-jack
Instead, Twitter users used the hashtag to tell their negative stories and test their wit with a stream of satirical tweets (that are still going today!)
McDonalds pulled the campaign after just two hours, but by then it was too late. The hashtag took on a life of its own.
5. Microsoft’s Racist AI Chatbot
What a rollercoaster ride Microsoft’s AI “teen-talking” chatbot Tay was, right?
The most recent on our list and unleashed earlier this year, the artificial intelligence chatbot took to Twitter far too quickly and had to be pulled down twice(!) after turning into a PR nightmare.
"Teen-talking" Tay turned into a sex-crazed monster within a day
No strangers to a little trolling, Twitter users jumped at the chance to manipulate the technology and things quickly went south for Tay, who started churning out racist, Nazi-sympathising, sex-crazed tweets as it learned rapidly from those tweeting her.
Tay’s Twitter account is currently privatised and can only be accessed if your follower request is accepted. But the biggest tragedy here is Microsoft not considering that Twitter users would (successfully) bandwagon Tay and turn her into a controversial poster-girl for the dangers of AI without filters.
If the above examples are anything to go by, it looks like we’ll keep receiving comedy gold in the form on social media fails for the next few years. Just make sure you learn plenty of lessons from these (there’s certainly enough) and be thankful that it wasn’t you that was responsible in the first place.
And use a bit of common sense. That always helps.
Have I missed any major social media fails? Have some of your own favourites? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!