Don't Kill Your Business With These Social Media Goofs

Learn / Discuss / Connect

Don't Kill Your Business With These Social Media Goofs

We spend a lot of time talking about how social media is crucial for brand development in today’s business world. Never before in the history of history has it been possible to reach a global audience so quickly and at such little cost. 


But no ride is ever free, right? 


The downside to the social media festival is that when you screw up, the whole world is watching. Whether a small or large business, you can do irreparable brand damage in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds. 


Check out the following monumental gaffes and promise yourself a sacred oath never to emulate them. 


Sexy Ebola Nurse

Because nothing says hip and sexy Halloween cute like mocking an infectious disease epidemic that killed 5,000 people in West Africa, we have to wonder if Brands on Sale got their marketing brains off the discount rack at Goodwill? 


Seriously. You have to see it to believe it. 

Sexy Ebola Nurse

Complete with a tattooed model sporting yellow boots, thigh-high stockings and a one-piece short skirt, the culturally tone-deaf geniuses at this company went all-out to offer spooky season hilarity in their copy: “As the deadly ebola virus trickles its way through the United States, fighting disease is no reason to compromise style…” Ugh. We feel sick just writing about these dunderheads.


McDonald’s - Was it the Hamburglar?

A few months after Donald Trump was elected president, McDonald’s broke its tradition of coma-inducing social media posts to throw a grenade tweet online that said he was a disgusting excuse of a president and had small hands. 

McDonald’s - Was it the Hamburglar?

Though the post was quickly removed, and the world’s largest hamburger slinger claimed it was the work of hackers, the damage was already done. In the twenty minutes, it was live, the tweet was commented upon and retweeted thousands of times. While most people assume it was hackers, gotta keep better security systems in place, right? 


Coke Should Have Paid Attention in High School

Early in 2016, Coke decided to extend a wintertime olive branch to the Russians by tweeting a cartoon map of the country decorated in red and white Coke colours. 

Coke Should Have Paid Attention in High School

What should have been an innocuous little blurt made the mistake of omitting an area (Kaliningrad) between Poland and Lithuania which was annexed following World War II. 


The oversight of an area with a population of more than 400,000 did not sit well with the Russian populace who responded with images of people pouring Coke in the toilet and worse. Lesson learned. Take the time to run your map by somebody who stayed awake in World Geography class.


It’s Better to Be White (Groan)

In a world where race relations steadily simmer below the surface and can flare to white-hot in an instant. It seems that creating an ad campaign called “White Makes You Win” should have been the sort of brain-dead idea that lived about three seconds and then died a horrible death on some Madison Avenue meeting room floor. 

It’s Better to Be White (Groan)

But no. The PR brain trust at Seoul Secret went ahead to claim that their line of skin-lightening cosmetics would help you be more successful. The face-in-palm public reaction was no surprise.


MTV Australia Wants Subtitles

The Australian branch of the MTV brand created a large, painful headache for the parent company when it tweeted a “painfully hip” - another word for stupid - demand for English subtitles for Eva Longoria and America Ferrara during a Golden Globes ceremony. 

MTV Australia Wants Subtitles

Longoria was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, to ninth-generation Tejano parents, while Ferrara hails from Los Angeles and Honduran parents. Two public apologies later, MTV still felt the public sting. And this, boys and girls, is why you should live tweet public events with great caution. Your brand’s health will thank you.


Even Their Mothers Can’t Tell Them Apart 

Confusing Oprah Winfrey and Whoopie Goldberg is one of the worst social media goofs a company could ever make. 

Even Their Mothers Can’t Tell Them Apart

The tweet comes to us from Total Beauty during an Oscars ceremony - in response to a red-carpet photo of a beaming Whoopie in an off-the-shoulder dress bearing an intricate shoulder tattoo. “We had no idea @Oprah was #tatted, and we love it.” Remember that time when everyone thought these two women were identical twins said no one ever. There’s not much else to be pontificate on this topic except, “Ignorance can be costly.” Or maybe, “Update your eyeglass prescription, Total Beauty, before you look like a real arse.” Oops. Too late.


Know Your Celebrity

What is it with music channels and poor judgement? VH1 decided to host an online Q & A session where the public could ask questions of singer Robin Thicke. 

Singer Robin Thicke

Before he knew it, he was inundated with queries and castigations about his alleged lyrical misogyny. 


Believe us, it got uncomfortable quickly, which brings up a social media lesson. If you have a celebrity with any skeleton in or out of the closet, don’t expect Joe or Josephine Public to handle the situation with tact. They’re going to go for the jugular. The lesson here is to know the complete history of your celeb and don’t stick them out there if there’s a sore spot that can get them into trouble. 


It’s bad for them and bad for your brand.


How Much Does a Fact-Checker Make?

And then there was the time Delta Airlines tried to compliment the US soccer team when it beat Ghana 2-1 in a World Cup Match. 

Delta Airlines tweet

America was represented in the tweet by an absolutely acceptable picture of the Statue of Liberty, while a beautiful silhouette of a giraffe on the rugged plains - except there is not a single wild giraffe in Ghana. There are plenty on the African continent, but no one in their right mind or with even a rudimentary grasp of international geography would attempt to represent THAT country with THAT animal. Sorry, Delta. Bad on you for not hiring a fact-checker.


Kmart, Et Al

Some company makes the same mistake every holiday season. 


They get so caught up in the whole black Friday shopping tsunami that they end up never closing on Thursday. 

Kmart - Black Friday

It’s not so much that America begrudges a company the right to make a dollar, but rather the fact that the store has to be staffed on a holiday and even into the next day. 


We’re not here to debate whether screwing with your employees’ ability to find time for a proper Thanksgiving is a good or bad thing. The dumb thing is to respond to the predictable hailstorm of criticism by parroting a lame phrase over and over ad nausea about giving workers the chance to earn extra money.


That’s so not the point. Sure, Kmart was being factually accurate but not doing themselves any favours in the public arena.


Rhode Island = Iceland

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation (RICC) spent $5 million on a pretty little video which they plastered all over their social media outlets. It was chock full of all the good things about our small island state: beaches, lighthouses, quaint cities, and beautiful natural scenery. 

Rhode Island

Then all of the sudden it cuts away to an Icelandic montage while the voiceover says, “Imagine a place that feels like home but holds enough uniqueness that you are never bored.” 


Whilst wiping heaping amounts of egg off their collective face, the RICC sputtered that the editing company was given specific instructions to only include local footage. Probably true, but wouldn’t you want to watch the two-minute video before tossing it up on your social media feeds?


Ugly is as Ugly Does

Credit for this incredible case of opening mouth and inserting foot goes to none other than the US State Department, which issued the following tweet: “Not a ‘10’ in the US? Then not a ‘10’ overseas. 

US State Department tweet

Beware of being lured into buying expensive drinks - or worse, being robbed.” Yep, it says what you think it does. 


If you’re ugly here in the states, you’re gonna be ugly anywhere else in the rest of the world. This attempt to warn travellers to keep their eyes open on international spring break trips ended up insulting the ugly. Not a shining moment for Uncle Sam’s social media skills.


The Bottom Line

The preceding is just a sample of the business idiocy in the social media arena.


While we never miss an opportunity to poke fun at some examples of truly terrible judgement, it wouldn’t be so funny if it were your business making this kind of mistake, would it?


The bottom line is to think twice before you post that update, especially if you think it’s screamingly clever. There’s a chance it might be that, but there’s also a chance it’s offensive or just plain stupid. These are attributes your brand can do without. A poorly-conceived tweet or post can do serious damage to your company’s reputation. Social media offers great power. Use it responsibly.