When Companies Get Social Media Wrong

Like drunken dads dancing at a wedding, many big companies have tried to get into the spirit of social media and got it awfully, embarrassingly, awkwardly wrong. Positive, well-considered social media campaigns can provide an incredible boon for a business – helping to humanise a brand and giving customers a platform to seek feedback. However, ill-conceived tweets and Facebook posts can cause significant damage to a brand’s image and irrepealably destroy the trust of the audience.

Here, we have a look at some of the business who got social media very, very wrong, so you can learn from their mistakes and be more keyboard cat (37 million YouTube views) than cat bin lady (death threats).


The fast food chain’s tireless promotion of their culinary offerings as fresh, ethically-sourced and farmer-friendly came to a head in 2012 when the company promoted the Twitter hashtag #mcdstories, imploring their audience to share their McDonald’s experiences. Naturally, thousands responded with negative stories, completely overshadowing the brand’s paid-for advertising on Twitter.

McDonald's - Mike V

Lesson: Unless you’re 100% confident in your brand, don’t give your audience such an open soapbox.


It seems a long time since MSN Messenger was a relevant (and even important) part of the internet. Microsoft-owned MSN further demonstrated how out-of-touch they were when Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees passed away. Reporting the event on Facebook, MSN invited their audience to ‘like’ the news to pay their respects. Despite many clicking ‘like’, the brand received incredible levels of negative feedback for trying to capitalise on the death of a public figure to generate interest and the bad taste demonstrated.


Lesson: Don’t use personal tragedies to generate social media activity.

Spearmint Rhino

The social media team of the gentleman’s club’s Melbourne location dropped a giant clanger last year. The team uploaded a picture of one of their dancers on Facebook, when she was a baby. Unfortunately the fact-checkers overlooked the fact the picture was date and time stamped, showing that the picture was taken in 1998, meaning the lapdancer in question was only 15 years old.


Lesson: Don’t publicise any illegal activities carried out by your brand. Or don’t do anything illegal. Ever.

London Luton Airport

The security in airports has increased significantly over the past couple of decades, and perhaps that level of care should be carried out amongst the social media team of London Luton Airport. Following heavy snows, London Luton Airport bragged of their logistical abilities by posting a picture of a plane which crashed in snowy conditions alongside the caption: “Because we are such a super airport… this is what we prevent you from when it snows… Weeeee”

Sadly, the image provided was of a plane crash which killed a child.


Lesson: Always double check the backstory of images.


Tesco has achieved significant success and received plenty of plaudits for their social media activity. However, they made a huge social media blunder during the horse meat scandal, nonchalantly stating they were heading off to ‘hit they hay’.


Lesson: Be wary of double-entendres and never make light of negative situations.

For more advice how to utilise social media effectively, give the Banc Media team a ring on 0845 459 0558.

Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Mike V, WSWCSM