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5 of the Worst Social Media Fails

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September 23, 2014
| Articles

There’s no hiding on social media and whilst many brands have now come to accept this and up their game, there’s still a good few getting it wrong.


Social has changed the way that consumers interact with businesses forever.


Gone are the old days of stuffy corporate customer service, easily hidden behind telephone scripts, email and snail mail, these days when things go wrong consumers immediately take to social and demand instant attention.


Beware the brand that gets it wrong.


With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the most cringe worthy social fails to have caused much hilarity (or disgust) in the past 12 months or so.


#1: Amy’s Bakery

A famous example, the Amy’s Bakery story began when the business appeared on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. This in itself was damaging enough and saw Gordon walk off the show for the first time in its history following admissions that owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo had fired more than 100 staff, regularly pocketed waiting staff tips and picked fights with customers.


But the worst was yet to come – as usual, people began to comment on social media in the wake of the TV show and this sent the owners into something of an epic meltdown.


Amy's Bakery social media fail


Oops … now that’s no way to talk to your public, especially on social media.


Amy's bakery social media fail


Now would probably be a good time to shut up – did these people never hear of damage limitation?


Amy's Bakery social media fail


Nope. Apparently not. Well, not at this point anyway, but it seems that somebody later had a word in their shell like and told them that all their tirade of abuse was likely to do was spread like wildfire and make them look like even bigger fools than they already did.


Amy's Bakery social media fail


Obviously … strangely enough though, the internet didn’t believe them and before long they were forced back into the corner of abuse.


Amy's Bakery social media fail


Plus, the spelling is atrocious. The Amy’s Bakery example had many followers in stitches with laughter and no doubt every social media manager in the land face-palming themselves over and over again. Not the way to deal with a situation such as this and definitely not the way to present your business to the world.


#2: Mastercard #PricelessSurprises


This year’s BRIT Awards in the UK was sponsored by Mastercard, so their PR firm, House PR, took it upon themselves to contact journalists offering press passes to the event. Nothing unusual in that, except that for some reason, House PR decided to attach a whole lot of conditions to gaining a pass. Journalists were required to live tweet from the event and also before and after or they would not be issued with a pass, it seems.


Anyone else think that’s really just asking for trouble? Well, they got it when #PricelessSurprises started trending for all the wrong reasons …


Master Card social media fail


#3: NYPD ‘Black and Blue’ #Mynypd


It’s safe to say that police officers are not everyone’s favourite people, so why on earth the NYPD decided to ask their followers to share their experiences with the New York Police Department is slightly befuddling.


NYPD social media fail


NYPD social media fail


Plenty of users took to Twitter to share their experiences and you can only think that the social media managers in the department were slightly naïve – or out to cause trouble. In any case, what it did was cause embarrassment and plenty of it.


#4: Rakesh Agrawal loses the plot


Rakesh Agrawel, the former director of global strategy at PayPal was attending a jazz festival when he had something of a meltdown and decided to take to Twitter to abuse some of his colleagues.


Rakesh Agrawal social media fail


Anyone else get the impression that he’s not Christina Smedley’s (vice president of global communications) biggest fan? You also have to wonder just how he felt when he woke up the next morning and realised that he’d taken to Twitter with his (presumably) drunken, rambling abuse.


Rakesh Agrawal social media fail


It seems that PayPal really didn’t appreciate it (despite a public apology telling everyone he thought he was speaking privately in a DM) and so Agrawal was unceremoniously fired from his job.


#5: HMV lay off staff #HMVXFactorFiring


Damaged by digital and too slow to respond, HMV was forced to lay off thousands of staff after being forced to go into administration. This led to a disgruntled employee live tweeting from the HR meeting that was being held to tell 60 of the staff the bad news.


The employee tweeted that “a mass execution” was happening before going on to say that the marketing director knew nothing about social and used unpaid interns to manage it.




HMV social media fail


How to do it RIGHT!


Of course, there are many, many more examples of social media fails, but these are some of the more high profile out there and the most cringing. Protecting your brand on social is important and not particularly simple for the large brands as naturally they will get lots of trolls. However, there are ways to deal with these things without losing face and in such a way as to actually get people on your side, as proved by UK bakery Greggs recently.


The company had its company logo defaced on Google Maps and it wasn’t long before people took to Twitter to talk about it.


Greggs social media fail


Nobody knows what or who was behind the defacement, but the Greggs social media team took it all in their stride.


Greggs social media fail


This was followed by an equally great comeback from the Google UK team who asked the Greggs team to “throw in a sausage roll and we’ll get it done ASAP” alongside a pic of Homer Simpson. The Greggs team stayed calm and more importantly retained their sense of humour.


Greggs social media fail


There was much more of this and it made for very entertaining reading for all the right reasons – a rarity in itself.


That’s how you do it Amy’s Bakery – with a good dose of humility and humour, not reams of abuse.


So there you have it. Some hilarious and terrible examples of what not to do on social media. Remember folks, always respond with a witty comeback where possible, never abuse your followers and do try to answer customer service requests in a timely manner. It’s also a good idea to actually think your strategy out before taking to social so that you’re in the best position you can be if things do go wrong.

By Kerry Butters
Categories: Articles
One Comment Leave a Comment
  1. Scott Crumpler

    This article is inaccurate, and it’s unfortunate since it wasn’t hard to look up. Rakesh Agrawal had already submitted his resignation to PayPal when he started the nasty tweets. These examples are funny, nevertheless, but it’s still important to get the facts straight when you’re talking about other people’s failures. :(

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