The Social Media Performance Group has maintained our Social Media Hall of Shame for a few years now. Well, maintained is perhaps an overly strong word for “Posted every once in a while.”
We’ve got a huge backlog of mishaps, mistakes, blunders, and bombast to get to, and, well, if the past is prologue, then it will take us a while to catch up.
So here’s the HOS as of Q3 of 2011. (We said we needed to catch up!) We’ll post new material soon, but we just couldn’t wait because there are some doozeys in the new entries. So enjoy – and learn!
Social Media Hall of Shame
Through Q3, 2011.
|Year||Hapless Organization||Dumb Move|
|2011||Qantas||Quantas posted a photo of two rugby fans at the Bledisloe Cup, posing with Fijian-born Radike Samo. They were wearing Afro wigs and painted their faces black. The airline ran a Twitter campaign asking fans to show their support for the, and gave one of the men a free ticket to the game if he would dress as Wallabies player Samo. We’ll bet they didn’t think the guy would have completed his outfit with blackface . . .When Qantas posted the photo on Twitter, the outrage was instantaneous. They removed the photo and apologized, saying they had checked with the player and he thought it was OK.Read more at bit.ly/15Sb3xP|
|2011||Marc Jacobs||A Marc Jacobs intern had a meltdown on the fashion brand’s official Twitter account. The company invited Twitter followers to send in clever tweets to earn interviews with the company’s CEO, Robert Duffy. The intern was in charge but was frustrated that the CEO rejected 50 suggested tweeps, and tweeted that he hated his/hre job, that Duffy was a tyrant, and that the intern was quitting the next day.Other tweets included:
The company deleted the tweets by early the next morning and tweeted, “All is well here at MJ. Twitter is a crazy place. Protect your passwords,” implying that the account had been hacked.
Read more at on.mash.to/1bg47fS
|2011||Kenneth Cole||Well how brain dead is this one? Fashion company Kenneth Cole tweeted “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC”This was not the first tone deaf Kenneth Cole statement. Following 9/11, the desinger told the New York Daily News: “Important moments like this are a time to reflect… To remind us, sometimes, that it’s not only important what you wear, but it’s also important to be aware.”Um. These fashion people seem to be in their own little world . . .
Read more at on.mash.to/11PP9L0
|2011||Ragu||The ready-made spaghetti sauce maker posted a bunch of tweet bait, asking dads “do kids like it when you make dinner.” The tweets linked to an insulting video called Dad Cooks Dinner: What’s Dinnertime Like When . . . featuring moms dishing on dad’s ineptitude in the kitchen. “It’s not really cooking; it’s really assembling,” is a typical comment.The response, sadly, could have been predicted: a ton of negative posts such as one called Ragu Hates Dads.Read more at bit.ly/1cOwIuw|
|2011||Red Cross||This entry qualifies as a fail, but check out how it was handled.An intern mistakenly posts about drinking Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer on the Red Cross’ official account. Could happen to anyone. And the Red Cross actually handled it well, owning the mistake and poking fun at themselves in the process: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”The coolest thing that happened was that the makers of the beer took advantage of the attention not to sell more beer (directly at least) but to encourage people to donate to the Red Cross!
Read more at bit.ly/15T4qOe
|2011||Chrysler||Someone complained about Detroit drivers in a profane way on Chrysler’s official Twitter account. The company tweeted a short apology and claimed it had been hacked. Yeah, but really? No, not really. Chrysler eventually confirmed the tweet had come from an employee of its social media agency, New Media Strategies. Paradoxically, many more people followed the Chrysler account after the gaffe.Read more at on.mash.to/1evZwG9|
|2011||Chapstick||This one really didn’t need to spin out of control, except for the tone deaf response by Chapstick, who, ironically, was featuring social media in its ads: “Be heard at Facebook.com/ChapStick”. The company posted a picture of a woman, backside to the camera, looking for her ChapStick behind a couch.A blogger takes exception, blogs about it and posts on Facebook. ChapStick deletes her comments. Others object. ChapStick deletes their comments. Repeat. The comments comes so fast and furious, ChapStick can’t keep up and, rather than immediately deleting the picture and apologizing, the company tried to suppress the furor until finally releasing an apology that starts out fine: “We see that not everyone likes our new ad, and please know that we certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone!” but then begins to spin their furious comment deletion campaign by claiming to do it only to comply with Facebook’s guidelines. Finally, this post garnered lots of positive comments from supporters.Read more at: bit.ly/18ki9va|
|2011||TSA||Everybody loves the Transportation Security Administration, right? Well it’s hard to when they aggressively pat down a woman (and made her family leave the area when she began screaming and crying) and a baby. Or how about the TSA inspector who left a note after searching her bag and finding a sex toy: “Get your freak on, girl.”Despite the TSA showing it understands social media (it blogs under the Blogger Bob alias about dangerous items found during screening), they are usually silent in response to unflattering social media posts about their procedures, or respond by saying they were following necessary and proper procedures (like after patting down a 4-year-old girl who became hysterical).Read more at: bit.ly/11UJ5kn|
|2010||Nestle||In an attempt to silence or intimidate critics who were using altered versions of their logo, Nestle posted “we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic – they will be deleted.” Nestle also posted sarcastic replies to negative posts.Nestlé’s old-media attempt to stem negativity was, unfortunately, all too predictable, as was the result. Rather than doing anything to respond to, placate, dissuade, or even just acknowledge the dissenters, Nestlé whipped up a storm of protest that eventually made the mainstream media news — blowing up a relatively unpublicized group of protesters into media darlings.Here’s a typical post following Nestlé’s blunder:
[W]ould like to personally thank Nestlé for providing a place for all the people who see their unethical, disgusting and lethal practices for what they are to share their opinions. Finally we have a way to share how much we hate their practices. If you don’t boycott Nestlé already, start now, please.
Read more at bit.ly/asqGGB
|2010||Southwest Airlines||Director Kevin Smith takes offense to being put off a plane, mainly because Southwest claims he was too fat to sit in a seat. Instead of apologizing, as Smith requested, Southwest stonewalls, even goes on the offensive with a blog called Not So Silent Bob (Smith’s blog is Silent Bob Speaks, named after a character he plays in his movies) and Smith eviscerates them via Twitter and his blog. Southwest’s servers go down under the resulting traffic. Southwest eventually apologizes.Read more at bit.ly/as5iAO and at Smith’s blog (rated R)bit.ly/cDW6uk|
|2010||BP||Perhaps there was nothing BP could have done to avoid the massive public relations nightmare that followed the massive Gulf oil spill in spring, 2010 that killed 11 people and caused a massive, five-month-long oil spill. But they certainly shot themselves in the foot several times. For example, take BP CEO Tony Hayward’s complaint about how the spill interrupted to his personal life. His insensitivity and BP’s inept response, especially on social media, produced social media efforts like the Fake BP PR Twitter account that swamped the company’s paid advertising and rigorous press messages. The fake account was followed by 180,000 users, far more than the 14,000 who followed the real account.Read more at bit.ly/18eKanT|
|2009||Skittles||Skittles made a bold move by changing their home page to show a Skittles logo overlaid on a Twitter search for the word Skittles. They get credit for not censoring the Twitter feed – the post “Skittles give you cancer and is the cause of all world evil” appeared on the page. But this plus turned into a minus when Tweeps started posting increasingly rude posts. After two days, Skittles had to change their page to remove the Twitter feed.Read more at bit.ly/cqrK and bit.ly/19jvcs|
|2009||Pepsi||Created an iPhone app called “AMP UP Before You Score” that offers to help guys get lucky with 24 different types of women – and then brag about it. Click on a type – from “Rebound Girl” with dripping mascara, to the “Aspiring Actress” dressed like a waitress, to the “Artist” pictured chewing on a paintbrush – and the app provides lines to help you score, along with a crib sheet to dupe the woman into thinking you share her interests. Pepsi killed the app after a week.Read more at bit.ly/3zdNg2|
|2009||Honda||Honda released a new car, Crosstour, but its Facebook page was overflowing with negative comments regarding its styling. Eddie Okubo, a manager in Honda Product Planning, started posting positive comments without revealing he was an employee. This did not go over well when he was outed by a Facebook user.Read more at bit.ly/xjBOY|
|2009||Maytag||Blogger Heather B. Armstrong, who writes the popular parenting blog Dooce, was unhappy with her new washing machine. After frustrated dealings with the company, Armstrong urged her 1-million-plus Twitter followers not to buy Maytag appliances, and Whirlpool, which owns Maytag, dispatched someone to fix the machine within a day.Read more at 9XRJCJ|
|2009||United Airlines||Musician Dave Carroll sought restitution for United breaking his guitar to no avail, so he wrote a song, called the United Breaks Guitars Song, and created a YouTube video about his plight that became a hit.Read more at bit.ly/apcp0D|
|2009||HabitatUK||Upscale furniture store Habitat piggy-backed on popular Twitter topics by using irrelevant hashtag keywords such as #iPhone, #mms, and #Apple in its promotional tweets. After tweeps got upset, Habitat deleted their offending tweets, and replaced them with generic product and sales oriented tweets, but did not immediately apologize. Apparently, the company thought removing the evidence of their bungling was enough. Twitter’s search function proved them wrong, and the company eventually apologized.Read more at bit.ly/aWUX0|
|2009||ASUS||Computer maker ASUS created a blogging competition at electricpig.com by picking six people and asking them to blog about products they’d been given for review. Readers would then rate the blogs and the winner would be able to keep the reviewed products. Readers picked an honest, but not perfectly positive, review by Gavyn Britton. ASUS didn’t like the choice, and changed the rules of the competition so that the six bloggers voted for each other to decide the prize, resulting in Emma Hill winning. When challenged, ASUS said they had upgraded the prizes the bloggers got, but did not apologize for fixing the race.Read more at bit.ly/aghdY|
|2009||Belkin||A Belkin employee offering payment for positive reviews of a Belkin network router and asked reviewers to vote down negative comments. The company apologized, and said they did not support such activity, which they indicated was done without their approval. But a subsequent investigation by The Daily Background, found a second employee, Belkin’s National Account Manager had solicityed review-scamming as far back as 2006. Gizomodo unearthed a Belkin employee who said that, while not official policy, “for years it has been pressed upon ALL Belkin employees to do whatever is needed to get good product reviews and good press.”Read more at bit.ly/9P9FSE|
|2009||Horizon Group Management||Former tenant Amanda Bonnen tweeted: “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.” After Bonnen sued Horizion, the real estate management company sued her for libel, claiming “We’re a ‘sue first, ask questions later’ kind of an organization.”Read more at bit.ly/uBtQs|
|2009||New York City||Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s deputy press secretary Lee Landor resigned after spending office time railing against Barack Obama (whom she termed “O-dumb-a,”) and defending racial profiling on her Facebook account. Landor’s profile was public, unfortunately for her.Read more at bit.ly/b3aOmv|
|2009||Today Show||Weatherman Al Roker took mobile phone pictures of potential jurors while on jury duty and posted them to his Twitter page.Read more at bit.ly/b0Tnod|
|2009||US Government||Rep. Peter Hoekstra , R-Mich. outed a secret House trip to Iraq by tweeting, “Just landed in Baghdad.”Read more at bit.ly/GTzo|
|2009||Virginia Republican Party||Jeffrey Frederick, Virginia Republican party chairman, was close to convincing a Democratic state senator to defect but couldn’t keep the secret. He tweeted, “Big news coming out of Senate: Apparently one dem is either switching or leaving the dem caucus. Negotiations for power-sharing underway.” The Democrat reconsidered defecting.Read more at huff.to/SRMO|
|2009||Job Seeker||Job applicant Connor Riley, 22, tweeted: “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” Tim Levad at Cisco saw the Tweet, and tweeted back: “Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.” Oops. Riley claims that the “fatty paycheck” was for an internship she didn’t want and had already turned down.Read more at bit.ly/tHSAz|
|2008||JCPenney||A vendor for JCPenney’s advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, submitted “The Speed Dressing” to the 2008 International Advertising Festival at Cannes without authorization from the retailer. The video showed two teenagers in separate bedrooms practicing how fact they could get dressed. The two later meet at the girl’s how and tell her mother they’re going downstairs to “watch TV.” JCPenney’s ad slogan, “Today’s the day to get away with it” and the retailer’s logo appear at the end of the clip. Needless to say, JCPenney wasn’t happy and had the video removed from YouTube, but nothing interesting can ever really go away on the Web any more. You can see the video at:bit.ly/16y3ETl|
|2008||Motrin||In fall of 2008, pain reliever brand Motrin posted a short video as part of an ad campaign aimed at young mothers. In an attempt to identify with its intended audience, the ad featured a young woman speaking in an irreverent tone about the fashion of wearing one’s baby, and the back pain associated with the practice.Some online moms found the tone patronizing and felt they were being mocked. The video went largely unnoticed for 45 days, but then on Saturday, November 15, one mother, Jessica Gottlieb, tweeted her disapproval using the hashtag #motrinmoms. By Sunday afternoon, #motrinmoms was one of the hottest hashtags on Twitter. Mommy Blogger Katja Presnal created a nine minute YouTube video comprised of angry tweets from moms with baby carriers. In all, however, fewer than 1,000 people posted anything using the hashtag. But this was a very vocal minority.By social media standards, Motrin was slow to respond to the outcry. Yet by Sunday evening, they pulled the campaign, temporarily shuttered their Website, and apologized. Instead of engaging with the protestors on their own turf, Motrin reverted to an Old Media response: They tried to remove all traces of the video and ad campaign and offered a corporate apology in response: “We have taken immediate action to respond to these concerns and have removed the advertisement from our Web site.”
By November 20th, they had pulled themselves together a bit more, and published a response with a much better tone. Kathy Widmer, Vice President of Marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcare offered a new apology that followed our mandate: Be A Person. “So…it’s been almost 4 days since I apologized here for our Motrin advertising. What an unbelievable 4 days it’s been. Believe me when I say we’ve been taking our own headache medicine here lately!” Much, much better.
Motrin’s mistake was in not using the negative attention to engage in a dialogue with the angered moms. By taking them seriously and listening to their concerns, Motrin could have probably defused the uproar and possibly turned the furor into an advantage. Engaging in a dialogue would have enabled Motrin to explain that they were trying to be funny, and they were sorry that hadn’t worked.
Ironically, Jessica Gottlieb, author of the original tweet, said that she felt the ad did not need to be pulled. What if Motrin had originally addressed her directly and enlisted her help?
Read more at
|2008||Burger King||Executive Stephen Grover used his daughter’s email account to weigh in on a dispute about tomato-pickers’ pay and criticize organizations lobbying for an increase in worker pay.Read more at bit.ly/b7gcmF|
|2008||Johnson & Johnson||J&J did not invite, then invited, and then disinvited Stefania Pomponi Butler, an influential Mom Blogger. This does not impress her.Read more at bit.ly/96c80U|
|2007||Molson||Molson ran a Facebook campaign that featured a photo contest targeting 19-24 year old college students. (Hint: some of those people will be too young to drink Molson is some jurisdictions, like the entire US; the campaign was targeted at Candadians). The Molson Canadian Nation Campus Challenge ad said, “Be the #1 party school in Canada” and offered a trip for five for spring break in Cancun, Mexico to the school with the most pictures uploaded. (Hint: only five people can win, but hundreds contribute?) Ad also said: “Show everyone how you and your crew get the party started!” and listed the top 10 party schools. This drew complaints from parents and school administrators. Molson terminated the contest early, but did award the prize.Read more at bit.ly/b4v9ds|
|2007||Whole Foods||Whole Foods CEO John Mackey created an anonymous account on competitor Wild Oats’ Yahoo Finance stock discussion board and for eight years bashed the company in an attempt to drive down the stock so he could buy the company.Read more at bit.ly/c19daS|
|2007||BringPopcorn.com||Website BringPopcorn.com offered top-ranked members of the social bookmarking site dig $500 to promote the site. The offer was promptly exposed and the site no longer exists.Read more at bit.ly/dwiAFB|
|2007||KFC||A video was posted on YouTube of a KFC restaurant infested with rats. The company decided to release a press release. Um. No. They should have responded on YouTube. Soon the whole world knew.Read more at cbsn.ws/1eAuZXR|
|2006||Comcast||A Comcast technician made a service call, spent an hour on hold with Comcast’s tech support, and fell asleep on Brian Finkelstein’s couch. Finkelstein took a video of the tech and posted it on YouTube where it has had more than 1.4 million views.Read more at bit.ly/93c917 and see the video at bit.ly/9mFb58|
|2006||AOL||Vincent Ferrari spends 21 minutes on a call with AOL trying to cancel his account. The rep asks to speak to the 30-year-old’s dad. Vincent records the conversation, then goes on the Today Show, and posts his interview on YouTube where it has had almost a half a million views.See the video at bit.ly/3dEBIC|
|2006||JetBlue||JetBlue strands passengers for eight hours on tarmac, then delays further. Four passengers trying to get from New York to Sacramento spend two days in the process, and post their ordeal on YouTube. Note the related JetBlue videos on the sidebar when you watch it.See the video at bit.ly/dCtiR8|
|2006||General Motors||General Motors had an inspired idea: Give their Chevy Tahoe fans some raw materials and ask them to create ads for the SUV. The problem was, lots of people dislike SUVs and used the same materials to post ads critical of GM.Read more at bit.ly/bM7B40 and see some of the videos atbit.ly/bv0S6H|
|2006||Sony||Sony created a Website called alliwantforxmasisapsp.com which was a faux blog created by Zipatoni, which specializes in “activating consumers.” Visitors quickly became suspicious of the site due to its often incorrect use of Internet slang such as:
Read more at buswk.co/13K8DC1
|2005||Reckitt Benckiser||Reckitt Benckiser makes the UK cleanser Cillit Bang. Someone at the company used fake blogger Barry Scott to comment on an emotional blog post by Tom Coates recounting the first contact with his father in three decades. Coates researched who was behind the sock puppet blog, and turned up agency Partners J. Walter Thompson and client Reckitt Benckiser as the forces behind it. Coates described trying to market a product on such a post as “revolting, corrupt, cynical, disgusting, sick and dishonourable.” Cillit Bang apologized.Read more at bit.ly/14Hcw|
|2005||L’Oreal||Proving that cluelessness about online communication preceded the social media revolution, L’Oreal was outed as having created a fake blog way back in 2005. L’Oreal subsidiary Laboratoires Vichy produced a fake blog called, supposedly written by “Claire,” called Journal De Ma Peau (Diary of my skin), in order to promote Peel Microabrasion, an anti-wrinkle product. In less than two months, the company replaced Claire with six real bloggers who talked about their real product experiences.Read more at bit.ly/1cyqNvg|
|2007 – 2008||Target||2007 – Target told a group of young people to “keep it like a secret”” that they were incented to market Target products to their friends on Facebook and providing the company with feedback. When outed by Rosie Siman, Target responded by deleting her Facebook posts. Target eventually claimed that the secrecy recommendations were not endorsed by them and blamed their PR agency.Read more at bit.ly/IWE7l2008 – Blogger Amy Jussel complained about a Target ad that featured a clothed woman splayed across a Target logo with the bull’s-eye at her crotch. Target replied that they don’t participate with nontraditional media outlets, basically invalidating the complaint because it came from a blogger. Jussel naturally took her disappointment to her social media community. Eventually Target eventually explained the woman was creating a snow angel on the logo.
Read more at nyti.ms/aWKzjP
|2006 – 2010||Wal-Mart||2006 – Wal-Marting Across America campaign purported to be a blog about a couple’s journey across America in an RV, during which they encountered many Wal-Marts along the way. The blog was exposed as a Wal-Mart marketing gimmick created by their agency, Edelman.2007 – Wal-Mart, pressed by competitor Target’s successful fan page that emphasized style rather than price, had Edelman set up a style-oriented Facebook fan page, but decides to limit user comments to wall posts instead of a discussion board. Users did not like the more-easily-controlled wall post option, and flooded the wall with nasty comments. They also did not respond well to the shift in emphasis from Wal-Mart’s core characteristic, value, to style.2010 – Wal-Mart PR firm Serafin and Associates posts as “Chatham” to support entry of Wal-Mart into Chicago; createdourcommunityourchoice.com.|
We’ve just finished running a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We did this since 2011 and it took 174 posts over two years to git ‘er done.
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