20 Horrible Social Media Mistakes Made by Companies
Social media provides companies with the opportunity to communicate in
creative ways with numerous people in an instant. While the process isn’t
complicated in and of itself, it certainly can become fraught with
complications. People can become easily offended, comments can be misinterpreted
or just ill conceived and the backlash can be devastating for both individuals
as well as companies. When it comes to social media, one learns to expect
the unexpected and deal with it accordingly.
20) KitchenAid –
Obama’s Grandmother Tweet
Kitchen appliance specialist KitchenAid made one of the weirdest and most
offensive tweets in 2012, right after President Barrack Obama won his second
term in office. During his first presidential debate, Obama had mentioned his
grandmother. After he won the election, KitchenAid thought it would be a great
idea to correlate Obama’s victory with his grandmother’s death and its brand.
The company released a tweet that stated that Obama’s
grandmother knew that another four year term would be so bad that she
intentionally died days before the President won the election; the company’s
24,000 followers did not respond well to the remark. As a result, the company
was forced to remove the tweet and apologize for the offensive statement. KitchenAid stated that the comment had come from an employee who had intended to
post the tweet on his own personal Twitter account, not the company’s.
19) StubHub –
Online marketplace StubHub had some issues with social media in 2012 when
somebody posted a comment on the company’s Twitter account. The unknown tweeter
used the F-word in reference to his delight that it was the end of the week and
it referenced the company as a “stubsucking hell hole”.
The tweet remained on the account for about an hour before the business took
it down and released an apology. Strangely, no explanation for the tweet was
made to the press.
18) American Apparel
– Hurricane Discount
You wouldn’t think that a devastating natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy
would be an event that you’d use to promote your products but in 2012
American Apparel thought otherwise. The retailer made light of the tragedy when
it offered a 20% discount to anyone residing in the states affected by the
While the gesture didn’t sound like a bad idea on paper, it was the promotion
angle that was not so good. The company suggested that people who were “bored”
by the tragedy alleviate such doldrums through shopping. Rather than going
to the mall to buy their clothing, potential customers went to a variety of social media networks and
expressed their disgust with the promotion.
17) The Gap –
Hurricane Sandy Tweet
The Gap was another retail store that inexplicably thought Hurricane Sandy took
the opportunity to promote their products. As the storm
approached the East Coast, the Gap issued a tweet that encouraged people in the
affected areas to turn to online shopping for all their retail needs. The
company later removed the tweet with only a half-hearted apology.
16) Macy – Donald
Donald Trump might be a great businessman but that doesn’t necessarily mean that
he’s going to be good for a company’s image. Macy’s confirmed that this was the
case when they signed him up as a company spokesperson.
The high end retailer was forced to drop Trump as their “face” when the real
estate mogul inevitably embarked on a self indulgent publicity stunt. In 2012,
he offered $5 million for documentation that offered proof of President Obama’s
The documentation was forthcoming but it came in the form of a petition
signed by a half million people. The petitioners demanded that the store end
their association with Trump. Macy’s Twitter and Facebook pages were also
flooded with complaints about the company’s relationship with “the Donald”.
By Gage Skidmore, via
By Daniel Schwen, via
15) Aflac – Gilbert
In 2011, when a tsunami struck Japan, comedian Gilbert Gottfried made a
number of tweets regarding the tragedy. Always an edgy comic, the jokes were
completely inappropriate and incredibly insensitive as well as rude.
At the time, Gottfried was the spokesperson for the insurance company Aflac.
With a large branch in Japan, Gottfried was immediately fired and distanced from
the company. Aflac also made a donation to the International Red Cross to help
with relief efforts in connection with the storm.
14) Lowe’s –
Lowe’s, one of America’s biggest home improvement stores, in 2011 decided to
pull its ads from a reality based TV show about Muslims. The company placed a
note about the decision on their Facebook page.
In turn, Lowe’s received over 23,000 responses. Most of the comments
criticized the company’s decision but some of the remarks, with overt racist
undertones, celebrated the move. Lowe’s took no action regarding the offensive
statements, until the media caught wind of the story.
Ultimately, Lowe’s ended up removing every comment on the page and released
an apology for not acting sooner. The company claimed it was respecting people’s
rights of freedom of speech by not responding to the racist comments.
Lowe’s got more than 7,000 outraged responses in reply to the company’s
questionable apology and explanation of the incident.
13) Chrysler –
Sometimes, a business can suffer some damage to its reputation when it
outsources its work to another individual or company. Car manufacturer Chrysler
discovered this reality in 2011, when an intern for the company’s social media
account vented his frustrations about the city of Detroit.
The intern stated that it was ironic that no one in
Detroit could drive while using the F-word, despite the fact that it was referred to as the “Motor
City” and was a well known car manufacturing center. The individual responsible
for the tweet was fired but not before the comment was re-tweeted numerous
12) GoDaddy –
The CEO of GoDaddy, Bob Parsons, in 2011 not only made the questionable
decision to kill an elephant but also chose to brag about it via social media.
When he uploaded footage relating to the killing on YouTube, he also tweeted
about his “achievement”.
In his mind, Parsons had done something noble as there were issues regarding
elephant habitats where the incident took place. Tweeting and posting footage related to the
controversial slaughter of an animal is
not exactly intelligent, especially when the comment is made by a high profile
Parsons was severely chastised by PETA for his questionable actions and the
ill conceived publicity he created.
By Parsonsrep, via
11) KFC – YouTube
In 2007, a KFC outlet became infested with rats. When the media got hold of the
story, KFC thought they could remedy the situation with a press release. The
company insisted that the incident was just a one time event and that the
situation would be addressed immediately. Officials added that the outlet, where
the infestation occurred, would not be re opened until it had been fully
Unfortunately, KFC underestimated the power of the media and the Internet.
Thanks to YouTube, news of the problem spread globally, thereby causing the
brand to suffer as a result. Customers reasoned that if one KFC restaurant was
infested, others might possess the same problem too.
By Nicholas Moreau, via
10) United Airlines
Breaks the Wrong Guy's Guitar
United Airlines learned the hard way about the widespread power and influence of
social media. One of the airline’s passengers, David Carroll, in 2009 had his
guitar broken when he was traveling on a United Airline’s plane.
When the company didn’t bother to adequately compensate Carroll for his loss,
he wrote, performed and recorded a song slamming the company then he uploaded
his performance on YouTube. Within days of the video’s posting, United Airline’s
stock price plummeted by 10%. The song and clip became a worldwide hit, it has
received more than 10,000,000 views to date.
By skinnylawyer, via
9) The Associated
Press – White House Explosions Tweet
In 2013, social media took a strange turn when the Associated Press announced on
Twitter that two bombs had been detonated in the White House and that President
Obama was injured.
It appeared that someone had hacked into the account and made the false post
but the consequences of the prank were far reaching as well as serious. As a result of
the post, the New York Stock Exchange had what is known as a “flash crash”. The
market plummeted about 150 points in only a two minute time span.
By Alterego, via
Evolution 2000 U Lock and Pen
The Kryptonite Evolution 200 U Lock was supposed to be the strongest and most
secure bike lock available. Then one customer discovered that the supposedly
reliable lock could be picked with a ballpoint pen. The customer blogged about
his discovery, which caused the media to pick up the story.
While the story was originally covered by small media outlets, the New York
Times also got wind of the news. The lock company refused to make any comment
about the report and did not respond to the posting on the blog.
7) Facebook – Mark
Zuckerberg Personal Images
If there’s one person who is the unofficial “face” of social media, it’s the CEO
of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. Therefore, you would think that he would be the
last person to make any error in relation to the social media business. While
Zuckerberg has assured Facebook users that their personal information is safe,
his words came back to bite him when his own personal Facebook account was
In 2011, the hackers stole Zuckerberg’s personal images from his FB account
and posted them on the site called Imgur along with a statement that referenced
Facebook’s lack of security. Needless to say, the breach was indisputably a
“social” embarrassment. The privacy settings on the site were immediately
upgraded after the incident.
By Guillaume Paumier, via
6) McDonald’s –
As a result of allegations in the press and some bad experiences by consumers,
McDonald’s has, over time, developed a bad reputation. In 2012, McDonald’s
attempted to counter its poor brand image by introducing the Twitter promotions
#mcdstories and #meetthefarmers.
The effort was supposed to humanize the company and those who had worked for
it. Instead, the endeavor backfired when both abused customers and exploited
workers used the hashtags to detail their respective horror stories relating to
the already suspect company.
When all was said and done, the
McDonald’s promotion only served to verify the public’s poor perception of the
5) Snickers –
A company using celebrities to promote its product is certainly not a new
concept. In fact, most high profile companies have used celebrities at some
point to encourage sales and increase their influence but product endorsements
must be specifically noted in some
countries. Overlooking this
rule got Snickers in trouble in the UK and in 2012, the candy bar maker hired
celebrities to take pictures of themselves enjoying a Snickers on Twitter.
The UK's Office of Fair Trading investigated the publicity stunt and
Snickers was eventually cleared of any official wrongdoing. However, the subsequent media
attention and public reaction didn’t reflect well on the company nor the
4) National Rifle
Association – Aurora Tweet
The NRA receives bad publicity, which generally occurs as the result of its
seemingly bad timing. Perhaps the most notable instance occurred in 1999, when
the NRA convention was held shortly after the Columbine High School shooting
Another incredible instance of bad timing arose in 2012, during the mass
shooting at the Aurora cinema in Colorado. Right in the middle of the shooting
spree a publication that is closely associated with the NRA sent out a tweet that
wished all shooters a “Happy Friday”.
The NRA defended itself by saying the tweet was automated and in no way was
timed to coincide with the massacre. However, the organization realized its
response was a mistake and in turn deleted the tweet as well as the account.
3) CelebBoutique –
CelebBoutique is an online fashion store that specializes in celebrity inspired
fashion and it regularly keeps up to date with celebrity news but the company
apparently hasn’t been so concerned with other kinds of news events. This
omission led to an epic social media blunder in 2012 during the Aurora cinema
shooting spree. During the occurrence, the company’s PR department noticed that
the word “Aurora” was trending on Twitter.
In response, CelebBoutique released a tweet, where it unknowingly made light
of the horrific event. The company suggested that the word was trending because
of the company’s new Kim Kardashian inspired dress.
In its defense, the company explained it was a UK based business that implied
it didn't keep current with U.S. media based stories. The tweet remained
up for an hour and was re-tweeted numerous times. A boycott of the company was
launched shortly thereafter.
2) Kenneth Cole
Productions – Egypt Tweet
In 2011, the fashion house Kenneth Cole Productions got caught up in an
ill conceived attempt to promote its fashion line during Egyptian protests. The
company made light of the demonstrations by suggesting that protesters were
celebrating Cole’s new fashion collection for spring.
The company later apologized for the tweet, claiming that they weren’t making
light of the serious events in Egypt. However, it still took several hours for
the original tweet to be removed and an apology to be made.
1) Kenneth Cole
Productions – 9/11 Tweet
In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Kenneth Cole
Productions made light of the horrific event. The company reminded people that
under the circumstances it wasn’t only important for people to be conscious of
what they chose to wear, but to also “be aware” in general. In response to the
fashion house’s various tweets, parodies have appeared on Twitter that highlight
and mock the absurdity as well as insensitivity of the fashion designer along
Social media is a powerful tool both on a personal and commercial level but it's just as unpredictable as it is far reaching.
Tweets and Facebook comments are so notably short as well as succinct that
companies can say a lot without meaning to.
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