Social media marketing is the perfect tool to get some free promotion, and taking advantage of trending topics with clever, funny and memorable posts can be extremely effective.
However, some companies get it very wrong when they’re trying to get it right, posting badly thought out, insensitive and sometimes downright offensive posts. Here are 7 of the worst:
In what they hoped would lead to a Twitter trend, McDonald’s attempted to engage with customers through the hashtags #meetthefarmers and #mcdstories. Unfortunately for the fast food giant, it backfired quite spectacular, with Twitter users posting negative #mcdstories. In fact, they weren’t just negative stories, they were truly awful tales of fast food nightmares. They later admitted it wasn’t just a great idea: “#mcdstories did not go as planned.”
In a case of bad timing rather than poor judgment, American Rifleman — a journal affiliated with the National Rifle Association — posted a pro-gun tweet just as the Aurora cinema shooting was unfolding. It appeared that the tweet had been scheduled, rather than posted live, but the tweet was deleted several hours later, and soon after so was the account.
Fashion brand American Apparel decided to turn Hurricane Sandy into a promotional opportunity. They offered 20% off everything for 36 hours, for anyone “bored” by the storm. They received widespread criticism for the stunt.
Strip club chain Spearmint Rhino posted an extremely dodgy Facebook post to get some additional exposure, and ended up with just that — but for the wrong reasons. They posted a photo of a baby, asking Facebook users to guess which “one of our beautiful Rhino girls” they thought it was. As if that wasn’t weird enough, the date on the photo exposed that the girl in question was only 15 years old.
Entertainment store HMV lost control of its Twitter account in the midst of a mass firing, when a disgruntled employee (with the account log-in details) decided to live-tweet the event. The revelations came out thick and fast, with one tweet stating: “There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand.” It even had its own hashtag: ‘#hmvXFactorFiring’.
J.P. Morgan naively decided the time was right for a Twitter Q&A session, forgetting that the internet is a particularly unforgiving place. The company spent six hours getting harassed.
— J.P. Morgan (@jpmorgan) November 13, 2013
— Goran (@ghost_drone) November 13, 2013
Cooking site Epicurious decided it would be appropriate to use the Boston Marathon bombing to promote “whole-grain cranberry scones”. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t go down well, with people taking to Twitter to complain about the company’s insensitivity.