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5 brands that embarrassed themselves on social

5 brands that embarrassed themselves on social Lauren Friedman

Social media is constantly evolving, and with this evolution, there are more opportunities than not to misstep. A campaign on social media has hundreds of ways it can go wrong, and most of them are unpredictable. Of course, it's important to be as prepared as possible, but sometimes, social media fails are bound to happen. After all, we're only humans managing accounts for brands, right? Learning from others' mistakes is a great place to start, and some of us lucky ones have learned the hard way. Here are a few examples of the social media campaigns that turned total flop.

5 brands that embarrassed themselves on social

McDonald's #McDStories

Early in 2012, McDonalds launched a Twitter campaign that asked users to share their memories of McDonald's while using the hashtag #McDStories. The idea behind the campaign was to encourage followers to share nostalgic memories of their first time at McDonald's, when they first took their kids, etc. However, this campaign quickly escalated into something completely different. Users began sharing not their positive, nostalgic memories, but the horror stories they had at McDonald's. From poor work conditions to food poisoning, this #McDStories campaign flew right back in McDonald's face.

The very next day, McDonald's followed up with another hashtag: #LittleThings. This was done with the hopes that it would redeem the brand from the previous hashtag mishap. The McDonald's Twitter account was fully branded for the new campaign, and the idea was to promote the Chicken McBites. It seemed to put out the fire.

Toyota's @CamryEffect

One of the biggest concerns from Twitter users is that brands will monopolize the space and use it to spam. During the Super Bowl, Toyota did just that. The brand planned a Twitter campaign meant to promote the Toyota Camry, but all that it created was a lot of pissed off users. Toyota created Twitter handles @CamryEffect1 through @CamryEffect9 and used these accounts to directly engage with users. The worst part is that the team wasn't tweeting at users it knew would be interested in the campaign (to win a Camry); it was tweeting at people who were using any hashtag related to the Super Bowl (e.g., #Giants, #Patriots, etc.).

A few days later, all of the accounts were changed to private, and Toyota apologized to "anyone in the Twitterverse who received an unwanted @reply over the past few days," further stating that it "learned from this experience and have suspended the accounts effective immediately to avoid any additional issues."

ChapStick's butt photo

In October of last year, ChapStick posted a photo on Facebook of a woman who was looking for her ChapStick behind the couch. Seems innocent, right? Not so much. This woman's rear end was up in the air for all to see (and get a good look at). A blogger then noted the photo as being distasteful in her blog and posted similar comments on ChapStick's Facebook page. Here's where ChapStick really went wrong: The brand admins of the Facebook page deleted the comments made by the blogger along with others that were expressing disgust regarding the photo posted. Whenever more negative comments were posted, ChapStick continued to delete the posts. As you can imagine, the fans' anger quickly escalated, and ChapStick couldn't keep up with the deletions.

Shortly thereafter, ChapStick posted a version of an apology:

"We see that not everyone likes our new ad, and please know that we certainly didn't mean to offend anyone! Our fans and their voices are at the heart of our new advertising campaign, but we know we don't always get it right. We've removed the image and will share a newer ad with our fans soon!

We apologize that fans have felt like their posts are being deleted and while we never intend to pull anyone's comments off our wall, we do comply with Facebook guidelines and remove posts that use foul language, have repetitive messaging, those that are considered spam-like (multiple posts from a person within a short period of time) and are menacing to fans and employees."

The first paragraph was just fine, but the second paragraph turned the blame back on the fans.

Volkswagen U.K.'s "innocent" New Years post

Months prior to Volkswagen's New Years post, Greenpeace U.K. had been campaigning against Volkswagen's corporate opposition to new environmental laws in Europe. And then Volkswagen posted this:

"We hope you had a fantastic New Year. Do you have any resolutions and what would you like to see us do more of this year?"

As you may have expected, this didn't go over very well with the Greenpeace crowd. Not only did this status update indicate that Volkswagen U.K. wasn't listening to the Greenpeace protests, it also suggested that Volkswagen U.K. just didn't care and was not planning on taking any of that customer feedback to heart. Over the course of the day, this post received almost 1,000 negative comments. The worst part? Volkswagen U.K. didn't respond to one of them.

On its site, Volkswagen U.K. did have a statement posted outlining that it does, in fact, care about the environment, but the brand certainly could have taken a different course of action on its Facebook page.

Belvedere Vodka's "going down smoothly"

I like humor. I like dirty jokes. But there's a time and a place for appropriateness, and Belvedere didn't get the memo. Belvedere Vodka launched a Facebook and Twitter ad that pretty much screamed poor taste.

Clearly, this "rape-promoting" Facebook and Twitter ad did not go over very well with the brand's following. Even the actress in the advertisement filed a lawsuit against the brand. Shortly after the firestorm of comments and tweets hit, Belvedere pulled the ad and issued an apology:

Belvedere senior vice president of global marketing, Jason Lundy, issued a more comprehensive follow-up apology, which read, "As an expression of our deep disappointment and regret, we are making a charitable donation to a women's support cause." Belvedere did, in fact, make a donation to RAINN (the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network), but it makes us all think, "Where were their heads in the initial brainstorming phase of this ad creation?"

Participation in social media certainly comes with its fair share of risks, but the relationships you can build with these tools are worth it. Just remember, the age-old saying even speaks true for social media: "Think before you speak." Or tweet or post, of course.

Lauren Friedman is the manager of community engagement at Adobe.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Young woman in sad ecological paper bag on head" image via Shuttertock.

Lauren Friedman is the head of Global Social Business Enablement at Adobe.  She's a digital and social marketing authority, with extensive experience working with Fortune 500 brands to integrate digital and social media into their overarching...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Deanna Lawrence

2012, May 15

Great lessons to be learned from this post! My takeaway - "Be Authentic, Be Sincere, Be Responsive....Celebrate Original "