Top 8+ social media failures from 2012

Top 8+ social media failures from 2012

Social media mishaps, failures and disasters from 2012

#1 – StubHub

If you have access to a brand’s Twitter account, make sure you log out before posting an offensive personal tweet. A StubHub employee posted: “Thank f$@k it’s Friday! Can’t wait to get out of this stubsucking hell hole.”

Social media failures from 2012 - StubHub Tweet

StubHub issued an apology and deleted the tweet. If you’re a social media community manager, this is one of those moments where if you want to tweet, find a different Twitter account to do it from that doesn’t include your work handle. Let’s not forget the Chrysler F-bomb and American Red Cross tweet “when we drink we do it right”.

#2 – National Rifle Association

In July 2012, a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, was starting its midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” About 15 minutes in, a gunman entered the theater, killing 12 people and injuring more than 70.

Hours after the shooting, the National Rifle Association’s American Rifleman magazine tweeted “Good morning, shooters! Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”

Social media failures from 2012 - American Rifleman magazine tweet

Many thought it was an insensitive joke, but NRA admitted the person maintaining the account at the time was unaware of the Aurora shooting before sending the tweet. The tweet was later deleted.

#3 – American Apparel

American Apparel was slated for using hurricane Sandy as a platform to launch a 20% off promotion – for those who are “bored during the storm”. This was more than naive – it was a cheap shot, but at the same time, completely in-line with AA’s previous marketing activities, which have always been risqué.

American Apparel’s statement following the negative backlash admitted it was to make up for lost revenue since the brick-and-mortar stores were closed. There wasn’t a formal apology.

American Apparel Social Media Attack

GAP tried a similar Sandy-related campaign but pulled it very quickly. Last year, fashion designer Kenneth Cole’s Twitter account made light of the protests in Egypt by tweeting, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”

#4 – McDonald’s

When McDonald’s launched their #McDStories social media campaign, they wanted fans to report their great dining experiences. The company even paid for the promotion of the hashtag to increase awareness. Unfortunately, many tweeters used the tag to talk about horror stories instead.

For a brand that has suffered for years at the hands of critics and where public opinion has been polarised for years, it’s incredible that no-one in the marketing team realised they would be instantly savaged by activists the moment the campaign hit the Twittersphere.

The campaign was pulledtwo hours later, but that didn’t stop the hashtag from spiraling out of control.

#5 – Wilcoxson

Better think twice before posting an answers on Facebook. A century-old ice cream company in a small Montana (US) town came under “fire” after a “racist reply”:

We don’t deliver outside of Montana, certainly not Pakistan

The company told the Daily Chronicle that the incident was a simple misunderstanding.

#6 – Chick-fil-A

When Chick-fil-A stopped carrying Jim Henson’s Muppet toys earlier this summer, angry customers took over the company’s Facebook page. The restaurant had no control over the content that users were posting to the page, so they enlisted the help of Abbey Farle – a fictional profile that only replied to negative comments on the Chick-fil-A Facebook page, defending the restaurant.

Not long after the comments from Abbey had started did they stop. One person found Abbey’s profile picture on a stock photography website and the profile was quickly deleted when people realized it wasn’t real.


Chick-fil-A denied creating the account. Whether they were directly involved or not, Chick-fil-A got immense backlash for Abbey Farle.

#7 – Waitrose

A Twitter campaign backfired on Waitrose, Britain’s most upmarket supermarket, after the brand asked its followers to finish the sentence: “I shop at Waitrose because…”

The campaign made the classic Twitter mistake of ‘finish the sentence’ – giving those who fancy themselves as a bit of a comedian or people with a grudge against the supermarket the perfect opportunity to give it a good mocking. And of course, the accompanying hashtag gave everyone the perfect tool to track the responses as the fun and games unfolded.

The outcome of the campaign was certainly not what they were hoping for, but they were lucky that it didn’t turn out too badly for them. Most of the responses were fairly tongue-in-cheek and didn’t do the brand any lasting damage, apart from to highlight its social media naivety.

#8 – Microsoft

Google’s Android is the most popular smartphone operating system worldwide. It’s also known that Android smartphones seems to be more susceptible to getting hit with malware-based apps. Microsoft decided to take this Android malware issue head on via its official Windows Phone Twitter account.

The message asks people who own Android phones to go on their Twitter account and post up their own issues with Android malware, with the hashtag “DroidRage”.

But the campaign against Android did seriously backfire. Many people posted messages with the #windowsrage hashtag:

Social media failures from 2012 - Windows phone tweet Android

Social media failures from 2012 - Windows Tweet Windowsrage

Windows Phone is not alone when it comes to Twitter campaign backfires. Though a relatively new concept, hashtag marketing campaigns have already seen their share of failures.

#9 – SuperBowl Hijack

Car manufacturer Toyota didn’t create just one or two, but nine brand-new Twitter accounts to bring attention to their latest iteration of the Camry during Superbowl 2012. Anyone using a Superbowl-related hashtag was spammed with a message about a Camry giveaway. Social media users weren’t interested in unsolicited messages, so Toyota closed the accounts and issued an official apology.

#10 – KitchenAid

During the first Presidential debate in October, a member of KitchenAid’s Twitter team mistakenly posted an offensive tweet from the KitchenAid handle instead of a personal handle.

@KitchenAidUSA: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president”.”??? Wow!” #nbcpolitics

The company quickly deleted the message and issued an apology, but it had already been retweeted many times:

social media failure

Short URL & title:
Top 8+ social media failures from 2012 —

Share it:
If you enjoyed this article, please take 5 seconds to share it on your social network. Thanks!

About The Author

Torben Rick

Experienced senior executive, both at a strategic and operational level, with strong track record in developing, driving and managing business improvement, development and change management. International experience from management positions in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and United Kingdom

Add a comment

*Please complete all fields correctly

Related Post

Brand missteps in the social media spotlight - Destroy brand trust at the speed of light
Posted by Torben Rick | April 13, 2017
Brand missteps in the social media spotlight – Destroy brand trust at the speed of light
Destroy brand trust at the speed of light. When will companies realize that everyone now has a video camera on them, and that they can broadcast live on Facebook and...
Engaging with customers on twitter can lead to shitstorm
Posted by Torben Rick | September 24, 2016
Engaging with customers on twitter can lead to shitstorm – Q&A disaster on Twitter
What do Nestlé, British Gas and JP Morgan have in common The reputation of Nestlé suffered immensely in recent years for various reasons. With the aim to improve their reputation,...
social media impact on business
Posted by Torben Rick | June 27, 2015
Top 20+ social media impact on business
Impact of social media in today's business world The rise of social media has given customers unprecedented access to companies. This can be a double-edged sword: companies are able to...
Send this to a friend