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Over the past couple of years, hundreds of businesses have worked to grow their online presence through social media. Within the raging race to get to the top there have been several missteps and mistakes along the way. I’ve compiled a list of seven of the biggest social media faux pas of the past two years. Make sure you plan out your editorial calendars well and if you do come across a misstep that offends or confuses your followers, be quick to apologize and mend the situation.

McDonalds Promoted Hashtag Backfires

Sometimes careful planning won’t even save you from embarrassment. Early in 2012, McDonalds paid to promote a hashtag, #McDStories, across Twitter. McDonalds asked its followers to use the hashtag to post about favorite positive memories associated with McDonalds. The plan totally backfired and Twitter users tweeted about negative memories and horror stories associated with McDonalds. The hashtag inspired tweets like:

“once when I was little.. i was playing in the mcdonald’s playhouse and a rusty nail stabbed me in my foot. #McDStories”

“One time I walked into McDonalds and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up. #McDstories”

Unfortunately since the hashtag was created on Twitter, the hashtag page cannot be taken down and the McDonald’s social media disaster still exists on Twitter today.

Celeb Boutique Tweets without Research

During the summer of 2012, right after the shooting in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, Celeb Boutique made a poor choice to ride on the back of the #Aurora hashtag trend. Unfortunately the social media marketer behind the tweet did not take the time to find out why #Aurora was trending. The tweet read, “#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress ;) Shop: celebboutique.com/aurora-white . . .” This tweet was horribly insensitive and Celeb Boutique could have easily avoided this misstep by doing a little bit of research. This mistake led to outpouring of angry tweets on the company’s Twitter account.

KitchenAid Mixes Personal with Corporate

Much to the horror of the KitchenAid social media team, one of its employees accidently posted a personal tweet on the company’s public twitter profile to its 24,000 followers after the 2012 Elections. The offending tweet read, “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics”

The tweet was quickly deleted and the company issued this apology, “I would like to personally apologize to President @BarackObama, his family and everyone on Twitter for the offensive tweet sent earlier.” Even though the KitchenAid team responded quickly and the public appreciated its apology, situations like this can become much stickier. Make sure you never mix your personal social media with your business’ social media.

Urban Outfitters Makes Light of Deadly Storm

During the deadly Hurricane Sandy, Urban Outfitters and several other companies thought it would be a good idea to promote online shopping with deals and promotions. The tweets or online promotions from several stores across the east were insensitive and recommended that bored customers should try shopping online during the storm.  Urban Outfitters’ tweet read, “This storm blows (but free shipping doesn’t)! Today only…bit.ly/S8fADV #frankenstorm #ALLSOGGY.” A few of the offending businesses apologized for making light of the situation.

Burger King Gets Hacked

Early in 2013, Burger King was hacked and all of its personal information was replaced with McDonald’s pictures and tweets. The hacker claimed that Burger King was “sold to McDonalds because the whopper flopped.” Burger King’s twitter account gained 30,000 followers in one day. The Burger King social media team had to freeze the account because the hacker kept hacking into the page. Although Burger King’s officials had almost no control over this hack, supposedly the original password of the account, when it was hacked, was “whopper.” Make sure your passwords are secure.

Applebee’s Struggles between Customers and Employees

After firing an employee who posted a customer’s critical receipt on Facebook, Applebee’s experienced a flush of negative feedback from its online following. The receipt was from a local pastor who changed the prewritten 18% tip, which is customary for a party of eight, saying that they only paid 10% to God. Applebee’s tried to explain to its followers that their customers’ privacy is one of their highest priorities. Since the employee posted a customer’s private information, the employee had to be fired. Applebee’s tried to respond to each negative comment politely, but the situation just grew and grew. Applebee’s final plea for peace read:

“We wish this situation hadn’t happened. Our Guests’ personal information – including their meal check – is private, and neither Applebee’s nor its franchises have a right to share this information publicly. We value our Guests’ trust above all else. Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest’s right to privacy.”

After a while the social media explosion died down, but Applebee’s still receives negative comments on their Facebook page that refer back to the incident.

Taco Bell’s Taco

And once again, businesses need to be wary of what their employees post on the internet. A few months ago an image of a Taco Bell employee licking a stack of tacos surfaced on the web. Supposedly users have continually reposted the image on Taco Bell’s Facebook page. The image was meant to be a part of an internal contest to help with advertising the employees’ first taste of the food. The photo didn’t fit within the contest’s guidelines and the employees didn’t end up submitting the picture. Somehow it still surfaced on the web and led to a social media nightmare.

When you come across a social media misstep or disaster in your own business, do your best to act quickly and intelligently fix the situation. The public might not always respond well, but sometimes mistakes can lead to good things. It’s best to avoid these missteps altogether with proper scheduling and careful employees.

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