10 Huge Mistakes by Companies on Twitter

It seems it is way too easy for celebs or businesses to have an epic Twitter fail. Whether it’s the inappropriate use of a hashtag, a slip of the tongue, a failed attempt at humor, or an angry ex-employee who still has your password, there is a hotbed of pitfalls at every turn.

Companies and celebrities love to jump on Twitter. It’s an easy and important way for them to share their news with fans, to interact with fans instantly, and to generally improve their public brand (or themselves in the case of celebrities). Kim Kardashian posts “booty” selfies, Charlie Sheen has been known to go on a Twitter rant at all times of the day and night, President Obama posts about watching Breaking Bad and big brands like Walmart share their news and views on a regular basis.

However, Twitter is also a social media site where a little mistake can go viral and cause some serious damage aka a “PR nightmare”. Once you hit that tweet button, you can’t go back. Every tweet could potentially be seen by millions of users within minutes and if catches their attention with some element of scandal, you can be sure it’ll spread like wildfire and you need to get your response ready.

It turns out famous Twitter users haven’t learned much from the past few years of mistakes and we still see all sorts of unusual, awkward and offensive stuff making it onto our Twitter feeds. Check out our list of 10 huge mistakes made on Twitter by companies and find out the story behind what went so badly wrong.

10 US Airways – Tweeted a Pornographic Picture

One of the country’s biggest airlines, US Airways, accidentally tweeted a very lewd pornographic image (involving a woman and a model airplane) at one of its customers. The Washington Post reported that the company’s spokesperson Matt Miller said the tweet was an “honest mistake”. A user had posted the offensive picture to their Twitter feed, and in the process of removing it, an employee mistakenly included the picture as part of a reply to another customer. The tweet ended up trending on Twitter and gaining widespread attention. However, it was widely thought that US Airways handled the incident well.

9 SpaghettiOs – Insensitive Twitter Post

Last year, US company Campbell Soup (which owns SpaghettiOs) decided to take to Twitter and mark the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks. In doing so, it posted a picture of the American flag being proudly held by the smiling SpaghettiOs mascot along with the words: “Take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us.” While they clearly had the best intentions, the smiling mascot was deemed highly inappropriate by Twitter followers. The company apologized and said it was a mistake from an agency. Now the company handles its social media internally.


8 JP Morgan – Failed Twitter Interaction

Twitter “chats” or Q&A sessions are all the rage and JP Morgan decided to give it a try – and failed miserably. They set up a Q&A session on Twitter with their Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee and asked followers to send through their questions. Unfortunately they hadn’t predicted exactly how Twitter users viewed the JP Morgan company and brand. Users asked the company what it’s like to work with Mexican drug cartels, when they’ll all go to jail, and more. They handled it pretty well, tweeting “Tomorrow’s Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board”.

7 Qantas – Hashtag Fail

Australian airline, Qantas, started up a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #QantasLuxury. They asked followers to share stories about their luxurious experiences with the airline, using the hashtag. However, the timing was all wrong because one day prior to this, labor disputes had seen all Qantas planes grounded and flights cancelled, leaving customers furious. Instead of using the #QantasLuxury hashtag as originally intended, they used it to express their anger at the company.


6 Vodafone UK – Sent Out a Homophobic Tweet

Telecommunications company Vodafone found itself in the midst of a PR disaster after one of its employees tweeted a very lewd, homophobic tweet on the company account. Twitter users were shocked by the tweet, resulting in hundreds of complaints and substantial media coverage. Many presumed that Vodafone’s Twitter account had been hacked but, in fact, a staff member was to blame and that staff member was reportedly suspended.

5 American Red Cross – Sent Out a Rogue Tweet

Non-profit organization American Red Cross mistakenly tweeted “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…. when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”. Obviously this mistake was more along the bizarre lines than offensive which would’ve been a relief for the PR people at work that day. They responded well with a witty follow-up tweet that said: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” The Dogfish Head beer company that was in the original tweet jumped to the Red Cross’ aid too – and started using the hashtag #gettngslizzerd to encourage followers to give the Red Cross a donation.

4 Ketchum – Offended a Client via Twitter

Ketchum, a big PR agency in the USA, boasts huge company FedEX as one of its clients. However, one of Ketchum’s Vice Presidents made a big boo-boo on Twitter. On his way to a meeting at the FedEx headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, he tweeted: “I would die if I had to live here!” No word on whether FedEx dropped Ketchum after this far-from-polite tweet but we’re pretty sure it made for an awkward conversation.

3 GAP – Made Light of a Bad Situation on Twitter

Major US retailer, GAP, is a regular tweeter but failed to see how a poorly-timed tweet could have a huge impact. When Hurricane Sandy was hitting the USA in 2012, they tweeted: “All impacted by #Sandy, stay safe! We’ll be doing lots of Gap.com shopping today. How about you?” Over 280 people were killed due to the hurricane and it was the costliest hurricane in US history.  A huge number of angry followers replied to the tweet, which was then removed. Gap is reported as saying that the tweet only was meant as a reminder for its followers to keep safe and indoors.

2 Epicurious – Had a Twitter Fail After the Boston Bombings

Even the tastiest recipes on the web couldn’t save you from some serious backlash if you send out an insensitive tweet after a major disaster. At the Boston Marathon in 2013, three people died and many more were injured as a result of two bombs going off. Epicurious oddly tweeted twice in the aftermath, firstly saying: “Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today.” They followed that up with this tweet 30 minutes later: “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: Whole-grain cranberry scones!”. Twitter users weren’t impressed, referring to the tweets as tacky and insensitive.

1 Celeb Boutique – Sent a Terribly Timed Tweet

Celeb Boutique is a clothing shop in the UK that made a terrible mistake on Twitter, a few hours after a fatal massacre took place at the Aurora, Colorado screening of The Dark Knight Rises. They tweeted “#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress ;)” without realizing that the Aurora hashtag was due to the shootings. The company said that it was an error and that their social media person hadn’t checked why Aurora was trending.


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