5 Examples of Social Media Going Wrong

February 24, 2015

When first starting out in social media, it’s really important to get a sense of the ‘ground rules’, so to speak. This means knowing your target audience/existing followers well; not saying anything that would upset or offend them, or engaging in behaviour that could reflect badly on your brand.

It might all seem like common sense, but even the biggest, most established brands still get it wrong. Just take a look at these five cringe-worthy examples.

1. GAP’s Insensitive Sales Tweet


In 2012, denim manufacturer GAP were rallied over their shocking use of the Hurricane Sandy hashtag. Using the #sandy hashtag, they revealed they were “doing lots of GAP shopping” and urged “those affected” to “stay safe”. Somehow, GAP’s followers weren’t convinced of their concern.

Whether this mishap resulted from a lack of research in the hashtag, or simply a shameless plug of their own products is unclear. But GAP were certainly made to feel awful and are proof that trending hashtags are not for anyone’s gain.

2. Tesco Fails to Update Its Auto-Tweet


Tesco inadvertently made a joke about the disastrous horse-meat scandal that hit the company almost overnight. When a scheduled tweet read “We’re off to hit the hay” as its social team signed off for the night, followers were understandably outraged as to how the brand could be so laid back about the seriousness of the situation.

Although this was a case of simply unfortunate timing, it’s important to remember that scheduling tweets is by no means a fool-proof social strategy.

3. Union St Guest House Uses Scare Tactics

A New York guest house was thrown into harsh spotlight in 2012, when it was revealed it was fining its guests $500 for any negative reviews posted on Yelp or on social media.

The unbelievable revelation was first reported by news website Page Six, and not only did it refer to guests, but also all members of their party. Clearly Union St didn’t understand the premise of free speech and that social media is essentially another form of that speed. Needless to say, this wasn’t a particularly welcome concept in the eyes of the public – or business authorities.

The message? Don’t restrict or stifle your customers from making their views known. By listening to them and encouraging them to communicate, you’ll have more opportunities to do better business.

4. Global Village Duluth’s Cringe-Worthy MLK Day Discount


There’s a small simple rule for everybody on social media (professional or not): as everything you say or do is in the public eye, it’s preferable that you don’t try and be smart when it comes to issues of race, class or gender.

Global Village clearly missed this memo when they used the novelty of Martin Luther King (MLK) day to promote their products on Facebook at 25% off. But not just any products though – just the ones that were black.


5. Malaysia Airlines Tries to Erase the Past


Malaysia Airlines recently came within the firing line at the end of 2014, when they employed a nonchalantly chirpy tone for a tweet that read, “Want to go somewhere but don’t know where? Our Year-End Specials might just help! #keepflying”.

Naturally, followers likened the notion of an unknown location to the infamous MH376 flight, which went missing in 2014. Malaysia Airlines rapidly removed the tweet and apologised immediately to everybody who was offended.

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