15 Massive Corporate Social Media FAILS
By Eric Griffith,
PC Magazine, 4 May 2016.

There are a lot of ways for individuals to screw up on social media. Nasty comments, rude tweets, a timeline full of misspellings and other faux pas. There's no end to them, but they're usually easy enough to fix or delete without it seeming like the end of the world.

Not so for those big business accounts. Sure, corporations are people, too - but they're people under constant scrutiny by a wary, jaded, or sometimes downright angry public. That's a good thing, but it sucks for the firms that make an honest mistake when trying to do simple media promotion.

Last year, for example, Heinz Ketchup was foolish enough to let a domain name lapse and it was taken over by someone who populated the site with pornography. Anyone who scanned the QR code on the back of thousands of Heinz bottles found themselves looking at X-rated bits rather than ketchup. Heinz apologized to the man in Germany who found the problem; the porn site (known as FunDorado), offered the guy a lifetime membership.

(In other news: QR codes are still a thing!)

Is that the worst thing that's ever happened to a corporation online? Far, far from it. Here's a quick list of major fails by major organizations or their employees, who probably all wish they could just go back to advertising on the evening news.

1. US Airways Tweets a Naughty


In April 2014, in an exchange with a customer on Twitter who was upset about a late flight, the airline somehow accidentally tweeted a super-filthy image. We're not gonna show it, but BuzzFeed has the (seriously NSFW) image, if you must.

2. The Queen is (Not) Dead, BBC


Last year, the BBC's Ahmen Khawaja out of Urdu tweeted that "Queen Elizabeth has died." But she was just in the hospital for a routine checkup. Was it a "prank" as Khawaja said (then deleted)? A "category one obituary rehearsal" as the BBC later said? We may never know, but almost a year later, Liz is still kicking. Khawaja reportedly faced disciplinary action, and hasn't tweeted since.

3. No Privacy at Twitter


Late last year, the CFO of Twitter, Anthony Noto, accidentally sent out a public tweet that was supposed to be a direct message to someone. And it was all about how he felt they had to buy someone's company. Deemed an "M&A (mergers & acquisitions) fail," at least it didn't reveal the acquisition target.

4. ESPN Analyst Links to PornHub


College football recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton was trying to write about a high school linebacker when he somehow threw in the URL for a leading porno site. Oopsie. It was deleted and would be forgotten, had someone on Reddit not been fast enough to take a screenshot. (The @Pornhub account did later ask Hamilton about switching jobs for a day, but got no response.)

5. Pepsi Hates Ronaldo?


Make sure the mega-fans aren't in charge of the social networks. The Swedish branch of Pepsi got in trouble for running Facebook ads of Portugal's footballer super-star Cristiano Ronaldo's voodoo-doll-likeness in various painful poses. The Portuguese fought back by creating a 100,000 strong anti-Pepsi group in a single day. Pepsi apologized.

6. Tweeting the Mass Firing


A British company, HMV, should have made sure the social networks were under control before it started to issue pink slips. The soon-to-be-former employees took the opportunity to live tweet the 60+ people getting sacked.

7. J.P. Morgan Cancels Q&A


In 2013, with the financial crisis still stinging, the geniuses at J.P. Morgan decided to open up their Twitter account to questions that would be answered by the vice chairman the next day. After six hours of abuse by the Internet asking things like "Where do I send my resume? I'm smart and have very flexible morals" (by @sjshmo, now suspended!), the Q&A got canceled.

8. American Apparel's Challenge


On Fourth of July 2014, the clothing chain American Apparel tried to share an image of "#smoke" and "#clouds." What it used was a Photoshopped image of the exploding space shuttle Challenger from 1986. Der.

9. LG Doesn't Bend...from iPhone


In 2014, as people grew worried that their new iPhone 6 would bend and break in their pocket, LG tried to make fun of Apple. Whoever controls the French LG account joined in the fun saying the LG phones won't bend...but they sent the tweet from an iPhone. (LG is in good company at least.)

10. Patriots Celebrate with a Slur


As the New England Patriots' Twitter feed neared 1 million followers in 2014, the team set up a system to automatically thank fans. It had zero filters on it, so nasty words flowed - right out from the Patriots account to those 1 million fans.

11. Chrysler Hates Detroit Drivers


Most people controlling corporate accounts also have personal accounts. Sometimes they get mixed up. Chances are, the person who did this one for ChryslerAutos didn't get to run the corporate account for much longer.

12. The Onion Calls a Little Actress the C-Word


Around the time of the 2013 Oscars, the masters of satire at TheOnion.com tweeted out the above "funny" message, which we've sanitized a bit. But even those who got the joke didn't like it being applied to Quvenzhané Wallis, the then 9-year-old star of Beasts of the Southern Wild (and later the remake of Annie). The CEO at The Onion even apologized.

13. Coke vs. Russia


Here's one for 2016: Coca-Cola tweeted out a cartoon of Russia to show just how much that country loves high-fructose corn syrup-laden beverages. The problem: they used a map of the country that comes from pre-WWII, so entire areas of the country that were annexed to Russia in the Soviet days aren't there. Ukraine was POed. It led to the hashtag #BanCocaCola. And a lot of cola poured in toilets.

14. KFC 'Hot and Spicy'


How best do you convey the hot and spicy nature of your fried chicken? With a sex joke, of course! Advertising is not shy about sexual innuendo, but this tweet from KFC Australia left many with a bad taste in their mouth, prompting the company to delete it within the hour.

15. Racist Tay


It's just a chatbot. What could go wrong? Plenty. Microsoft wanted to test out its artificial intelligence software, so it released the "Tay" chatbot on Twitter. Things started out innocently enough, but the Internet being the Internet, the trolls soon emerged. The bot turned out to be a huge hit with online miscreants, who cajoled Tay into repeating racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic slurs. Microsoft later shut her down.

[Source: PC Magazine. Edited. Some links added.]

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