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The 10 Biggest Disasters in Social Media Marketing History

It hardly takes a minute to send a tweet. Ironically however, sometimes those same tweets can take a lifetime to forget.

Over the years we’ve seen our fair share of social media marketing disasters. No doubt. But there are a few that stand dubiously taller than the rest.

Like sheep to the slaughter, these poor ignorant corporate tweeters delivered some horribly faux pas messages that at the very least caused their corporate overlords to have a collective aneurysm. They also more than likely lost their jobs.

We all know why we’re here: for a good laugh and to watch the train wreck. Hopefully, you’re here to learn too. So I won’t waste any more time, let’s dig into the biggest disasters in social media history.

1. Sensitivity Be Damned

IHOP Social Media Fail

Some of the disasters in this article were caused by negligence. Ie: someone wasn’t paying attention and a mistake happened.

Others were caused by poor judgment, taste, or as in this case, both.

I don’t need to explain why this wasn’t a good idea, I’m pretty sure it speaks for itself. Suffice to say, it’s not wise to take this angle with social media advertising.

2. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

So there’s this company Blackberry. You may have heard of them.

You may also be aware that they have a Twitter app available for their smartphones.

Now you could probably safely assume that representatives of the company would be using their own devices for everything, especially in a public-facing venue like social media platforms. But you’d be wrong.

blackberry social media fail

This has actually happened more than once: an official Blackberry tweet has been fired off from an iPhone, causing the internet to collectively facepalm.

Woops!

3. How Diplomatic of You

It kind of matters what account you’re logged into when you write out a tweet. I’d recommend making sure it’s not a corporate account you have access to before you write terribly insensitive and/or political messages.

As one (former) KitchenAid employee had to learn the hard way, not obeying this rule can have some career-ending consequences.

Without being aware they were signed into the official KicthenAid twitter account, this employee waxed political and even used a family death for humor. A double-fail if there ever was one.

kitchen aid social media fail

4. What Was it I Said Last Week About Hashtags?

Digiorno goofed pretty bad when it jumped on the bandwagon and tweeted out some comic relief on the hashtag #WhyIStayed.

Sounds harmless enough, that’s probably why whoever was in charge of their social media at the time didn’t bother to actually see what the hashtag was about.

Spoiler alert, it was an outpouring of support for victims of domestic violence. Not really an opportune moment to try and sell a slice.
DiGiorno-WhyIStayed

All that being said, we should give credit where credit is due. They took heed of rule number 4 from last week’s article on social media rules to avoid disaster… they literally issued a personal apology to every person on twitter that expressed displeasure! Kudos.

Take a look for yourself.

5. A Bowl of Cereal Will Make It All Better

After the Boston Marathon bombing, support was pouring in for the victims and their families across all social media platforms.

Conde-Naste owned food website Epicurious figured it was an opportune moment to recommend two proprietary recipes to cheer folks up.

I know if I had found out a family member would never walk again, a whole grain cranberry scone would have fixed them right up.

They then compounded the issue by copy/pasting a reply to outraged twitter users. If only they’d learned from Digiorno’s example!

epicurious social media fail

6. It’s A Fine Day For Shootin’ Guns!

Ahhhh, the good ol’ NRA. Everyone’s favorite organization.

You’d think with all of the shootings recently they’d be careful to check the news before sending out tweets (or refrain from using automated ones).

But no. Instead, they bungled pretty badly when they tweeted asking “shooters” about their weekend plans hours after the Aurora story broke. #inaprops

NRA social media fail

7. #Aurora? What’s that?

Believe it or not, the NRA wasn’t the only organization to misstep after the Aurora tragedy. Though there’s was a bit less egregious than the following (it was most likely a pre-scheduled tweet that went out from the NRA account).

Celeb Boutique went so far as to jump on board the #Aurora hashtag without so much as glancing at why it might be trending. “Instead, let’s insert a product placement!”

celeb boutique social media fail

8. Speaking of Disasters…

Something tells me the folks who lost homes wouldn’t appreciate this gem from Gap.com.

I won’t espouse about why this is messed up. Because it’s both obvious and redundant. We’ve already covered that capitalizing on the misfortune of others is frowned upon. Notice a pattern?

gap social media disaster

9. It Wasn’t Me!

In 2011, the long-running Casey Anthony trial finally came to a close. #NotGuilty began trending, and the company managing Entenmann’s  social media jumped on board before taking a more thorough look.

Apologies afterward were thorough but as we mentioned, the internet has quite the memory.

entenmann's social media fail

10. The Grand Finale

This is easily my favorite of all of these. In fact, you may already be aware of this story from a variety of places.

These gentle and kind-hearted folks were on TV and have even been in recent news for threatening a customer with a knife. Yes, I’m serious.

It all began with a stint on “Kitchen Nightmares”, where Gordon Ramsay actually refused to continue on with them in light of personal differences. In short the owners were insane.

What followed on social media is beyond bizarre, and definitely takes the cake as the greatest social media disaster of all time. After getting in an all-out war on Reddit and Twitter, the company then issued a statement saying their page had been hacked.

But afterward, they hired a PR firm to help them (who also walked out on them 5 days later), and then they resumed trading blows with folks all over the internet.

There’s far too much to include here, but I’ll share some of the best moments.

amy's baking company 1 amy's baking company 1 amy's baking company 1

 

Marketing jack-of-all-trades, ascendant wordsmith, and self-proclaimed World’s Best Dog Dad. I write about SEO, social media and content marketing.
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