Four of the Scariest Brand Social Media Flubs

Using social media can be scary for many reasons; there are horrible trolls to deal with, NSFW pictures, and scarring moments such as trying to take a picture to share and your front-facing camera opening unexpectedly.

Social media can be even scarier for brands, as one errant tweet or mistake in a response can create a massive PR crisis for your brand. The worst part? Everything on social media lives forever. Even if you delete the offending tweet, your brand could be haunted by these mistakes or advertising fails for years … and repeatedly show up in blogs like this one. #SorryNotSorry

So what are some of the scariest brand social media flubs that have ever happened? My top four picks (in no particular order) are…

American Apparel- Fourth of July Disaster

American Apparel wanted to join in on the Fourth of July celebrations happening on social media, so they posted the image above of an explosion. What their social media manager didn’t realize is that this picture is the Challenger space shuttle exploding. People responded accordingly and expressed their anger with this image being used. American Apparel apologized and removed the image, but the damage was done.

The Lesson: Make sure to check the sources and origination of images you’re using.

Delta – Not a Good Look

Celebrating sports is an easy bandwagon for brands to jump on in social. In this instance, Delta wanted to share their excitement over the U.S. beating Ghana in the World Cup. Nothing wrong here, right? The problem was how they chose to depict Ghana in their image. In case you weren’t aware, giraffes are not found in Ghana and Delta was slammed for not doing their research before posting.

The Lesson: Don’t work in a silo. Run ideas and images by other people, especially people that are unlike you so you can get a different perspective. If you don’t, you could end up offending an entire country, like Delta.

DiGiorno Pizza- #WhyIStayed Fail

This tweet above looks innocuous enough, right? Brands hop on trending hashtags all the time in hopes of getting some extra impressions and engagements. The problem with this one is the trending hashtag #WhyIStayed was actually a place for survivors of domestic abuse to say why they chose to stay with their abusers. Not exactly the right topic for pizza to be jumping in on. Needless to say, DiGiorno was destroyed for their insensitivity. They did remove the tweet and issue an apology, but it all could have been avoided with a quick check of the hashtag before posting.

The Lesson: Always look through the tweets under a trending hashtag to see what the true meaning of the hashtag is, check if it’s owned by another brand, and see if there’s a lot of inappropriate content in there before using it.

US Airways- Forget NSFW, This is NSFAE (Not Suitable for Anywhere Ever)

Even the simplest customer service response isn’t safe from becoming a PR crisis of epic proportions. In this American Airlines fiasco, a reply to a follower took a big turn when the link included in the response was actually a pornographic photo, not the review and follow-up page the brand intended. If you’d like to see the very NSFW photo, it’s in this article, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Of course, the company deleted the tweet but #ScreenshotsAreForever.

The Lesson: Triple check every image and link being used before posting, including in each reply you send. A few extra seconds of work is worth it to prevent horrifying mishaps like this one.

There you have it. Some of the most hair-raising brand social media flubs to ever happen. Being careful about what you say, how you say it, and always double checking your content before posting can help your brand avoid issues like these.

Need help protecting your brand from mistakes like this? We’re here to help.

Ignite Social Media