2014 Social Media #Fails That We Can All Learn From


2014 was a great year for social media as big brands started to take online conversations seriously. Just look at the Superbowl, where a record number of ads were accompanied by the now almost obligatory hashtag. As with any relatively new area, mistakes will happen. And that was certainly the case in 2014 as social media continued its march to the mainstream. As a company that runs a lot of social media campaigns, we certainly don’t want to tempt fate, but we did think it would be good to look back at some of the biggest blunders and see what we can learn. Okay, maybe we did have a laugh or two as well, but if you read this blog regularly, you already knew that.

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1. DiGiorno Pizza

Thousands of women took to Twitter to speak out about domestic violence using the #WhyIStayed hashtag after the suspension of NFL player Ray Rice for beating his wife. DiGiornio also joined the conversation – regrettably.

DiGiorno is a brand known for jumping on trending social media topics, but this is one it should have stayed away from. DiGiorno tweeted: “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” Minutes later DiGiorno took down the tweet and responded with, “A million apologies. Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting.”

Lesson Learned: Take a minute – even a few – to do your due diligence and research a hashtag before joining the conversation. This is a mistake that could have easily been avoided if they had taken the time to understand its context.

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2. New England Patriots

To celebrate the NFL team’s one million followers, the New England Patriots asked people to retweet an image of the Patriots jersey with a chance to get their handle written on the back. Unfortunately, the process was automated and the lucky one-millionth follower featured a racial slur in their Twitter handle.

After realizing the mistake, the team deleted the tweet and responded with an apology, claiming their filtering system had failed.

Lesson Learned: Be wary of over-automating your processes. If you do have automated programs, make sure you have adequate checks and balances in place. It may take more time and resources, but you should always take a personalized and human approach to social media.

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 3. New York Police Department

Earlier this year a New York Police Department social media campaign backfired when they asked followers to post pictures of themselves with police offers using the #MyNYPD hashtag. Instead of receiving police-friendly photos, they received a slew of photos that depicted officers abusing their power, like wrestling protestors and pointing weapons at civilians.

Lesson Learned: Brands should think through and analyze the possible outcomes of a social media campaign – the good, the bad and the ugly. If there’s a high chance of social media backfire, then you should probably pass on the campaign.

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4. U.S. Airways 

U.S. Airways got red in the face when one of its employees accidentally responded to a tweet with a pornographic image attached. As you can imagine, this social media faux pas got a lot of laughs (but not from U.S. Airways). U.S. Airways quickly apologized for the tweet and said it was investigating the matter. Luckily, the U.S. Airways employee wasn’t fired for their mishap.

Lesson Learned: It’s always a good idea to get a second pair of eyes on your content. Someone else may notice a typo or mistake that you didn’t. By taking a few extra minutes to review your tweets, you can save yourself from a year’s worth of embarrassment.

Every company has made mistakes on social media – it’s inevitable. Some have just made bigger mistakes than others, resulting in PR fiascos and brand meltdowns with huge economic consequences. Hopefully, we can learn from each other’s mistakes and avoid social media fails like these in 2015. Let’s make it a New Year’s resolution?