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Top 10 Social Media Gaffes

Top 10 Social Media Gaffes


Social media is a powerful marketing tool, but people often stumble when learning how to use platforms. Brands can misread their audience and drive them away, or act carelessly and attract the wrong kind of publicity. Here are some of the best examples, each with lessons you can use when navigating social media.

  • #WalkersWave

In May 2017, Walkers launched #WalkersWave. They invited people to upload selfies that were superimposed into videos with Gary Lineker. The winning entrant would get tickets to the UEFA Champions League Final.

Walkers shut down the promotion when people uploaded pictures of serial killers, dictators and sex offenders.

Gary Lineker holding a picture of Stalin the Walkers Wave campaign
People will always try to be comedians. This happened a year after Boaty McBoatface and there’s a long history of similar backfires. They really should’ve known better.

  • House of Fraser #Emojinal campaign

In 2016, BrightSpark, created a Valentine’s campaign for House of Fraser that completely backfired. They filled their Twitter timeline with pictures of celebrities covered in emoji and tweets spelling out movie titles with emoji.

House of Fraser's Emojinal campaign vs their usual output
House of Fraser is a respected department store franchise with over 150 years of history – they don’t have to try too hard. But, like a lot of brands, they probably had misguided conversations with agencies about ‘targeting the youth’. When you’re in a content meeting, remain critical and don’t get overexcited by buzzwords.

  • Apple rivals accidentally promoting Apple products

Oprah Winfrey promoted the Microsoft Surface tablet…from her iPad. When the iPhone 6 was known to bend out of shape, LG’s France Twitter account mocked Apple…from an iPhone.

Oprah's Surface post from an iPad

LG France's Bendgate post from an iPhone
Alicia Keys provided the funniest example. She once tweeted from an iPhone as the Global Creative Director for Blackberry. This was followed up by a dubious hacking claim.

Alicia Keys posts a Drake quote from an iPhone

Alicia Keys tweets that she must have been hacked
Knowing which Twitter client to use should be easier than knowing the perfect thing to say. It’s an easy mistake to make, but also an easy one to prevent.

  • British Airways shared a post from Virgin Atlantic on Facebook

In 2016, someone who probably shouldn’t have access to BA’s Facebook page accidentally clicked the share button under a Virgin Atlantic post. The best part, from Atlantic’s point of view at least, is that BA had 2.5 million followers compared to their 510,000.

Virgin Atlantic Facebook post shared by British Airways
When you see a rival’s post, don’t click the button that says ‘share’. Advertising your competition’s services is about as off-brand as you can get.

  • Ed Balls just tweets his own name

On 28 April 2011, Ed Balls, the then Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, tried to search for a Twitter article that mentioned him. Only, he accidentally typed his name into the ‘compose tweet’ field and hit ‘send’. Since then, 28 April has been known as ‘Ed Balls Day’.

Ed Balls tweets the name Ed Balls

Tesco tweets 'egg balls' with a picture of Scotch eggs

Virgin Atlantic tweets a 787 aircraft with an Ed Balls graphic and calls it a 7 Ed 7
As we learned from British Airways, learn how to use basic functions! At least you can’t accuse Ed Balls of going off-brand.

  • American Red Cross posts from the wrong account

Red Cross social media specialist Gloria Huang admitted to sending out the following tweet. She added that it was due to her inexperience with Hootsuite and that she wasn’t actually drunk-tweeting.

American Red Cross tweets about beer

Gloria Huang apologises for the Red Cross tweet
Switching between accounts has never been easier, but you can sometimes forget which you’re in. Be careful while you’re getting the hang of new platforms, and try not to abuse a prestigious hashtag like #gettngslizzerd if you’re not actually going to get slizzard.

  • The US Department of Education gets an F

In 2017, the US Department of Education posted a quote from the historian and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois. Only, they misspelled his name and then posted an apology for the misspelling with a typo.

US Department of Justice misspells the name W.E.B. Du Bois

US Department of Justice apologises for the misspelling with a grammatical error
Double-check your posts. Google any names and quotes you’re using for accuracy as well as spelling. Also, if you have to make an apology, don’t rush it or you’ll make things worse.

  • Equifax sends customers to a spoof of their website…multiple times

Consumer credit company Equifax set up for consumers to learn whether they were victims of a security breach. Experts warned that the site was not secure and easy to spoof. To prove this, software engineer Nick Sweeting set up a fake site, which urged people to pressure the company into hosting everything on

The social media gaffe here? Equifax’s Twitter account unknowingly sent multiple customers to the spoof site!

Nick Sweeton quotes 3 Equifax tweets where they send people to a spoof of their own website
You have to at least know your own website URL. That’s especially true if you handle sensitive data and are under the microscope for security breaches.

  • Tesco references horses during the horse meat scandal

During the infamous ‘Horse Meat Scandal’ of 2013, Tesco came under fire when their burgers tested as 29% undeclared horsemeat. As the scandal grew, a scheduled post from before the horse meat revelations had some unfortunate phrasing.

Tesco signs off Twitter by saying they're off to hit the hay
You’re unlikely to have your own horse meat scandal. But maybe an employee left your company after you scheduled a post highlighting how important their work is. So make sure you check any scheduled posts when there’s a big change.

  • Laura Goodman admits to spiking a vegan’s food

Laura Goodman, co-owner of Italian restaurant Carlini, incited her own meat scandal last month. She claimed to have ‘spiked’ a vegan customer’s food.

Laura Goodman claims to have spiked a vegan

Laura Goodman says someone she served has gone to bed still believing she's a vegan
TripAdvisor had to remove a lot of one-star reviews made in reaction and Google listing’s questions, reviews and photos are all still reeling from the scandal. With alleged death threats and a Shropshire Council investigation, Ms Goodman resigned her position.

Carlini Google listing after being spammed
Your personal posts can have devastating effects on your professional life. It helps to think like a lawyer. Look at the fine details of your posts and imagine how they can be misinterpreted or otherwise used against you.

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