3 “Horrifying” Social Media Blunders & Their Lessons

By Mike Mitchell Happy Halloween, everybody. Today marks the culmination of a season filled with grim tales, gory costumes, and the word “hobgoblin.”

But if you work in social media, then ghosts, vampires, and werewolves wearing varsity jackets don’t give you nightmares – the thought of your brand saying the wrong thing does.

Such a mistake, made on a digital platform where everyone can see, actually can haunt you. In the spirit of checking out scary things, let’s look at a few social media missteps, so that we may avoid repeating them.

Never Forget… to Have Some Perspective

This September 11th, AT&T tweeted an image of one of their phones taking a picture of the Twin Towers memorial lights, with the caption “Never Forget.” It got more than 300 re-tweets and 400 shares on Facebook, and not because people were impressed by the camera’s megapixel count. Hundreds criticized the post as tasteless and opportunistic, and some customers said it made them want to drop AT&T. AT&T took the post down and apologized, but much damage had already been done.

The lesson for brands? Some things transcend your product. [Does that scare you?]

Oh, Walmart, You Potty Mouth

If the average social media employee had accidentally posted the above, then, once they realized, their reaction would’ve been something along the lines of...

But because the post was likely just that -- the result of a page manager thinking he/she was on his/her own personal Facebook account rather than Walmart’s -- it was mostly received as an honest mistake, a slip-up, a boo-boo (that some even found downright funny) and was therefore excused more quickly.

The lesson? Check your Facebook account before you wreck your Facebook account.

Timing is Everything

And then there’s just negligence. Tesco was the main brand involved in the “horse meat scandal” in Britain at the start of this year -- when foods advertised as containing beef were found to contain horse meat. That was a pretty bad time to let this pre-scheduled tweet slip past them:

Needless to say, people were upset. Tesco apologized but, like AT&T, they still feel the sting of that tweet.

Moral of the story: Pay attention to your scheduled content, especially when you might have just fed a bunch of people undeclared horse meat.

Which, by the way, is not a good trick-or-treat handout.