Mistakes on social media are inevitable, whether it be making a typo, misusing a hashtag or using the wrong filter. When you’re an individual, it’s easy to delete the oversight and move on. Mistakes made by brands and corporations are a little dicier. Best case scenario, you’re the butt of some laughs; Worst case scenario the reputation of your brand takes a hit. When you make a mistake online, news travels fast and no one forgives—or forgets.
This year has consisted of one social media fiasco after another. After examining the best social media campaigns of the year, we decided to round up the biggest social media fails of 2017 and see what we can learn from them. Take note and don’t do these in 2018!
1. Wendy’s Tries To Use A Meme And Fails
At the beginning of the year, Wendy’s thought it would be funny to send out a tweet featuring a custom Pepe the Frog meme. What their community manager didn’t realize is that the frog has become a symbol of the white supremacist movement and is often used anti-semitically. The tweet was removed a few hours later, however, the damage was done: human rights groups were irked with Wendy’s for using the meme in the first place, while alt-right groups were angry with Wendy’s for taking the meme down.
Social media lesson: Whatever image, graphic, quote, GIF or meme you are posting on social media, know its origin.
— Ryan Parker (@TheRyanParker) January 4, 2017
2. Yahoo Finances Mixes Up Letters on Keyboard
The media network Yahoo Finance fell into the keyboard trap of the proximity of the letters ‘n’ and ‘b’ and released a tweet with a racial slur without proofreading it. Instead of letting their followers know about the “bigger” Navy Trump was building, they misspelled the word with the letter “n.” The tweet was somehow up for more than an hour and was retweeted more than 1000 times before it was taken down.
Lesson learned: Proofread your social media posts before they go out, for heaven’s sake.
— LoveYourself (@ScottieBeam) January 6, 2017
3. IHOP Gets Political With Retweet
Earlier this year, the breakfast chain of champs broke the rule of not talking about politics at the dinner (or breakfast) table and retweeted an Anti-Hillary Clinton message on Twitter. The tweet infuriated tons of users, who threatened to boycott IHOP. The tweet was subsequently removed and blamed on the work of a hacker.
Lesson learned: Keep politics out of your business’s social media plan, especially if you’re a breakfast food franchise.
4. Uber Misses the Social Memo
High-profile sexual harassment cases, countless lawsuits, and massive data breaches—2017 has been a rough year for the global transportation company, Uber. The tech company started off on the wrong foot in January when President Trump began the issue of a ban that would prevent those from Muslim nations from entering the United States. New York City cab companies united to stop pickups from JFK International Airport for an hour. Meanwhile, Uber sent out a tweet promoting their services at JFK. This aggravated social media users who began deleting their Uber apps and downloading Lyft, a ridesharing competitor, instead. Lyft even saw its downloads exceed Uber’s for the first time.
Lesson learned: Be considerate of the political climate around you.
NO PICKUPS @ JFK Airport 6 PM to 7 PM today. Drivers stand in solidarity with thousands protesting inhumane & unconstitutional #MuslimBan.
— NY Taxi Workers (@NYTWA) January 28, 2017
Surge pricing has been turned off at #JFK Airport. This may result in longer wait times. Please be patient.
— Uber NYC (@Uber_NYC) January 29, 2017
5. U.S. Department of Education Makes a Typo
Spelling mistakes happen, but it’s harder to forgive when it happens to the U.S. Department of Education. Twice. Earlier this year the government agency tweeted a famous quote by the past civil rights activist and NAACP co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois, referring to him as “W.E.B. DeBois.” They publicly atoned for their mistake with another grammatical error, expressing their “deepest apologizes for the earlier typo.” The department tried apologizing one more time a few hours later, but the quips and insults were already unleashed.
Lesson learned: It helps to get a second or third pair of eyes to review social media posts before they go out. If that’s not possible, at least double check the message apologizing for a typo.
Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life. – W.E.B. DeBois pic.twitter.com/Re4cWkPSFA
— US Dept of Education (@usedgov) February 12, 2017
bruh. Cmon. pic.twitter.com/INFYrJERIr
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) February 12, 2017
6. Nivea Releases Racist Marketing Campaign
The body care brand released a suspiciously racist ad on their Nivea Middle East Facebook page. Promoting one of their deodorants, the ad features the back of a woman in a white garment and reads “white is purity.” Enraged social media users were swift in pointing out the ignorance of the ad to Nivea, who pulled the ad and responded with a generic apology.
Lesson learned: Your intuition should tell you that any marketing idea implying the topic and ranking of race or skin colour is just plain no.
— KnowYourRightsCamp (@yourrightscamp) April 6, 2017
7. Donald Trump Gets Upset One Night
One of the most talked about, and perhaps mysterious, social media fails of the year was when President Donald Trump tweeted: “After all the negative press covfefe.” It was a late night in May and the tweet stayed up for hours without explanation. The ambiguous post went viral and continues to circulate online, demonstrating that a social media fail never really goes away for significant users.
Lesson learned: We’re a little stumped on this one, to be honest. Don’t drink and tweet? Tweet responsibly? No tweeting after dark?
You know they're wrestling the phone from him right now pic.twitter.com/LNPINGfmEA
— Nathan McDermott (@natemcdermott) May 31, 2017
8. Walkers Crisps Social Media Campaign is Trolled
UK snack company Walkers Crisps launched a social media campaign for a chance to win tickets to the UEFA Champions League final. Using the hashtag #WalkersWave, users were asked to tweet a selfie which would be inserted into a video and displayed with retired football player Gary Lineker. However, the company didn’t expect trolls to take over the campaign and start submitting images of criminals, dictators, and other malevolent characters instead. The video rolled out onto social media automatically without reviewing and created a PR disaster.
Lesson learned: This one is pretty simple: review your user submissions before sharing them publicly.
— Ben (@Jamin2g) May 25, 2017
9. Dove Misses the Mark with Facebook Ad
Personal care brand Dove is known, or rather wants to be known, for its mission in praising different kinds of beauty. Unfortunately, this year it missed the mark twice. First, it created a set of different shaped shampoo bottles, as part of their campaign promoting different body types. Unfortunately, the marketing campaign ended up objectifying women, by implying that the focus of a woman is merely her body shape.
Later this year, it created another questionable advertisement, this time with racist undertones. A 3-second GIF was published on Facebook and featured a black woman taking off a brown t-shirt, revealing a white woman underneath, implying the results of using Dove. The ad rubbed many viewers the wrong way and was removed a day later.
Lesson learned: If there is any doubt at all about what your advertisement may imply, don’t share it.
— Habeeb Akande (@Habeeb_Akande) October 8, 2017
10. McDonald’s Placeholder Content
Our favourite social media fail of the year goes to McDonald’s. The fast-food corporation sent out a quizzical tweet on Black Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving. Customers often check their inboxes and social media feeds on this day for discounts and deals, so it was a little perplexing to find McDonald’s rather blank tweet instead: “Black Friday **** Need copy and link****”. McD’s played the social media faux pas off like a pro though: “When you tweet before your first cup of McCafé… Nothing comes before coffee.” Ultimately, the tweet probably got more engagement than the originally planned Black Friday post.
Lesson learned: Always review your posts before they go out. Also, accidents happen. Play off your blunder with a good sense of humour.
When you tweet before your first cup of McCafé… Nothing comes before coffee. pic.twitter.com/aPJ2ZupS9b
— McDonald's (@McDonaldsCorp) November 24, 2017
What were your favourite social media fails of 2017? What did you learn from them?