As long as brands are on social media, there will be gaffes, goofs, and outright mistakes. This year was no exception.
The following five social media blunders are funny, awkward, offense, or ill-conceived. Cringe at will, but take note of what went wrong. Afterall, no one is immune. Even the best-staffed, best-intentioned social media teams can find themselves in the middle of a bad social media flap out of sloppiness, insensitivity, or even lack of research. Check out these mistakes and make sure that you don't make the same ones in 2016.
5. New York Times Magazine's poll
In October, Twitter gave users the ability to poll other Twitter users. New York Times Magazine took advantage of this tool by asking readers if, given the chance, they'd go back in time and kill baby Hitler. Much mocking ensued. Also, in case you're curious, 43% of people said they would.
Lesson: Maybe Twitter is not the place for serious ethical thought experiments.
4. Clorox's insensitivity
In the quest to be timely on social media, it's easy to get your brand in trouble. Back in April, Clorox tweeted about Apple's new emoji—they sent out a pic of a bottle of Clorox made up of emoji with the text: "The new emoji are alright, but where's the bleach?" Here's the thing—that new round of emoji included, for the first time, racially diverse emoji. iOS now gives users the ability to pick different skin tones and hair colors for anything from a thumbs up to a simple face. Clorox's tweet sounded downright racist, and the company deleted the tweet.
Lesson: Don't let timeliness make you sloppy.
3. Seaworld's Twitter chat
Twitter chats can be tricky. They can either be a great way to promote engagement with a brand, or an invitation for snark and negative attention. It's happened to McDonald's, JP Morgan, and as of March, Seaworld. The #AskSeaworld Twitter chat went off the rails when, instead of receiving nice, friendly questions about marine life, the audience (including PETA) peppered Seaworld with questions about mistreatment of animals, etc. The story became yet another Twitter chat fail from a brand trying to generate some positive PR in the aftermath of some already bad press.
Lesson: Take stock of how your brand is perceived; don't assume the internet will play nicely with your PR stunt.
2. Bud Light's tone def hashtag
Also in April, Bud Light got itself into trouble when it introduced the hashtag #upforwhatever, which included the description, "The perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night." In an age where rape culture and consent are discussed and disputed, the undertones of the campaign were at best, creepy, and at worst, promoting the idea that "no" does not mean "no." The beer company abandoned the slogan.
Lesson: Check your cultural context, think about how what you tweet may be perceived by others.
1. Tinder's tweetstorm
In August, Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales published a piece called Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse. The story includes the accounts of twentysomethings who talked about how weird, awkward, and unpleasant dating can be given the burgeoning of hookup culture, and how dating apps like Tinder don't exactly improve the situation. Tinder took to Twitter to refute the story, tweeting at the writer and the magazine more than 30 times with various complaints and arguments, some snarky, some citing internal surveys. An example: "-@VanityFair Little known fact: sex was invented in 2012 when Tinder was launched." So, for those who hadn't read the story, Tinder directed attention straight to it.
Lesson: For 2016, swipe left on social media meltdowns, folks.
Bonus round: Boston Globe's typo
Back in July, the venerable Boston Globe newspaper sent out a tweet with a typo. Typos happen, but this one was pretty odd. The tweet read, "Ed Reinhold, FBI, says FBI has investifarted about 70 leads already." How one goes from "investigate" to "investifart" is perhaps a mystery we will never solve, but the Globe was a good sport about it, later tweeting, "As policy we does not delete typographical errors on Twitter, but do correct #investifarted..." Of course, #investifarted was trending before long.
Lesson: As long as you haven't offended anyone, it's ok to have a sense of humor about mistakes.
- 10 brands to follow on Instagram (TechRepublic)
- The worst social media brand blunders of 2014 (TechRepublic)
- Social media over the holidays: Five tips to manage your brand (TechRepublic)
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.