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10 Epic Social Media Disasters

Most businesses now use social media to continuously engage with their customers. The potential gains can be huge, with businesses creating a fan base of customers who eagerly await discount codes, new releases, and just about anything else thrown at them. But what happens when it goes wrong? 

In an ever changing social media environment, some businesses get it badly wrong and end up either accidentally revealing questionable methods, letting out stories that in hindsight should have been kept personal, or even having their social media channel hijacked altogether. 

The recent media coverage on Qantas Airlines' Twitter blunder reminds us how bad it can go wrong when a social media gets poorly executed.

Here are ten more of our favourite social media disasters...

1. BP

The oil spillage incident in the Mexican Gulf inspired Mike Monterio to start a fake BP Twitter account to broadcast dark comedic jokes in the expense of the oil company. The tweets went viral after a week of launch, accumulating 55,000 followers for the fake account @BPGlobalPR, compared with BP’s official feed of a measly 7,000 followers. 

2. Habitat UK

Habitat UK was heavily criticised when they hijacked trending hash tags on Twitter with the purpose of marketing their products. The online public condemned Habitat’s attempt to exploit a bad political situation for commercial gain, leaving them little choice but to apologise publicly.

3. Kenneth Cole

Similar to Habitat’s Twitter mistake, US fashion retailer Kenneth Cole failed miserably when he tweeted: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http...". The online public was outraged and replicated BP's parody Twitter account by creating a Kenneth Cole version.

Kenneth Cole Twitter Blunder Response

4. GoDaddy

GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons posted an online video that shows himself shooting an elephant
and subsequently distributing the dead animal’s meat to nearby villagers. Media around the world including CNN covered the story extensively, whilst animal protection group PETA  initiated a campaign to protest against GoDaddy's practice on animal cruelty. Competitors quickly saw this as a business opportunity and started offering discounts to GoDaddy customers, with a portion of sales donated to animal charity. 

5. Sapient Nitro

Sapient Nitro’s self-made promotional video quickly grabbed global media interest when Facebook comments criticising the video were found deleted. Their original video was also removed from Youtube by the owner, which sparked even more attention.

Here’s the video:

6. Ryan Air

A web developer who found a glitch in Ryanair’s online booking system posted a blog post about the incident, but was quickly hit back by Ryanair’s employees with abusive comments on his blog. They insisted  the claims were false and lashed out names like ‘idiot’ and ‘liar”. This was Ryanair’s response to CNN after what happened:

"It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won't be happening again. Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel."

7. United Airlines

Disgruntled United Airlines customer, Dave Carroll wanted to make sure his story was heard when he composed and produced a music video about the story of the airline breaking his $3500 guitar and later denying compensation. According to Daily Mail, the song was a massive hit on YouTube and iTunes, but at the cost of 10% of United's share price, estimated at $180 million .

8. Skittles

Skittles placed its Twitter stream on their main homepage, hoping to showcase the contents of tweets that contained their brand name. Soon after making the stream live, the public started to realise that they could express themselves freely through Skittles’ website. They quickly admitted it was a bad idea and replaced that with their Facebook page. 


A motorist captured an image of a billboard that implicated 3 local news anchors as suspects of a very bad criminal act. What seemed to be a genuine mistake turned out to be a serious matter as Telegraph reported that 2 managers in the news station may have been suspended.

10. Bank of America

Bank of America was the latest victim of a high profile social account hi-jack, when a parody Google Plus account was created by an authorised party. Other large corporations, including Disney, face the same problem, and have to battle consistently against 'social media brand jackers'. 


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