Social Media has firmly entrenched itself in today’s society, so much that major brands use it as a way to connect with customers.
While it can be great for companies, the hyper-connectivity can sometimes backfire.
“Social media and the internet don’t make people stupid, they just give people another platform on which they can [expose their stupidity],” says Mike Schlossber, Pennsylvania state representative and author of the blog Political Fails.
And companies are accidentally exposing themselves all the time. Over the years there have been so many blunders to choose from, but these three are pretty legendary.
So do yourself a favor and learn from these mistakes and avoid the massive humiliation these people must have felt. Here are three epic social media fails:
A restaurant’s social media strategy serves up some serious outrage
Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Ariz.
After the restaurant was featured in a particularly brutal episode of Kitchen Nightmares on Fox (Gordon Ramsay left mid-episode for the first time ever), the owners took to Facebook to defend themselves. Using the mantra “The best defense is a good offense,” they went on the attack against customers in the comments section with curses and threats of legal action.
Unsurprisingly, the move failed to generate good will. The bistro’s owners, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, later claimed that their Facebook page was hacked.
A retailer’s explosive photo implodes on Twitter.
On July 4th, American Apparel posted a picture of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, mistaking it for a picture of fireworks.
Rather than commemorating patriotism, the picture encapsulated a national tragedy.
People were not amused.
“It’s bad because it’s not related to the day or event, and it’s related to sadness — not celebrating,” Samson says.
He adds, however, that there is an important distinction between ignorance and intentional bad taste. “Stupidity and/or ignorance is forgivable,” he says. “Evil is not forgivable. There’s a competency issue there, but not evil wrongdoing intentionally.”
An airline’s tweet is a little too friendly for the skies.
Here’s a recap for those who don’t remember:
U.S. Airlines tweeted out a link to a pornographic picture of a woman with a toy airplane. The mistweet occurred when an employee copied the link to try to report the image to the authorities, but instead accidentally pasted it into a tweet responding to a customer complaint.
The company didn’t notice the error for a full 45 minutes.
Schlossberg said the reaction of the Twitterverse was “hilarious,” as many took full advantage of the opportunity to post tweets making fun of the company’s blunder.
According to Schlossberg, it also serves as a useful reminder to “Double check everything before you send it.” Even jokes can be damaging to a brand. “One knock against your image could last for months or years,” Samson says.
The company rebounded, however, by deleting the tweet, acknowledging the error and apologizing. In reflecting on the incident Fitzpatrick praised the company’s response. “I think they handled it well,” she says.
You can read about more social media fails at Entrepreneur.