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What Business Must Learn From Social Media Fails

Listed below are five humorous and embarrassing social media mistakes made by companies so large you’d think they would know better. Luckily, small business owners and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to learn from these and other social media fails so they don’t make the same mistakes.

#1 McDonald’s “#McDStories” Twitter Fail

Early in 2012, McDonald’s started the Twitter hashtag #McDStories in an attempt to get Twitter users to share positive stories about their McDonald’s experiences. Unfortunately for the fast food giant, their social media plan backfired terribly and users began using the hashtag either to bash the company or to tell off-color stories, such as one user’s tweet about going to McDonald’s while high or another’s about throwing up McDonald’s food.

The Lesson: Hashtags can get away from you. Before you start open season on your company or brand, it’s important to remember that you aren’t going to have control over what gets posted. If people have reasons to criticize your company or if some of your customers or employees engage in unseemly activities, asking everyone in the Twittersphere to write about their experiences with your brand probably isn’t the best idea.

#2 Netflix Names its New Company after Weed-Smoking Elmo

When Netflix began its short-lived DVD rental service, they named it Qwikster, a catchy brand name implying speedy service. The only problem was that the name Qwikster was already taken on Twitter. Jason Castillo controlled the username Qwikster, and, although he tweeted infrequently, his Twitter photo was a pot-smoking Elmo, and his tweets centered mainly on girls, sexual innuendos, smoking pot and being late for school.

The Lesson: Do your research before you name a brand, service or product. Knowing who or what might already be using your potential name in the digital age means you will need to perform a search of social media users and pages.

#3 The American Red Cross Gets Slizzerd, Gets Paid

In February of 2011, an intern working as a specialist in social media for the Red Cross tweeted from the @Red Cross account, “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.” The mistake was an innocent one. The intern meant to tweet this from her personal account, not the Red Cross’s account.

The tweet made an amusing anecdote and could have led to disaster, but both the intern and the Red Cross managed to do some quick damage control and turn the gaffe into a drive for donations. The Red Cross followed up the erroneous tweet with, “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” Even the Dogfish brewery got involved, soliciting donations for the Red Cross using its Twitter account.

The Lesson: Own up to your social media mistakes rather than simply deleting embarrassing tweets and hoping people won’t notice. Rest assured, people will notice, and it will only make you look bad if you don’t address the mistake. Take control of the situation, and don’t be afraid to point out the humor if you can. Sometimes, even a mistake can open the door to success.

Last modified: July 24, 2021