Big brand social media mistakes


Social media gaffes can cause damage to your business reputation and your brand. Here are some high-profile, ‘big brand’ mistakes and what you can learn from them.

Angry HMV staff live-tweeted a mass firing

HMV went into administration in 2013, and the decision was made to start letting people go. Unfortunately for the administrators, one of the 60 people being sacked had the login details for the brand’s Twitter account. An initial Tweet read, “We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!”. Within minutes, the hashtag ‘#hmvXFactorFiring’ was trending. Management was ill-prepared to deal with the problem, as highlighted by a subsequent Tweet from the person getting bad news: “Just overheard our marketing director (he’s staying, folks!) ask, “How do I shut down Twitter?”

What not to do: Fire the person in charge of your social media without changing the passwords first. 

coke social media gaffe

Coca Cola’s New Year message stirred up tension in Russia and Ukraine  

Coca-Cola had no idea the feathers it would ruffle when it tweeted out a snow covered map of Russia, wishing consumers there a happy new year. The festive map did not include the contested Crimea region, causing outrage among Russian social media users. Coca-Cola decided the best course of action was to republish the image with Crimea added, but this only served to offend people in the Ukraine who consider the territory their own. The hashtag #bancocacola was soon trending.   

What not to do: Engage in anything political. 


Blackberry’s official account tweeted from an iPhone

When Blackberry sent out a tweet last year promoting the Blackberry Classic, the least it could do was send the tweet from an actual Blackberry, right? But apparently the staff responsible prefer the iPhone’s operating system and sent the tweet from one of these instead. The ‘Twitter for iPhone’ message was clearly visible underneath the tweet and was a great source of embarrassment for the company. The company’s previous creative director Alicia Keys had also once tweeted from an iPhone, though she at least claimed to have been ‘hacked’. 

What not to do: Be seen to use your rival’s products on social media; you will look silly. 

mcdonalds fries

McDonald’s found out some stories are better left untold

In 2012, McDonald’s hoped the hashtag #mcdstories would provoke some positive interaction with consumers on social media, but the campaign was pulled two hours later. Instead of posting about positive experiences they had at the restaurant, Twitter users used the hashtag to complain about everything from fingernails in Big Macs to food poisoning.  

What not to do: Ask for potential trouble on social media; consider worst case scenarios and the damage they could do to your brand. (Also, never assume just because you love the brand you work for, other people love it too). 

Horse laughing

Tesco’s little mistake at the height of the horsemeat scandal

2013’s horse meat crisis, which emerged when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found that British supermarkets had sold burgers containing traces of horse meat, was a nightmare for retailers like Tesco. However, things got a little worse for the retail giant when it tweeted: “It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay. See you at 8am for more #TescoTweets.” The tweet had been scheduled days before the scandal broke, but failed to be vetted by Tesco’s social media staffers and caused a furore online. Tesco took out full-page ads in the papers the next day to apologise to the public. 

What not to do: Schedule tweets and then forget about them. Be prepared to make edits where a situation calls for them. 

GUIDE: To do well on social media your business should share great content. Here’s how.