JanRezab / Blog

Founder & Executive Chairman of Socialbakers.com

Biggest screw-ups by brands in social media so far and how they reacted

Published: August 20, 2013


I love #sociallydevoted brands, which are brands that not only respond in social media, but also reflect on that feedback and try to do something about it. Now this is of course not always the case, and we see many examples day-to-day, some starting with a human error, some with an big issue inside the company itself. I took a set of my favorite ones to post them. I might come back and update this article with more examples.

This also covers what some of the companies did after.

#1 Chrysler – Dropping the f-bomb

Typical example of human error. Someone wanting to tweet with their own account, and accidentally sending it through the company one.

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Follow-up from Chrysler was the following: Initially they were not open, the first reaction was almost shocked which you can read in between the lines, that “our account was compromised”. It wasn’t.

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Later they announced some cool follow-up on their blog that I quite liked, good points for them.

Prevention: As a company of this size, don’t outsource social media posting to someone where you don’t have full control over it, especially not on Twitter, where basically everyone has a password.

#2 MSN – Someone dies, click like to pay respects

Extremely weird way to get engagement by MSN, which wouldn’t be the first time or the last (I think BING had some issues with retweet and we will donate to victims of Japanese earthquakes, which backfired heavily and the company eventually donated the promised full amount anyway.

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Prevention: A better content plan and rules around social media call to action would have sufficed.

#3 GAP – “We’ll be shopping during the hurricane, how about you?”

GAPs tweet was among the group of inappropriate brand comments around hurricane Sandy. Trust me, I left the U.S. 1 day before, and it looked pretty bad already when I was leaving. You don’t want to make fun of something like this as a brand.

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#4 NRA – Good morning shooters 

After one of the American shootings in Aurora, the NRA (American Rifleman, National Rifle Association) posted a tweet saying:


#5 Dominos Pizza – “Sorry for the good pizza”

Dominos quite recently had some issues with someone saying that this is a really good pizza, and Domino’s actually went back and apologized, creating probably the funniest response ever. The company as a #sociallydevoted company really took their responses seriously, and dealt with it well.

Prevention: Only pre-validation of responded posts could be a solution for truly large enterprises, where they could have just a two person model so that he checks the other one for mistakes, similarly to how many enterprise and public structures work (even soldiers, police officers, and many other things work in pairs, thats something that on the big-level should be done easily).

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#6 Macy’s Dump Trump

I am already explaining in a previous article the issue that Donald Trump and Macy’s and what challenges these guys faced, read that here: http://www.janrezab.com/5-ways-macys-could-deal-with-dump-trump-issue/. Macy’s did nothing with this issue.

#7 Burger King is now McDonalds :) 

Funny, password of the Burger King account was compromised, and quite a preventable joke from companies like

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If you guys have any examples of other social media disasters, let me know and I will keep adding people to the list.

Categorically, these things are either:

  • Human Error – mistweeting – publishing something that should have not been published. Run it by more people.
  • Bad Judgement – people thinking something is a good idea, when in fact its not. Run it by more people.
  • Not enough security – too many people having for example the Twitter passwords. Have less people have direct access, especially to Twitter.

Top tips on social media disasters: 

  • Just be Open – People actually respect the fact that companies respond well quite a lot.
  • Protect your account – Use only a few key tools that you know you have trust in – not someone with 5 – 10 people that would be heavily relying on your business. Build it with a partner at a good size and scale. Make sure noone has your Twitter passwords…
  • Delete or not to delete? A lot of companies choose to delete negative posts, they will make them go even more viral. For example H&M had a very big problem with their page and a lot of people shared updates, they tried deleting them one by one, but the more they deleted, the more people tried and shared. Deleting is not a good option. One recommendation if for example sensitive information are being shared, alert the user and hide his conversation, effectively making it a private conversation
  • Create a process in social media: The more we look, the more important it is to create a process around social media. If a company hasn’t got one, it sure should create one.

Of course, those are virtual or content mistakes the brands are doing. Next time we will look at real mistakes, that brands are managing through social media. A topic much more interesting on the corporate level.

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