Top 10+ social media disasters

Burning platform

Many global marketing companies are “sitting on the sidelines” looking for opportunities to “commercialize” social media.

But sometimes brands don’t do this the right way. Sometimes brands get things wrong.

But there are preventative measures brands can take to lessen the likelihood of these mistakes happening. And if they do happen, there are also ways that brands can remedy the problem before it becomes a crisis.

If your company values its brands and consumer relationships and you don’t have a rapid social media recovery strategy, please learn from the following:

  • Kenneth Cole - The unfortunate Tweet about the Cairo riots and the company’s show collection, at a time when protesters were dying in Egypt, created a massive backlash for the show retailer. Fortunately, the company moved quickly to contain the damage and apologies. Its predicament taught the lesson that social media is a mass communication channel that cuts across many demographics and that it requires awareness and sensitivity, to use
  • Netflix – Also known as the Netflix PR disaster, it taught us to consider social media as an integral part of marketing rather than an afterthought
  • Chrysler – The official Twitter account of Chrysler brand vehicles dropped the F-bomb in an update from an employee at the automaker’s social media agency
  • Vodafone – The Vodafone Twitter account Tweeted this message: @VodafoneUK: is fed up of dirty homo’s and is going after beaver
  • American Red Cross – The Red Cross’s social media specialist Gloria Huang, by accident, expresses a personal tweet on the company’s home page
  • CNN – CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, Octavia Nasr, was shown the door after sending a tweet that expressed respect for the Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah
  • Habitat – The company employed “hashtags” – related keywords added to the end of Tweets to improve positioning in search results – to boost their hit rate. Habitat used hashtags related to the popular search terms at the time: iphone, Iran election and Mousavi. People searching for those subjects would than see the firm’s adverts



  • Quantas - The PR disaster faced this year by Australia’s favourite airline when it launched a Twitter competition at the same time that a union dispute was going on, on the ground, proved that when it comes to social media timing is everything and online and offline are different sides of the same coin and cannot be separated. A parody of Downfall – a film depicting the last days of Adolf Hitler – was posted on YouTube:
  • Bob Parsons – The unfortunate predilection of GoDaddy’s colourful CEO for elephant hunting, when made public, placed him and his company in hot water and made us all realise that a CEO’s conduct, even when it is not business related, can really damage the company brand. The outrage has given Bob Parsons the dubious distinction of being named “Scummiest CEO of the Year by PETA. Far from apologising for his actions, Bob Parsons decided to preach to the outraged audience instead – Let’s just say it didn’t go down very well
  • Entenmann – Donut firm Entenmann used the #notguilty hashtag to promote its fried goodies – at the same time it was being used to tweet news about the Casey Anthony verdict. It seems the agency was randomly pulling trending hashtags to use with tweets
  • Unilever – Sauce makers Ragu decided to annoy the daddy bloggers of the world when it used its Twitter account to churn out spam tweets directing them to view a video of mommy bloggers insulting their culinary skills. What appears to have been an attempt to start a debate, turned into a social media firestorm directed at the brand
  • Gilbert Gottfried – In 2011 Japan suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami. Four days later, actor Gilbert Gottfried tweeted insensitive jokes that piggybacked on the disaster. He was subsequently fired from his Aflac spokesperson position

by Torben Rick

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