Biggest Corporate Social Media Blunders

Everyone makes mistakes—but when they’re done on social media, suddenly that blooper is on display for the world to see. But what if you’re the social media manager for a company or corporation?

One wrong post or snarky reply can mean getting fired or seriously tarnishing the brand’s reputation. It might seem like an easy and fun job – to manage a corporate social media site, but it’s actually equal parts skill and talent. It’s also a high stress job, requiring you to balance engagement with enough appeal to make people follow you.

There are some SM managers that pull it off flawlessly and others who’ve fallen flat on their face. Whether it’s for a good laugh or a lesson to be learned from others, take a look at some of the biggest corporate SM mistakes of all times. In some cases, they did damage control—in others, they prayed for it to get buried under juicier news stories.

JP Morgan

It’s all fun and games until an executive gets abused. JP Morgan started the hashtag #AskJPM, inviting people to tweet questions directly to a bank executive. In just six hours, there were over 8,000 tweets and 66 percent of them were brimming with abuse, complaints and snark. A prime example is, “Quick! You’re in a room with no key, a chair, two paper clips, and a light bulb. How do you defraud investors?”

 

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What began as a way to engage customers with Jimmy Lee, a senior banker and company Twitter executive, ended with some major backtracking. JP Morgan announced that the Q&A was cancelled by posting, “Bad idea. Back to the drawing board.”

McDonald’s

Another tweet attempt gone awry happened when McDonald’s coined #McDStories—and you probably already know where this is going. In 2012, the mega food establishment asked customers to tweet about their positive dining experiences (emphasis on the word positive). However, jokes about obesity and subpar food were just too easy.

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McDonald’s stopped the campaign after just two hours, but users revered the hashtag and continued to use it for weeks. It was probably best to simply keep quiet and ride out the waves, but the reality is that McDonald’s should have known better.

 Qantas Airways

If you haven’t heard of Qantas, it might be because they’ve been struggling with their marketing (especially in the social media realm). Back in 2011, Qantas created #QantasLuxury and invited fliers to tweet about what their ultimate in-flight experience would be. The executives surely envisioned tweets of fancy with butler service and massage options. Instead, they were bombarded with neg posts—mostly resulting from the union issues.

 

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Entire fleets had been grounded just months before the hashtag was created. This blunder came on the heels of a different faux pas when the airline asked Wallabies fans (a Rugby Union team) to paint their faces black and qualify for a prize. Yes, they actually requested their customers adorn blackface.

Lessons Learned

Always sit on a campaign before launching it and get as many eyes on it as possible. Engage in some focus groups or informal polls. There may be some red flags you don’t see, such as opportunities for poking fun, insulting demographics by mistake or an embarrassing typo. When it comes to hashtags, remember Spiderman: A lot of power equals a lot of responsibility. You can’t undo what’s been posted online, so tread carefully.

Jessica Tyner

About the Author: Jessica Tyner

Jessica Tyner, born and raised in Oregon is a member of the Cherokee Nation, is a Pushcart Prize nominee, author of "The Last Exotic Petting Zoo" and has been a professional writer for over 10 years. She received her master’s degree in Writing from Portland State University, completing the second year of the program as an intern with the Fulbright Commission in London, England. An extensive traveler, she has lived in England, South Korea and Costa Rica and has had her work published around the world. She’s also the founder of The Jessica Tyner Scholarship Fund, an annual gift for graduate students with a Native American connection who are pursuing an advanced degree in writing or a related field.

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