The Top 10 Most Embarrassing Social Media Fails From 2015
Not everyone learns from the prior year’s biggest social media fails. Brands, celebrities, and social media accounts of all types continue to Tweet and post online some things that can only leave us with our hands on our heads. Here are some of 2015’s biggest social media fails.
Join us for #SMWONE May 5 - 28, 2020 and hear from 300+ speakers across 150 sessions.
Remember that time you tweeted a wrong link to all of your 600 followers and considered deleting your account and starting a new life somewhere far away with a new Twitter handle? Now imagine going through a social media mishap on a larger scale when you have the attention of millions people.
No matter how big or small, brands are just like us and no one is safe from becoming a trending topic for all the wrong reasons. The important thing is that we all learn from these mistakes. So, let’s ring in the new year by taking a look at some the biggest social blunders of 2015. These are listed in no particular order since they’re all equally horrifying.
1. Coca-Cola Tweets Hitler Art
Coca-Cola was simply trying to spread joy and cheer when they asked users to tag negative tweets with #MakeItHappy for their “Make It Happy” Super Bowl campaign. The hashtagged tweets were pulled in by a generator that turned the tweets into cute ASCII art. It was so adorable.
That is until Gawker found the flaw in the system and decided to have some fun. Gawker created a bot tasked to tweet lines from Hitler’s Mein Kampf with #MakeItHappy and sat back as the beverage giant turned Hitler’s manifesto into cute puppies and palm trees. Coca-Cola was forced to pull the Twitter campaign and apologize for the rookie mistake.
Lesson learned: Don’t set up a bot to control your surprise and delight campaigns. Especially when you ask followers to participate in a conversation.
2. #AskSeaWorld Campaign
Earlier this year, SeaWorld held their #AskSeaWorld hashtag campaign in an attempt to rehabilitate their image after the release of Blackfish, a 2013 documentary that put a focus on captive killer whales. The brand encouraged users to ask questions about whale care, but just like almost every other time a brand opens its platform up for its audience, the campaign didn’t go as expected and Sea World was hit with a storm of tweets about the controversy. To make things worse, SeaWorld brought even more negative attention to itself by insulting these users and calling them trolls.
#AskSeaWorld Do you now call yourself an ABUSEMENT PARK?
— I'm Your Huckleberry (@BringTheFlag) March 26, 2015
Lesson learned: While transparency is always appreciated, brands should think twice about inviting users to public “question-and-answer” sessions, especially right after a major PR crisis.
3. Tinder’s Twitter Meltdown
Let’s not forget that time Tinder had a public outburst on Twitter. The overzealous tweets were a reaction to a Vanity Fair article, written by Nancy Jo Sales, that claimed the app was a nothing more than a hook-up app, which is completely untrue because we all know that Tinder is about finding your true soulmate. The rant, which included over two dozen cringe-worthy tweets, brought more attention to the article than it would ever have on it’s own.
Talk to our many users in China and North Korea who find a way to meet people on Tinder even though Facebook is banned.
— Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
Lesson learned: Staying quiet can be the best PR crisis plan because addressing an issue might only bring more wanted attention to it.
4. Heinz’s Scandalous QR Code Contest
Heinz was forced to apologize when a consumer was under the impression they were entering a contest by scanning a QR Code on a bottle but instead was led to Fundorado, a German porn site. Turns out that Heinz registered the site and let the domain name expire once the campaign was done.
Fundorado then got their hands on it and the rest was social media fail history. We’re not sure what’s worse here, that Heinz completely overlooked the fact that their physical product would outlive the campaign and didn’t register the domain name for more than a year or that brands still use QR Codes.
Lesson learned: Don’t use QR Codes.
5. Kim Kardashian’s Myspace Makes a Comeback
We learned a lot about Kim K when her 2006 Myspace page resurfaced online. For one, the TV reality star, who is one of the top followed celebrities on Instagram and Twitter, only had 856 friends and 73 wall comments at the time. She didn’t smoke or drink, wanted to meet God and used pimp-my-profile.com to customize her pink-themed template.
She also went by “Princess Kimberly.” Fast-forward to a sex tape, millions of dollars, and a reality TV show later, and Kim’s Myspace sounds completely off-brand from the Kardashian sister we know and love today. Fans poked fun at the disparity between her Myspace profile and her public image and Kim probably cringed.
Lesson learned: Although it wasn’t a huge fail, there are always marketing lessons to be pulled from the Kardashian branding empire. Ensuring that everything from your messaging to visual design is consistent throughout all of your marketing platforms is important as a brand’s personality is what attracts consumers and builds a relationship that can lead to brand loyalty.
6. Seattle Seahawks #MLK Day Tweet
One day you’re trending because you’re headed to the Superbowl and the next day you’re the talk of Twitter for a completely different reason. The Seattle Seahawks had to live through this when the team’s Twitter account posted a picture of their teary-eyed quarterback Russell Wilson superimposed with an MLK quote the morning after beating the Packers for a Super Bowl spot.
The post also included the #MLK hashtag because it would be a bummer for the relevant tweet to not show up when users search for MLK conversation. The team took down the tweet but not before users let them know that comparing the civil rights struggle to their NFC championship comeback win over the Green Bay Packers wasn’t the greatest of ideas.
Lesson learned: While it’s important to touch on relevant holidays and trending hashtags it’s important to leave the more sensitive topics alone and stick to #HappyNationalCreamedSpinachDay.
7. Houston Rockets Emoji Fail
When the Houston Rockets eliminated the Dallas Mavericks from the playoffs, fans all over Houston got excited. One fan in particular though, Chad Shanks, was a little too excited when he tweeted a gun emoji pointing at a horse emoji (representing the Mavericks mascot) along with “Shhhhh. Just close your eyes. It will all be over soon.” The problem? Shanks was Houston’s Digital Communications Manager at the time. Shanks was fired from his position and the Rockets were eliminated in the conference finals.
Lessons learned: We all get excited about our jobs, but you’re held to a certain level of professionalism when you’re representing a brand. Also, Emojis can sometimes speak louder than words, so choose carefully.
8. Comedians vs. The Fat Jew
It was a rough summer for Josh Ostrovsky. Josh, better known as The Fat Jew to his 7.3 million Instagram followers, uses his large reach to post funny memes and gets paid by brands to promote their products. The Fat Jew had been accused of stealing jokes for IG likes in the past, but things really heated up when it was announced that he signed a deal with a Hollywood talent agency. Comedians and think pieces flooded the internet which led to serious discussions about plagiarism vs. copyright infringement, content attribution and content ownership.
As @FATJEW once said, "I have a dream."
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) August 15, 2015
Lesson learned: There’s nothing wrong with pulling inspiration from or repurposing user generated content, as long as you give credit where credit is due.
9. ESPN Analyst Tweets Porn Link
College football analyst Gerry Hamilton meant to tweet a link about one of the country’s top recruits when he mistakenly sent out a link to a PornHub video into the Twitterverse. Hamilton noticed his mistake and quickly pulled down the link but not before the internet did its job and took a screen grab so that he’ll never have a chance to live this down. Unlike most fails, Gerry never apologized or even addressed the issue and went on like it never happened. Smooth.
Lesson Learned: Links have been around since the beginning of time (well, not exactly), yet they can still get so tricky. Be extra careful when copying and pasting links, especially when multitasking with multiple windows open (as most of us do).
10. IHOP Tweets Breast Joke
Known for it’s edgy tweets, IHOP took it one step too far when it sent out a sexist tweet to all of its 242,000 followers. The fast-food chain tweeted a product shot of their pancakes along with “Flat but has a GREAT personality.” The fans were quick to call IHOP out for the misogynistic and inappropriate tweet, and the brand ended up apologizing but not before the damage had already been done.
Lesson learned: Outside of chicken fingers, tying your product to any part of the body, is ill-advised. Especially, when it’s highly offensive.
Write for Us
Interested in sharing your ideas and insights with the world? Become a SMW News contributor and reach 300k readers each month.