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Shruti Kapadia
September 07, 2017

The 7 Most Embarrassing Corporate Social Media Fails of 2017

man shocked reaction with a bread on his mouth

They say it's the small things that matter. This is definitely true for corporations and big businesses in the social media universe where just one bad post can send them spiraling down into the black hole of public relations nightmares.

The following are real-life examples of social media fails by high-profile businesses. These embarrassing social media fails teach us all the reality that corporations are humans too; and it teaches us a valuable life lesson that the bigger your company is, the harder you fall.

1. United Airlines "Doctor becomes Patient"


Arguably the most infamous in this list, United Airlines recently decided to give the world a crash course on PR disasters when it decided to beat one of its passengers to a bloody senseless pulp before literally dragging him off the plane across the floor.

The crisis began when flight 3411 was overbooked and UA's own employees "needed" to be on the flight. Passengers who would willingly give up their seats were offered compensation of up to $1000. Unfortunately, said passengers didn't exist. Everyone who was already seated didn't want to miss their flights so UA employees took it upon themselves to call security and started randomly picking customers to be removed.

One unlucky customer was a doctor who "needed to see passengers in the morning". He refused to give up his seat which resulted in him being beat up by the security personnel and forcefully dragged off the plane. Yikes! Customers who witnessed the doctor's horrific ordeal didn't idly standby. Several videos were released on social media showing what exactly happened and when UA CEO Oscar Munoz issued the below apology, the internet blew up in rage.

Twitter exploded and described the apology as a textbook one, calling out the CEO for being insensitive, only trying to make the company look good while completely dismissing the fact that a paying customer was treated like a smelly carcass that needed to be disposed of.

A day later, another apology was issued.

While it was certainly better than the first, it was already too late. The passenger who came in as a doctor, went out as a patient and the internet will never forget.

 Learn how Kulture Konnect helped Jimmy's Famous American Tavern build their social media presence here

JFAT - Social Media Case Study

Not to mention, United attempted to clean up their image by dragging Wendy's into their messy PR disaster only for it to backfire. Twitter had a field day and more memes were born.

2. The #WalkersWave Disaster

When a snack company in UK, named Walkers, tried to bring its customer engagement to the next level, it failed miserably.

For a chance to win free soccer tickets to the finals of the UEFA Champions League, the company's followers were asked to tweet selfies of themselves with the hashtag #WalkersWave. They then turned the selfie submissions into a video featuring former soccer player Gary Lineker holding up the images of the selfies. Unfortunately, they didn't vet the submissions and therefore failed to see that they were actually images of serial killers, sex offenders and the like. Yikes!

The company eventually found out and immediately shut the campaign down. Unfortunately, once the internet gets a hold of something, it will never let go.

3. The #Represent Disaster

You'd think that after the above fiasco, companies would have learned a thing or two. The National Lottery UK however, seemed to have deemed itself immune to such missteps; so the trolls of twitter swiftly mobilized and dropped them a truth bomb that they won't be forgetting anytime soon.

The above campaign was created in a similar fashion to the #WalkersWave campaign, so it's no surprise that it also failed in the same way. Twitter users were asked to retweet a post from The National Lottery UK and as a reward, they'd receive a thank you tweet with an image of one of the British Athletics team stars holding up a sign with what they tweeted written on it. The campaign was abused by users who would change their twitter handles and retweet very controversial messages with the hashtag. The replies were automatically generated and were not examined before posting, so the result was a well-oiled disaster machine that went on for a few days.

The campaign came mere months after the #WalkersWave disaster that you'd be flabbergasted how it happened in the first place. My theory? Walker fired the social media employee that was responsible for the first blunder, he was then hired some time after by The National Lottery UK where he was able to bring his next-levet engagement strategy to the company's PR history records. But that's just a humble guess!

4. The Yahoo Typo

Like any online news outlet, when word of Trump wanting a bigger navy came out, Yahoo Finance was quick to send out a tweet. For a company claiming to be "the biggest business news platform on the planet", it failed to do a simple spell check on it's tweet and made itself a target for memes.

Though it was most probably just a mistake due to the closeness of the two letters, the resulting tweet was just not funny to some people. The post was retweeted around a thousand times before being replaced with an apology.

5. The Fall of Wendy's Hipness

Around the start of 2017, Wendy's twitter account suddenly decided to be cool and took the world by surprise with its sassy and witty remarks. Since then, the account has been tweeted to by many users hoping to get shutdown by the fast food giant. Unfortunately, in one of its heated exchanges with a user, the company decided to tweet a customized meme in the form of Pepe the Frog dressed as its Mascot.

Things went South very fast as everyone who saw the tweet was quick to point out that Pepe the Frog was actually known to be commonly used with racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted messages. Unfortunately, that "everyone" excluded Wendy's itself and suddenly, the corporate account wasn't cool anymore. Though it only took minutes for Wendy's to remove the meme and apologize, the damage was already done.

6. iHOP's "We don't like Hillary. Also we got hacked."

The Twitter account of pancake giant iHOP suddenly retweeted an anti-Hillary hate tweet instead of its usual pancake-filled goodness. The tweet was one that mocked Clinton and supporters for running a "garbage campaign". 

After a ton of inquiries on what was happening, iHOP quickly tried to cover up its tracks by cleaning up the account. Sadly, many users have already taken screenshots of the hateful tweet and after too much prodding by followers worried about the company taking a political stance, iHOP pulled the old, "we were hacked" excuse.

Of course, no one bought it. Why would hackers hack an account to retweet a single tweet, right? Most believe it was a case of the social media employee forgetting to switch to their personal account before tweeting. Which made more sense. Too bad iHOP thought it could lie it's way out.

7. The Pepsi Peace in a Can

The most recent and quickly taking the crown away form United Airlines' own disaster, the Pepsi Ad was a blatant slap in the face of all protesters from all kinds of movements. The ad started with Kendall Jenner modeling while a protest was brewing outside. She then removed her makeup and wig before handing it to a confused-looking black woman. Yes, and it all went downhill from there. She then casually walks in to the protest, passing by all the smiling and seemingly happy multicultural protesters to hand a Pepsi can to one of the police offers, thereby ending all protest in the world.

In a rare once-in-a-lifetime event, the Internet was united in its opinion of the offending ad. Many claimed it trivialized the purpose of protests and issues like police brutality. The ad was also thought to be insensitive because of the part where Jenner seemingly achieved victory for the protesters by handing a can of delicious Pepsi to one of the police officers. While a few lines were shown in the final seconds of the clip, the message of the advert was ultimately lost and instead left a bitter aftertaste in its place.

Unhappy with your current social media channels? Contact us today and get your social media marketing on track! 

 Learn how Kulture Konnect helped Jimmy's Famous American Tavern build their social media presence here

JFAT - Social Media Case Study

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