You know the feeling. The drop in the pit of your stomach, the hot flush, the clammy hands, the pure panic when you realise you’ve made a mistake. You’ve posted something, it’s out there now and you can’t get it back. Little hiccups can happen to anyone (not us of course – we’ve never made a typo in our lyfe) but for some brands, getting it wrong can have huge ramifications that can last years. The internet has a very long memory after all.
So, how can you avoid such a disaster? Well, sit back and grab the popcorn; we’ve taken a closer look at some of the biggest viral social catastrophes and how they could’ve been avoided.
Burger King – IWD 2021
Well, as far as social media disasters go, this one was a whopper (pun 100% intended). ‘Women belong in the kitchen.’ was the tweet, prompting an onslaught of outrage from quite-rightly agitated Twitter users on International Women’s Day 2021.
Of course, this wasn’t all that was said. Click on the thread and the context was revealed. ‘If they want to, of course. Yet only 20% of chefs are women. We’re on a mission to change the gender ratio.’
However, by this point, the damage was already done. The intention was to promote a cooking scholarship for female employees but unfortunately for Burger King, many Twitter users never saw past this first tweet (just check out the numbers!) The fast-food giants spent the day issuing apologies and explaining, before eventually deleting the tweet.
Takeaway: Choose the formation of your post carefully – remember, context is key.
Snapchat – Would you rather
Snapchat found themselves in hot water when an ad for the game app ‘Would You Rather’ popped up on the social platform asking if users would rather ‘slap Rihanna’ or ‘punch Chris Brown’.
Obviously, this is a rather sick reference to 2009 when Chris Brown was imprisoned for violence against his then girlfriend, Rihanna.
After hearing of the ad, an outraged Rihanna took to Instagram accusing Snapchat of ‘making a joke’ out of domestic violence (DV) and letting down ‘all the women, children and men that have been victims’.
In response, Snapchat removed the ad and appeared to pass the blame onto a third-party developer. Following the incident, the share price value of Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, plummeted by almost 4% – wiping $800m from its market value.
Takeaway: Always hold your hands up and own your mistakes. And never poke fun at sensitive topics.
PureGym – 12 years of slave
Back in 2020, PureGym Luton and Dunstable found themselves at the centre of controversy after launching a ‘slavery-based workout’ to celebrate Black History Month. The (now deleted) Facebook post read ‘Slavery was hard and so is this’.
PureGym were quick to distance themselves from the post and issued an apology stating that the post was ’not approved or endorsed by the company’ and confirmed that each of the 271 gyms has their own social media channels which are ran locally. The post was later confirmed to have been posted by one of their trainers.
Takeaway: A social media manager would have recognised the issue with this post immediately, saving PureGym a whole a lot of backlash. Don’t let just anyone loose on your social channels!
Adidas – Boston Marathon
Okay so not strictly social but definitely a cock-up worthy of a mention. In 2017, Adidas were forced to issue an apology after sending an email with the subject line ‘Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!’. At the same event in 2013, three people were killed and 260 injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line.
The sportswear giant apologised immediately, admitting its choice of words had been ‘insensitive’ and said it was ‘incredibly sorry’ for sending the email.
Takeaway: Words can have a thousand meanings. Choose carefully.
HMV – Live firing
A social media exec for HMV live-tweeted the firing of over 60 employees from the corporate Twitter account. Cue a trending hashtag on Twitter and lot of panicked managers trying to shut the social channel down.
Takeaway: Always know who has access to your socials and update your passwords regularly!
And that’s it folks! Proof that even big brands can sometimes get it wrong on social and once they do, there’s nowhere to hide.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Having someone who knows what they’re doing at your social media helm can make all the difference to your business – after all, each of these brands have done great things on social media too!