For most of us, the biggest mistakes we make on social media relate to ignoring metrics, putting little effort into engagement with other users, and generally missing out on the great opportunities provided by social platforms. We may occasionally tweet typos (it’s very easily done!), which can be quite embarrassing. However, few of us have failed as spectacularly, or as publicly, as some of the larger brands. We bring you the top five Twitter failures by big companies, and quick tips on how to avoid following in their footsteps.
In 2012, McDonalds launched a campaign in which consumers were encouraged to tweet fun memories related to the fast food brand on #McDStories. The response was far from positive, with customers Tweeting horror stories, and brand sceptics highlighting health issues related to eating at McDonalds. Other brands have had similar responses to hashtag campaigns, creating negative publicity where the opposite was, of course, the aim.
— Steven Wade (@plumbcrawl) February 1, 2012
Top tip: Consider the potential consequences of using hashtags for marketing – they can be truly damaging if you don’t think things through first.
2. US Airways
A lot of airlines are increasing their social media presence, as it helps them deal with customer enquiries and complaints, and a number of them have been applauded for their success in using online platforms. US Airways, on the other hand, somehow managed to include a pornographic image in a tweet replying to a complaint. While it was accidental, the tweet did not reflect well on the brand. Though it may have little to do with this incident, US Airways has since merged with American Airlines and has ceased to operate as an independent brand.
Top tip: Attention to detail is essential. Double check every tweet before you post it, and after you post it!
This is another tale of a US airline which got it wrong on Twitter. Delta tweeted support for the US team during the USA v Ghana game at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. However, they included an image in the tweet, with the Statue of Liberty representing the USA, and a giraffe representing Ghana. As Ghana does not have any giraffes, there was some pretty serious backlash from the online community. As with all these fails, the business in question is often quick to delete the offending tweet… But that doesn’t mean people won’t talk about it:
By far the most offensive and truly disgusting moment of this World Cup was when @Delta viciously tweeted a giraffe to represent Ghana
— MarketPlunger (@MarketPlunger) July 2, 2014
Top tip: Think globally with regards to social media. Your audience can be anywhere in the world, so an international outlook is essential.
Vodafone have had few mishaps on Twitter, but we thought we would include this one as it highlights the potential consequences of handing over control of brand image to employees. In early 2010, a customer service employee tweeted “VodafoneUK is fed up of dirty homo’s and is going after beaver” from the official Vodafone account. The company admitted that they had not been hacked, and that the customer service representative had been suspended.
The problem is, when it comes to social media and especially Twitter, people tend not to forget:
Vodafone- I'm barely over your "hairy homo seeking beaver" comment on Twitter 2 years ago and now this? http://t.co/vWde7te
— Leila Makki (@LeilaMakki) June 3, 2011
Top tip: Be certain that employees are aware of the consequences of sharing opinions that are not in line with those of the company.
5. Susan Boyle
Finally, when SuBo’s PR team took to Twitter to promote her new album, they unfortunately chose to do so with the following hashtag: #susanalbumparty.
Top tip: Read through your hashtags to ensure they can’t be misinterpreted before posting.