Best of 2012: Top 11 Social Media Fails

TwitterIt’s the same thing every year. Bloggers all over the world compile their Best of the Year lists in early December and even in November. I’m fine with that, but isn’t that jumping the gun? What if something earth-shattering happens on December 31st? The wildly popular Mayan “apocalypse” (which obviously didn’t happen) and Christmas both stirred up conversation after websites published their annual \”best-of\” posts. I’m actually more comfortable to put out my year ender lists at this time, although there was my Twitter 2012 Year in Review. So, here are things from 2012 that created a lot of buzz.

Top 5 Social Media Campaign Fails

Don’t confuse this with status update fails because that deserves its own article altogether. Companies and internet marketers try to be clever with their social networking campaigns to amass customers, which is great, but sometimes they simply are, in the words of Internet-speak, doing it wrong.

1. Susan Boyle’s Hashtag Double Entendre

Remember when British singer Susan Boyle’s PR team inadvertently turned a hashtag campaign into an embarrassing gaffe? Although this may have been an accident, I’m categorizing it under fail because the social media people behind Boyle probably didn’t read their post twice before hitting the Tweet button. And the hashtag that set the folks of Twitter roaring? #susanalbumparty. susan Source The hashtag was supposed to promote the singer\’s new album, but problem was the hashtag became wildly misinterpreted as a party of the rear end kind. It\’s either Boyle\’s online marketing team are brilliant, naïve or didn\’t see what they did there. The songster\’s PR team declined commenting about the slip-up. Twitter blunder or not, the hashtag sparked attention like wildfire, although not the kind of attention Susan Boyle imagined, maybe. susan Source The tweet was eventually removed after the Internet jumped at it, but Twitter still hasn\’t gotten over it.

2. Urban Outfitters\’ Hurricane Marketing Fail — Violation of Good Taste?

Where the next person sees calamitous floods and devastating winds, some clothing retailers see marketing opportunity. Hurricanes are nothing to make light of, but these marketers probably thought there\’s no better time to offer discounts than during a super storm. Urban Outfitters tweeted special shipping offers at the height of Hurricane Sandy\’s siege, which resulted in a flood of bloggers and Twitter users voicing their disgust. What\’s worse, the tweet included the hashtag #ALLSOGGY. Yes, this tweet still exists. Had they deleted the tweet, some might forgive their flagrant lack of concern. UO wasn\’t the only clothier that raised hackles. American Apparel sent out emails to consumers, offering a 20-percent-off sale \”in case you\’re bored by the storm.\” The clothing store displayed a map highlighting affected areas, and only those locations could take advantage of the discount. The irony of it all is that most of the areas in the storm\’s path lost power and Internet connection. SMH Gap also made the mistake of being insensitive during the hurricane and got blasted for it. While the storm was entering New Jersey and New York, this tweet surfaced: gap But at least the tweet was eventually deleted and Gap made a sort of apology:

3. Woody Harrelson\’s Reddit AMA Malarkey

In February 2012, actor Woody Harrelson hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit, but this isn\’t the first time a famous celebrity did an AMA — there was also Stephen Colbert and Molly Ringwald. The point of AMAs is providing a forum where users can interact and get to know actual people. Harrelson\’s AMA turned into a fiasco when users actually asked him anything, he only talked about his latest movie and refused to answer personal questions. He then completely left the live session and got his publicist to take over. woody The biggest reason the campaign failed is that the Hollywood actor didn\’t understand his audience and the nature of Reddit. It looked like Harrelson thought AMA was a talk show where actors are only asked about their latest film with a few amusing personal questions on the side to entertain TV viewers. When users were under the impression Harrelson showed up only to promote his film, they lashed out and the AMA backfired. Social network users have always been sensitive to marketing attempts, and Reddit has a very dedicated userbase. Attempting to reach to people through this medium requires honesty and openness to answer questions. After all, the subreddit is called Ask Me Anything, not Ask Me Anything About Rampart.

4. McDonald’s Twitter Stories Gone Wrong

As a marketer, one of the things you hope for with all your heart is your marketing attempts NOT backfiring. A Twitter campaign from McDonald’s last year, however, didn’t do so well. Twitter is a great place to engage your audiences, so McDonald’s decided to get people to tweet their favorite Mickey Dee’s memories with the hashtag #McDStories. The campaign blew up in McDonald’s face when tweeple used the hashtag to share horrifying and shocking experiences and facts, such as these: The thing about hashtags is that they can be your best ally or worst enemy. Social media is spontaneous and what people say about you online reflects the impression you made on them. So McDonald’s, next time, be aware of your reputation before starting a social media campaign.

5. Rant on Odeon\’s Facebook Page

This one wasn\’t caused by an update from the company, but by a complaint from an unsatisfied and irate customer. In August last year, Mark Pledger vented on Odeon\’s Facebook timeline after receiving awful service and being charged an incredibly high price for a movie ticket. This was the complaint: odeon It\’s virtually impossible to know if Odeon made an attempt to quell the customer\’s grievance because the post received tens of thousands of comments. Although the cinema chain did try to pacify the displeased customer, they didn\’t take the time to make a sticky post on their timeline, and instead only posted a comment, which got buried among the thousands of other comments. And the apology was made too little too late. Considering Odeon is the biggest cinema company in the UK, you\’d think they\’d have a solid crisis management system. To this day, the post is still publicly visible and it will remain so until the OP removes it. Someone should have done something to take down the damaging post a long time ago.

6. Swedish Tourist Board Opened the Gates to Anti-Semitic Tweets

The idea behind this campaign was to let the citizens of Sweden speak in behalf of their country by turning over the national Twitter account, @sweden, to a different citizen each week. After all, no one knows a country better than the people who live there, right? Each Swede was given seven days to take control of the Twitter account. The Swedish tourist board got what they wanted, and maybe more than they bargained for. What ensued was a series of tweets filled with profanity and one Tweeter expressed concerns about anti-Semitism. It\’s going to take you some scrolling to find tweets that are easy to the eyes. sweden The account currently has over 41 thousand tweets, and it doesn\’t look like the one Swede per week Twitter campaign will stop anytime soon. On the other hand, some credit has to be given to the tourist board because they never censored the tweets and allowed citizens to express their freedom of speech. Non-Swedish people took the liberty to give their two cents about this (semi-fail) campaign.  

7. Ryanair\’s Mistreatment of a Customer on Facebook

Ryanair chief executive Michael O\’Leary has a reputation for expressing himself too directly albeit in a joking manner, but when a customer complained on Facebook about being charged €300 for forgetting to print out her entire family\’s boarding passes, O\’Leary straight up called McLeod \”so stupid.\” When a customer rants on your public social media profile, and gain 350,000 likes and 18,000 supportive comments, this would be a major PR concern, well for most brands anyway. However, O\’Leary took a different approach and was completely unapologetic:
We think Mrs McLeod should pay 60 euros for being so stupid.

8. Toyota\’s Spammy Campaign

If done right, Twitter can set customers talking about your latest products and services, but Toyota unfortunately did it wrong. During the 2012 Super Bowl, the car maker decided to take advantage of tweets containing hashtags and words like \”patriots\” and \”giants\”. Toyota hunted down these tweets and replied with marketing-oriented tweets to promote the Camry. toyota This sort of strategy has been suggested by bloggers and SEOs worldwide, but you really should research first and know who to target. The campaign turned into a disaster because the auto company threw out tweets to anyone who happened to tweet something about the Super Bowl. Users accused Toyota of spamming them with unsolicited messages.

9. Waitrose Faces Twitter Ridicule, Kind Of

It\’s now normal to see Twitter users hijack a hashtag to either bash a brand or spam other users. The hashtag #WaitroseReasons had a different effect, though. When UK supermarket chain Waitrose launched a campaign where people are encouraged to finish the sentence \”I shop at Waitrose because…\”, the jokers of Twitter used the opportunity to share wisecracks about how Waitrose is the supermarket for the wealthy. Many of the witty remarks ridiculed the supermarket with quips like: \”I shop at Waitrose because I think food must automatically be better if it costs three times as much.\” Waitrose brushed off the derisive tweets, however. \”Thanks again for all the #waitrosereasons tweets. We really did enjoy the genuine and funny replies. Thanks for making us smile,\” their official Twitter account tweeted.

10. Steven Gerrard Gets Twitter Hijacked

Here is another case of a Twitter Q&A gone wild. The hashtag used was #AskStevieG and the tweets that followed were some of the funniest in Twitter history, although they weren\’t so funny for Adidas UK, which was responsible for the question and answer session for footballer Steven Gerrard. Although there were genuinely decent questions, the trolls reigned. The Adidas staff probably went bonkers sifting through the witticisms and sarcasm.  

11. Insensitive Aurora Dress Tweet

Although perturbing, you might be able to forgive this Twitter gaucherie because the tweeter seemed to have acted out of pure ignorance. In the wake of the Aurora movie theater shooting, where 12 were killed and 58 wounded, the hashtag #Aurora was trending. The whole world came together on Twitter to mourn the tragedy, but whoever runs the Twitter account of the online store Celeb Boutique had this very insensitive tweet to say: aurora Other users were quick to react. Apologies were duly given and the nasty tweet was removed an hour and a half later, which is a really long time in Internet standards. That\’s enough time to get a tweet retweeted thousands of times, shared and screenshot. Celeb Boutique also tweeted four times to clarify their misunderstanding and to ask forgiveness. This is the first tweet after the gaffe:   It\’s good to learn from your mistakes, but make sure never to make the above mistakes. Do you know of other social media fails the past year? Share them on the comments section below.

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