The Best of the Worst: 6 Social Media Fails (and how to avoid them)

By Jessica Disch

11/10/16

Social media is an important and powerful tool in a brand’s marketing toolbox. Unfortunately, its far-reaching and immediate nature means it can often be dangerous as well. Let’s take a minute to learn a lesson from these brands and not make the same cringe-worthy mistakes they did.

What are the facts?
Fact-checking is a critical step in the publishing process, and social media is no different. Unfortunately, too many tweeters don’t take the time to do it and end up paying for it later.

While live-tweeting the Oscars this year, online publication Total Beauty inexplicably mixed up Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. Not a great move.

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You’d think a global brand such as Coca-Cola would know it’s geography.  Earlier this year, the mega brand tweeted an illustration of a snow-covered map of Russia. Too bad the map was very outdated, omitting Kaliningrad, which was annexed following World War II. The fallout was not pretty and included Russian patriots posting pics of themselves pouring Coca-Cola down toilets with the hashtag #BanCocaCola.

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In the spirit of election season, this list wouldn’t be complete without a major political snafu. In March, the GOP sent out a tweet saying that then U.S. Representative (D) Tammy Duckworth doesn’t “stand up” for vets. The problem is, Duckworth lost her legs—while serving in Iraq. She also worked as assistant secretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs. We’d say she’s as patriotic as they come. Note: Duckworth won her race and is now Senator Duckworth.

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Opening a can of worms
One of the benefits of social media is that it allows brands to open a dialogue with their consumers. But sometimes it’s better left as a one-way street, at least on a public platform.

Take SeaWorld, for example. The famed theme park launched their #AskSeaWorld campaign in an effort to win back popularity after the backlash of Blackfish, a 2013 documentary that reveals the reality of killer whales living in captivity. Instead of questions about whale welfare, tweeters brought more attention to the controversy, tweeting things like, “#AskSeaWorld Do you now call yourself an ABUSEMENT PARK?” With a little foresight, SeaWorld could have probably avoided this controversy.

Human error
Everybody makes mistakes. We’ve all had that sinking feeling in our stomach right after we realize we sent a text or email to the wrong person. Luckily for most, that feeling fades quickly. Not so quickly, though, for those who get click happy with their brand’s social media accounts.

That was just the case for one staffer in the public affairs office of the Justice Department who tweeted his not so favorable feelings about CNN. Unfortunately for him, he did it from the Justice Department’s Twitter account, not his own. “A staffer in the public affairs office erroneously used the official Department of Justice Twitter handle to post a tweet that was intended for a personal account,” a Justice Department official said to Gizmodo. Oops.

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College football analyst Gerry Hamilton meant to tweet a link about a top recruit when he mistakenly sent out a link to a PornHub video instead. Hamilton quickly pulled down the link, but not before the internet took screen grabs. Copy and paste with caution, folks.

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