10 Social Media Disasters You’re Glad You Didn’t Cause

10 Social Media Disasters You’re Glad You Didn’t Cause

mcdonalds social media mistake

Are there certain things you’d like to unsee? Embarrassing moments you wish you hadn’t witnessed? Complete fails that make you cringe?

Yes? Us too.

In life, witnessing an awkward pick up line or fashion faux pas can usually be laughed off with a few friends. On the internet, fails are usually permanently etched in a screenshot and shared with thousands to millions in a matter of days.That’s the case with these 10 brands who probably had no idea their social media facepalms would be scoffed and scolded well beyond 140 characters.

1. Kenneth Cole - Reworking a Serious Issue to Promote Your Products


Using an important issue -- in this case military action in Syria -- to promote your brand won’t get you points for cleverness. Many found this tweet, insensitive and opportunistic. The worst part is, this is not Kenneth Cole’s first notable offense. In 2011, the fashion house used the hashtag “Cairo” to relate political uproar in Egypt to excitement over their spring collection. Really?!?

There is definitely a line between witty and witless and in both these cases, it’s the latter that shines through. Some brands will never learn.

2. Amy’s Baking Company - Raging Against The Machine...in All Caps

This one is almost too easy. It almost makes most social media fails palatable.

After appearing in an unprecedented episode of Kitchen Nightmares in which famous chef and TV personality, Gordon Ramsey, walks out of the bakery intervention after finding the owners too difficult to work with. You don’t say.

Backlash from viewers caused Amy’s Baking Company to take to their Facebook page with their own virtual rendition of “HULK SMASH!” It was not pretty and the meltdown became a social media punchline.

3. #McDStories - Stick to Hashbrowns, Avoid Hashtags

An example of when your good intentions fail you. McDonald’s learned this with their #McDStories Twitter campaign.

Though most brands want and invite user generated content, the danger with opening up the floodgates without any filters is that you let in the good with the bad. You hope for the positive but you probably cannot anticipate how ugly things can get. And when the bad are pretty bad, you have to close those gates as quick as you can.

The ill-conceived promotion was pulled by McDonald’s after less than two hours but you can still find some of the 1,600 rogue #McDStories floating around the interwebs.

4. Entenmann’s - If You’re going to Hashtag, Context is Key

A little research goes a long way. In this social media fail, the brand responsible for delicious treats, was also responsible for this reckless tweet. Looks innocent enough, right?

Unfortunately #notguilty that day on Twitter was pertaining to the Casey Anthony murder trial. Imagine seeing this fluffy marketing tweet in the midst of a controversial hot topic. Just another example of think before you tweet.

5. The Onion - Satire vs. Stupidity, It’s Not Science

During the live broadcast of the 2013 Academy Awards, The Onion, which is usually hilarious-in-an-intellectual way tweeted something unfunny-in-a-stupid way. The failed satirical tweet was about young Oscar nominee, Quvenzhané Wallis. Backlash ensued. Apologies followed.

It’s just not fun to watch a common sense filter malfunction.

6. American Apparel - Priorities vs Promotions

It’s simple. The time to have a flash sale...is not at the same time as a flash flood. That should really be easy to remember.

American Apparel, a brand not without its share of controversies, thought Hurricane Sandy was a perfect time to host a sale while everyone was holed up inside. While the logic might make sense, the priority is all kinds of wrong. What’s worse is that they weren’t alone in exploiting a bad situation with other brands having storm-inspired sales during the natural disaster.

Unfortunately, these sales inspired another kind of storm, of the Twitter variety.

7. Carnival Cruises - Not the Right Time to “Go Dark”

There usually are no words when tragedy suddenly strikes. We can definitely empathize with this. However, Carnival Cruises’ decision to pause updates on their social media accounts out of respect for Costa Concordia crash (a sister cruise line) was ill-timed. Furthermore, updates actually continued and news got out that Concordia survivors were offered a 30% discount off their next cruise. *smh*

Criticism were launched at the cruise line but because of the decision to “go dark”, Carnival missed an opportunity to step up and provide clarity and comfort for all those concerned.

8. Epicurious - When Current Events and Brands Don’t Mix

Don’t force a connection where there is not. Case and point: food and bombings. If you have nothing else to say that isn’t a) completely insensitive b) completely ridiculous, then maybe take a day off the Twitterverse.

Epicurious, reacted to the Boston Marathon tragedy with two tweets suggesting cereal and scones to help people get through this shocking event. Of course this had everyone talking. The suggestions Epicurious got back from this mistweet was to hire someone else for their social media marketing. Much more appropriate advice than a scone.

9. Kia - Leave the Memes Alone!

Cat memes win the internet on the daily. This much we know. But what happens when your brand wants to use these beloved felines to promote your products? Can we unsee this, please?

Kia teamed up with popular Cheezeburger, Inc to run a campaign called “Seasons Memeing Contest” that asked users to add infamous meme characters and text to images featuring the Kia Sorento. Hoping to capitalize on the viral effect of these silly characters and personas, the car brand probably did not anticipate the Cheezeburger community’s negative reaction.

When things that are fun for fun’s sake, encroaching on them with a commercial agenda can be perceived as a violation. Many of these entries were downvoted and from our scan, not one good laugh came of the way-too-contrived campaign.

10. Papa John's - The Perception of Your Actions Speak Louder than Words

You’ve seen these all over your Facebook newsfeed. A picture that evokes sympathy accompanied with a simple ask: “like” this post to show you “care”.

This type of social media interaction has now been labelled “slacktivism” as many see these manipulative posts as ways of making people feel they are making a difference without doing anything past a click. This type of condemnation is enough to shame the individuals involved in sharing and liking these types of posts but it’s even worse when companies engage in apparent slacktivism and click-baiting.

Papa John's attempt to raise awareness and funds for The Salvation Army isn’t terrible in intent but the perception here is that if #PapaJohnCares, why do frivolous “likes” matter? People see through these gimmicks and if one person publicly calls you out, many will follow.

Before you compromise your brand, think about public perception from all angles.

Social media can be a powerful tool to speak with your community, engage your followers and send out your message. But like with any tool, take time to learn how all the moving parts work and wear appropriate safety gear. Our suggestion: start with your thinking caps.

What are some other social media disasters we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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