The 20 Worst Social Media Fails of All Time

By September 22, 2014 No Comments

Dear social media marketers and community managers,

You’re fired.

Sincerely yours,

All of these brands.



20. The NYPD

The New York Police Department attempted to use Twitter to promote a positive relationship between police force and public. Unfortunately, the NYPD had recently come under scrutiny over accusations of racial bias and the use of unnecessary force. Whilst a handful of responses looked like this…


…the vast majority highlighted the force’s less-than-perfect track record.




19. American Red Cross

The American Red Cross: bastion of hope, emergency healthcare and, of course, getting slizzerd. This errant tweet was intended for an employee’s personal Twitter account; and whilst the Red Cross were less than impressed with this social media fail, brewers Dogfish Head were extremely happy with the promotion.


18. JP Morgan

2013 saw banking behemoths JP Morgan take to Twitter for an ill-fated Q&A session. Unfortunately for the brand, the majority of its social media followers weren’t interested in the brand’s internal workings, and instead chose to take the company to task for its recent spate of fines, bribes and malpractice accusations.

JPMorgan Social Media Fail

The exchange went from bad to worse, with public disdain for the company immediately evident…

JPMorgan Social Media Fail4

JPMorgan Social Media Fail5

…and whilst one participant saw the humour in the situation, JP Morgan themselves were less pleased with the outcome.

JPMorgan Social Media Fail2

JPMorgan Social Media Fail3


17. Luton Airport

Whilst this tweet from Luton Airport may seem fairly innocuous, the photo chosen by their social media team was taken from a real-life crash that claimed the life of a young child. Social media users were quick to pick up on this, prompting the airport to publicly apologise for their inappropriate choice of image.



16. British Airways

British Airways are one of the world’s largest flight operators, responsible for thousands of flights and millions of air miles flown each and every year. Unfortunately for one frustrated Twitter user, their social media support is less impressive. When BA failed to respond to a lost baggage inquiry, this social media user paid to promote a tweet condemning their customer service….

Over 70,000 damaging views later, and BA still hadn’t responded – apparently because their social media team were only available 9-5, GMT. For a business that operates both day and night, across multiple time zones, their failure to grasp the 24-hour nature of social media proved to be catastrophic for both PR and brand relations.



15. RyanAir

The air travel industry seems to struggle with social media – as illustrated by this poorly-judged Q&A from RyanAir, when outspoken owner Michael O’Leary took part in a live Twitter chat. His responses were at best ignorant, and at their worst, downright sexist and offensive. Thankfully, few users were subjected to his obnoxious drivel, care of O’Leary’s inability to understand both #Hashtags and .@public responses.

RyanAir social media fail



14. American Airways

Marketing automation is a time-saving necessity for any business; but as this social media fail proves, it needs to be carefully monitored. Sending a stock response to every @mention is a risky strategy at the best of times, but it’s especially damaging when users are criticising your brand. As a result of this social media fail, the merger of American Air and US Airways got off on a the wrong foot – appearing both arrogant and uncaring to their social media audiences.

social media fails American Air


13. Nokia NZ

Whilst many social media fails are caused by poor judgement and bad timing, a few can be chalked-up to poor account security and hacking. Nokia believe this particular social media fail to be the result of a compromised account – reiterating the importance of digital security in SMM.

Nokia Social Media Fail



12. HMV

Now-defunct music retailer HMV aired used Twitter to air its dirty laundry in the most public way imaginable. When the brand decided to orchestrate a mass-firing of over 60 employees, disgruntled soon-to-be former staff had two realisations:

  1. They controlled the brand’s social media presence
  2. They now had nothing to lose.

The end-result was a live account of the entire firing process – including a hilarious quote from their marketing director: ”How do I shut down Twitter?’

social media fails



11. British Gas

British Gas suffer a bad PR-rep at the best of times, but the responses to their #AskBG Q&A session were nothing short of devastating for the brand’s image. With the Q&A scheduled to take place immediately following a significant price hike, the majority of the comments were critical of the company’s pricing policy – and it’s impact on the elderly and vulnerable.

British Gas Social Media Fail



10. Home Depot

To promote their sponsorship of a college-level American Football league, home improvement retailer Home Depot tweeted this poorly-judged photo and caption combo. With blatantly racist overtones, their social media audience was quick to condemn the brand for the image, and Home Depot were forced to delete the tweet, and offer a swift apology.



9. Justine Sacco

High-flying PR executive Justine Sacco used her social media account to send this obnoxious tweet before a flight to Africa. Unfortunately for Justine, the boundaries between her personal opinions and role as a professional brand ambassador were, according to her employees, incredibly blurred. She was fired upon landing.


8. Epicurious

In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, many businesses were quick to offer their condolences and support to victims of the tragedy. Food-manufacturer Epicurious chose a different route, and instead attempted to cash-in on the event by promoting… scones and breakfast cereal. Social media erupted, and the brand was attacked from all corners for its insensitive and tasteless response.



7. StubHub

Ticket vendor StubHub claim that their Twitter account was hacked prior to this social media fail – but personally, I think the tweet sounds more like a disgruntled employee having a seriously bad day at the office.

StubHub Social Media Fail



6. Mastercard

When Mastercard sponsored the Brit awards, the brand’s PR agency attempted to bribe journalists – by allowing Brits attendance in exchange for tweets using the brand’s #PricelessSurprises hashtag. Thankfully, one particularly offended journo blew the whistle on the entire campaign – leaving Mastercard extremely red-faced.

Mastercard Social Media Fail



5. Pornhub

Adult brands need to be extremely careful with their use of social media – and this response to Martin Luther King Day celebrations managed to be tasteless, offensive and extremely derogatory in under 140 characters.

Pornhub Social Media Fail



4. McDonalds

In an ill-fated attempt to benefit from User Generated Content, McDonald’s promoted the #McDStories hashtag to collate users’ experiences of the fast food giant. Unfortunately for McDonalds, pissed-off customers tend to be much more vocal than satisifed ones – leading to a deluge of negative publicity for the brand.



3. Kenneth Cole

2010 saw the start of the ‘Arab Spring’, a series of violent protests and uprisings in many Middle Eastern countries. In Egypt alone, over 800 people lost their lives in a series of violent protests – which clothing brand Kenneth Cole responded to in the most tasteless way imaginable.

2. Spearmint Rhino

Spearmint Rhino and baby photos are two phrases which should never be combined; as proved by this hideously inappropriate social media fail from Spearmint’s Melbourne arm. If the photo wasn’t misjudged enough, the time stamp also suggested that a 14 year old girl was under the employ of one of the world’s largest strip clubs.



1. Amy’s Baking Company

As Amy’s Baking Company proved, social media offers the perfect opportunity to engage with your customers, whether you’re looking to offend your audience…

…physically threaten them…

…legally threaten them…

…or simply attempt to fight their oppression and bring them to the light. Take that Yelp, Reddit and Gordon Ramsey!


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These epic social media fails are caused by businesses lacking the time and expertise to properly manage their social media accounts. If your brand is struggling to devote essential time and resources to social media promotion, get in touch!

I’m a freelance marketing copywriter, and I specialise in planning, writing and promoting top-tier business blog content. With experience working for the UK’s leading marketing agencies, my freelance copywriting services and marketing agency packages could help you to reclaim the time and energy you need to help your business thrive.

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Author Ryan

I help SaaS companies grow with content marketing. I also drink Scotch. Sometimes together. CMO & co-founder, Cobloom.

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