Social media can make or break a company today. Especially on Twitter, in an instant, a company’s image can change for the better or the far, far worse. It’s amazing how much damage just 140 characters can do. From hash tags gone horribly, horribly wrong to social media directors tweeting complaints that were supposed to be from their personal accounts, or just plain thoughtlessness and inappropriate tweeting, Twitter is teeming with opportunities for bad PR. So, which companies made these mistakes? Huge ones that have the funds to hire experienced and competent social media directors, who should have known better. Here are ten of the worst corporate social media snafus. Some will make you laugh, while others will make you think, “what the tweet?”
10. Stub Fail
Sometimes social media directors have personal access to a brand’s account on their personal phones, computers, etc. So here’s a tip, if you do have that access, as well as your own Twitter account, make sure you sign out before posting your own Tweets. This was a huge mistake for the social media director of Stubhub in 2012, when that person tweeted “Thank f*** it’s Friday! Can’t wait to get out of this stubsucking hell hole.” Guess working at Stub Hub isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. Stub Hub sent out an apology tweet later which said, “We’ve deleted an unauthorized Tweet made from this Twitter Handle. We apologize to all of our followers for the inappropriate language used.”
9. HMV Fires Off A Bad Tweet
The lesson learned from this Twitter snafu is to not let the person who has access to the account know they are fired, without changing the password first. A series of angry Tweets were fired off,
Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying folks), ask “How do I shut down Twitter ” #HMVXFactorFiring.
Sorry we’ve been quiet for so long. Under contract, we’ve been unable to say a word, or- more importantly- tell the truth. #HMVXFactorFiring.
There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #HMVXFactorFiring.
We’re tweeting live from HR, where we’re all being fired! Exciting!! #HMVXFactorFiring.
Well, hey, he was being fired anyway!
8. Chrysler Says “No” To the Motor City
In 2011, the social media strategist for Chrysler fired off a Tweet that was probably intended for his personal account and it was really, really bad (probably couldn’t have been any worse): “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f***ing drive.” This tweet is wrong on so many levels (but also kind of funny). If you were even wondering, no, Chrysler did not renew his contract.
7. Great Shoes, Bad #Hashtags
One huge problem that seems to be the cause of many social media snafus, both big and small, is misunderstanding trending topics and hash tags. Take this tweet by Kenneth Cole for example. They insensitively exploited the #Cairo hash tag to promote their shoes. The Tweet was:
Millions in Uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new Spring collection is available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC
This probably caused a lot of people to walk away from the brand and the company later apologized and admitted their mistake
RE: Egypt Tweet: we weren’t intending to make light of a very serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment.
Sure they weren’t…
6. CVS Doesn’t Care Enough
A lot of people privatize their Twitter account, but for corporations, that’s a big mistake. When an account is privatized, no one can see its tweets except for its followers, all of who have to be approved. How can a brand promote itself if no one can see its Tweets? So, it was a surprise when one of the largest drug store/pharmacies in the country privatized their Twitter account. Ironically, the account is @CVS_Cares. They didn’t care enough to hire a social media director who knew what he or she was doing. The company eventually realized they made a mistake and now CVS has a totally open account. Whether they still care or not, is an entirely different story.
5. (Stupid) Smart Car
The social media director of Smart Car wasn’t exactly, well- so smart. Clayton Hove, who is the creative director of ad agency KK Bold, tweeted a funny observation about the Smart Car:
Saw a bird had crapped on a Smart Car.
The very smart people at Smart Car one-upped his poop comment with a come back and an info graphic illustrating how many pigeon, turkey and emu craps it would take to total a Smart Car.
Couldn’t have been one bird, @adtothebone. Sounds more like 4.5 million. (Seriously, we did the math.)
You couldn’t make this up if you tried.
4. My #NYPD Experience
Does anyone ever have a good experience with any police department anywhere? The NYPD’s snafu is an example of a hash tag gone horribly wrong. They used the hash tag #MyNYPD hoping to get photos of people with their neighborhood cops and other positive stories. It all went wrong when photos flooded in, featuring pictures of violent incidents and police brutality. That wasn’t quite what the social media director had in mind.
3. I’m Not Lovin’ It
McDonald’s gives us yet another example of social media directors who need to think twice before hash tagging. They asked followers for their #McDStories and promoted the hash tag, thinking people would share fun stories about their experience at the fast food restaurant. Well, the general public misinterpreted that one, and instead of positive stories, they tweeted very negative ones. Some examples included:
I’d pet a million stray pit bulls before I’d eat a single pink-slimy McBite. #McDStories http://bit.ly/wd0BDe
#McDStories I lost 50 lbs in 6 months after I quit working and eating at McDonalds
Ordered a McDouble, something in the damn thing chipped my molar. #McDStories
Fingernail in my Big Mac once, #McDStories
Hospitalized for food poisoning after eating McDonalds in 1989. Never ate there again and became a Vegetarian. Should have sued. #McDStories
2. Justine Sacco Oh No!
Justine Sacco was the head of corporate communications for media giant IAC, which owns College Humor, The Daily Beast, About.com and Match.com. On her way to Africa, she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m White!” IAC found out abut what happened and tweeted their response while Ms. Sacco was on the flight.
This is an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views and values of IAC. Unfortunately, the employee in question is unreachable on an international flight, but this is a very serious matter and we are taking appropriate action.
Sacco had no idea what kind of brouhaha her little tweet had caused until she landed and she encountered a media firestorm. Even the hash tag #hasjustinelandedyet was trending. Sacco later apologized, but was fired from IAC.
1. Dr. Phil
The award for the biggest snafu goes to Dr. Phil who posed the dumbest and most offensive question someone who claims to be a doctor can ask.
If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @DrPhil. #teensaccused.
While the tweet was deleted soon after it was made, the damage was done and an apology was made:
This Tweet was intended to evoke discussion leading into a very serious show topic based upon a recent news story, hence the #teensaccused label,” the statement read. “As he has maintained over many years, Dr. Phil believes that the position of those incapacitated in any fashion; be it drugs, alcohol, age or mental illness can not and do not have the capacity to give their consent to anything, especially sex, which could have life changing repercussions. This was a research post in preparation for a show, not a personal post, and Dr. Phil deleted it the second he saw it. It was clearly ill-advised. We sincerely apologize that it suggested anything other than what was intended, data gathering.
It was too little, too late and too stupid.