Top 25 Social Media Fails: The Worst Offenses on the Internet

When a person makes an issue on social media, they can delete it. For businesses, things are a bit different. They can’t erase their mistake fast enough, so no one will notice. A flood of angry customers and malicious jokes surface in just a matter of minutes. Then, these corporations are left to scramble and try to pick up the pieces. It is way easier said than done. Here are some of the top 2024 company social media fails from popular brands.

Table of Contents

  1. Corporate Social Media Fails
  2. 25 Times Businesses Dropped the Ball on Social Media
  3. The Worst Common Offenders
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Digital Marketing Rules Summary

Corporate Social Media Fails

Why do corporate social media fail to happen so often? Unfortunately, all it takes is a slight oversight in the advertising department. Either the team is too lazy to care, or they don’t understand the social climate. Sometimes, businesses are just trying to be hip, but they fail to do their research. Other times, employees aren’t Internet savvy, so domains get lost, or tweets get misinterpreted. However it occurs, seeing the effects and how companies try to clean up their mess is quite comical.

25 Times Businesses Dropped the Ball on Social Media [Stats & Facts]

Corporations aren’t immune to making Internet blunders. Even the big names sometimes mess up, leaving fans very upset. Check out this list of the top 25 business social media fails in 2023. From meme misuse to insensitive jokes, these are the worst.

1. Adidas’ Boston Marathon Email

The 2013 Boston Marathon went down in history due to the terrorist offense that happened during the race. Two homemade bombs detonated and killed three persons. Dozens more suffered injuries, and 16 of those victims lost limbs. Adidas seemed to have forgotten that because they sent an insensitive email to runners after the event. The email’s subject title read: “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon.”

Adidas’ Boston Marathon Email

2. SnapChat’s “Would You Rather” About Rihanna

Snapchat is a social platform that’s always on the up and up. However, they received backlash after posting a quiz about Rihanna. A well-known game, “Would You Rather,” typically includes outrageous tasks or situations. Snapchat made the mistake of creating a question based on the Rihanna – Chris Brown feud. The question: “Would you rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown?”

3. Cinnabon Banks on Carrie Fisher’s Death

The loss of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher was devastating. Cinnabon seemed to see Fisher as a cash cow even after death. They posted an ad of Princess Leia wearing cinnamon buns as her signature hairstyle. This was all an attempt to sell more products, and it was insensitive to Fisher’s life and death. Star Wars fans didn’t like that.

4. U.S. Airways’ NSFW Response to a Tweet

U.S. Airways often responds to customer complaints and questions through Twitter. Well, one day, they spiced things up – seriously. The airline posted an illustration while replying to a client who complained about a delayed flight. An X-rated image. The world may never know how this NSFW pic got through privacy settings.

5. Dove: Transformation in Reverse

A misstep from Dove is always a grave disappointment. The brand has done so much to empower women and break beauty norms. One of their campaigns completely “missed the mark,” as they later said. The ad starts with a Black woman wearing a brown T-shirt. She removes her shirt to reveal a white woman in a white tee. People quickly recognized the advertisement as racially charged, and complaints followed. Dove apologized and recognized their error, but it was still a significant blow.

6. Starbucks’ Racy New Espresso

This coffee giant is known for pushing the envelope, but people weren’t ready for their new espresso. Starbucks introduced the blonde drink with flirty ads and suggestive language. Some examples were “Blondes have more fun” and “Tall, blonde, and gorgeous.” It also left customers ordering “tall blondes.” Indeed, the barista didn’t like this awkward new ordering style!

7. Twitter’s CFO Wasn’t Too Savvy

One would expect the CFO of a social media platform to have excellent online etiquette. Unfortunately, former head Anthony Noto screwed up. He accidentally tweeted out a direct message to the whole world. It was about a possible merger, although privacy details, like the company in question, weren’t revealed. Could this be why Noto’s no longer around?

Twitter’s CFO Wasn’t Too Savvy

8. Nothing Like A Short Stack of Tampons

A couple of years ago, IHOP decided to become IHOB: International House of Burgers. However, the combination of their font and the new “b” wasn’t the best choice. It had lots of ladies laughing. The “O.B.” of IHOB looked similar to the brand image for o.b. Tampons.

9. T-Mobile Austria Has A Hard Time Clearing Things Up

T-Mobile Austria responded to a customer tweet about passwords that shook things up. The client asked if the company stores passwords in clear text. The response they got didn’t help anyone and raised privacy questions. The company replied, “Yes,” and “I really do not understand why this is a problem.” People were quick to freak out on the cell phone giant for its lack of password security.

10. False Alarm, Queen Elizabeth

The queen may be in her 90s, but she’s still alive and kicking. In 2015, BBC’s Ahmen Khawaja tweeted, “Queen Elizabeth has died.” Was this a preemptive death alert following the monarch’s hospital visit? Did Khawaja want to be the first to tweet it out? Regardless, it was in poor taste and got her in trouble with the BBC.

11. Winter Olympics In … P.F. Chang’s?

A Chicago news station was covering a story about the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Unfortunately, someone at the studio confused Pyeongchang with P.F. Chang’s. The restaurant chain played along, posting their humorous tweet. Viewers mocked the channel with all sorts of Chinese food puns. An Olympics at P.F. Chang’s would undoubtedly be the best Games ever.

12. Razer Steps Over the Line

Back in 2016, Apple was promoting its new MacBook Pro. One disappointing feature was the lack of an S.D. card slot. Razer responded with a cheeky tweet that didn’t help its marketing at all: “You call yourself Pro? S my D.” The message quickly received negative responses, and Razer removed it after a day.

13. Happy 4th of July, Liberia

YouTube Creators Twitter requires a new manager. On July 4th, 2018, they posted a holiday message for fellow Americans. It was a nice sentiment, but they shared the wrong flag emoji. Theirs had red and white stripes with one star. That’s Liberia’s flag, not the United States of America’s.

14. What’s More Feminine Than A Washing Machine?

German appliance manufacturer made a major faux pas on International Women’s Day. They tweeted, “May all women … embrace what makes them unique!” So, what was up with the four white ladies smiling next to a washing machine? The marketing was neither unique nor celebratory of women. Miele seems to be in the 1950s, not 2023.

15. Lockheed Martin’s World Photo Day Flop

Lockheed Martin, which sells guns, wanted customers to participate in World Photo Day by sharing a picture of one of their products. Users on Twitter were up in arms and shared images of various acts of violence using firearms—not exactly the picture the brand was looking for.

16. Uber’s Poor Timing

Following President Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, there was a ton of backlash. Taxi drivers in New York City expressed anger by refusing to provide service at JFK Airport. At the same time, Uber ran an ad campaign for its rides. Customers were extremely angry at the company’s poor timing.

Uber’s Poor Timing

17. Betsy DeVos vs. W.E.B. Du Bois

This snafu occurred the same week that Trump named Betsy DeVos the new Education Secretary. The Department of Education tweeted to honor civil rights activist and historian W.E.B. Du Bois. However, they misspelled his last name as “DeBois.” It sparked public outrage and was seen as a complete failure that put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.

18. A Yanny/Laurel Joke Taken Too Far

The U.S. Air Force hopped on the Yanny/Laurel train in 2018. There wasn’t anything funny about their tweet, though. They joked about how the Taliban forces would have instead heard Yanny or Laurel than the Air Force’s drone attack. The jab made light of death and was in poor taste.

19. IHOP’s Anti-Hillary Clinton Retweet

The pancake restaurant chain knows best when it comes to messing up online. They retweeted a tweet that wished good morning to all except those who dispute that Clinton ran a garbage campaign. The community on Twitter wasted no time calling IHOP out. The corporation responded by saying that they were hacked.

20. Amazon CEO Feels the Heat on Earth Day

The Twitterverse lost it after Jeff Bezos wished everyone a Happy Earth Day and tweeted about dog sledding. They roasted Bezos online, pointing out that Amazon staff struggle with oppressive working conditions. Comedienne Sarah Silverman even pointed out that many Amazon workers depend on food stamps, so they weren’t taking off for Earth Day. Bezos felt the heat for that one.

Amazon CEO Feels the Heat on Earth Day

21. McDonald’s Incomplete Black Friday Tweet

McDonald’s Twitter was set to post a message about Black Friday deals. Instead, the tweet read: “Black Friday ***need copy and link****. It looks like the placeholder went out rather than the actual tweet. Oddly enough, the error attracted more attention than the correct tweet probably would have gotten in the first place. Maybe it was for the best!

22. Dolce & Gabbana Loses Its Chinese Audience

The fashion brand released an ad showing a Chinese woman trying to eat Italian food with chopsticks. It sparked media backlash, and several stores dropped Dolce & Gabbana. They had to cancel their Shanghai show and explained that they had “much to learn.” Maybe they’ll have better luck in 2023.

Dolce & Gabbana Loses Its Chinese Audience

23. Wendy’s Sends the Wrong Message

Wendy’s Twitter is cheeky and has some savage responses. Yet it was over when they posted an image of Pepe the Frog. The meme has evolved to represent white supremacy, so its inclusion on Wendy’s Twitter sparked outrage. The restaurant chain blamed the lack of digital awareness on their community manager.

24. Chick-Fil-A Could Use A Geography Lesson

A fan tweeted at the restaurant asking for a North Pole, Alaska store. Yes, that town does exist. Chick-fil-A responded by saying that they weren’t currently expanding beyond North America. It’s too bad Alaska is in North America.

25. The New York Times Unique View on Millennials

The nationally-recognized newspaper had a significant error in its online article about President Trump’s trade claims. The Paper’s editor used a joke browser extension called “Millennials to Snake People.” The result was a digital article that referred to young people as serpents. Readers were downright perplexed while reading this.

Social Media Fails: The Worst Common Offenders

While everyone messes up online occasionally, some mistakes are hard to forget. This is a list of the worst offenders regarding funny social media fails. Businesses and individuals alike should try to avoid these at all costs.

1. Posting Off-Brand Content

Many companies use Paper. Li will add engaging digital content for their audience. Nonetheless, a simple slip-up can lead to off-brand illustrations and stories. For TheOrganicView, this was a crucial mistake. Instead of reposting helpful nutrition news, they shared a story about a child molester.

2. An Egocentric Point of View

S.J. Magazine messed up when they shared news about their Women’s Empowerment Series. The theme was Women in Business: A Man’s Point of View. Viewers were quick to point out that nothing was empowering about that. The magazine ended up canceling the series after receiving tons of emails about it.

3. Platforms Aren’t Created Equal

Even those who aren’t social media experts know that each platform works differently. Therefore, people can’t post the same format on each channel. When a business takes its Facebook content and puts it on Twitter, it screams laziness.

4. A Warning About Facebook Ads

It’s essential to understand the product that’s being promoted. It was a disaster when Corvette used Facebook Ads to build hype around their new model. The ad stated that the car was just $15,000. The car brand could’ve found itself selling Corvettes at a $45,000 discount.

5. Gotta Keep Up With Schedules

The Internet can be a tough place. Viewers can get nasty if a brand doesn’t meet its upload schedule. McDonald’s dropped the ball when its placeholder text was accidentally tweeted publicly. It’s so important to keep ahead of those posting schedules.

6. Ad Compliance and Trustworthiness

When companies don’t stick to ad compliance, they end up with lots of angry customers. Chevrolet advertised their Corvette at a special price but failed to explain the terms and conditions. They could have included a link instead to increase click-through rates.

7. Poor Copy

Everyone has seen Facebook posts or tweets that lack any common sense. If writing is not a strong suit, hire someone to write the content. Otherwise, it makes a business look foolish and can hurt its sales.

8. Misrepresentation is the Worst

Failing to portray different groups in the proper light spells misfortune for everyone. When Miele posted for International Women’s Day, they showed an image that undermined the 1950s housewife stereotype. It was neither empowering nor classy. They deleted it.

9. Focus on a Featured Image

Sometimes, businesses fail to set up a featured image for their articles. Or, they don’t pay attention to what that picture is. Then, when they share it online, it distracts from the piece’s content. A brand did this with a news story, but the featured pic was the writer.

10. Double Check, Then Triple Check

Automobile sales trainer Alan Ram died tragically in a plane crash. He had a regular segment on a show that featured a fiery backdrop. It was an unfortunate coincidence, but CBT News should have changed the background before showing his picture while explaining his death.

FAQ Section

How to Recover From A Social Media PR Disaster?

Sometimes, brands post broken links, or their jokes miss the mark. But, there are five major mistakes: the early release, the false reward, the hack, the inappropriate opinion, and the insensitive statement. Never post content that misrepresents the business, points fun at serious issues, or offers fake promises. Recovering can take time, but the first step is apologizing. Try to humanize the brand and be upfront and honest. Then, stick to safe content to rebuild trust. Consumers are more likely to respond positively to companies that opt for transparency. It sure doesn’t help businesses to cover up their errors.

Should A Company Share Negative Experience With Others?

Yes. Consumers expect transparency and honesty. Businesses that own their mistakes as soon as possible have a greater chance of recovery. If negativity does pop up on a company’s feed, they should keep it there and respond appropriately. Deleting them provokes the audience and brings more backlash. Don’t sweep things under the rug! Sharing a negative experience shows that there are natural persons behind the brand. Be true to the apology and explain how the company works to improve things. It’s not guaranteed that the crowd will be 100% forgiving, but they’ll appreciate that an effort was made to make things right.

Digital Marketing Rules Summary

The main takeaway is that if something seems off, don’t share it. Brands, in particular, need to be careful with what they post. Running it by several people is an excellent way to get different perspectives. Use this list as an example of what not to do. When mistakes do happen, be open and honest about them. For even more organizations, try a social media automation tool or scheduler. Finally, when in doubt, be sure to play it safe.

Are you familiar with these fails, or has your brand done anything similar? Come clean in the comments below, or share when you witnessed an epic online fail.

Published: March 16, 2024Updated: March 16, 2024

Matt Robinson

Matt Robinson

Matt is an experienced technical writer and translator skilled in writing targeted texts for a variety of audiences. He has a diversified background, including social media management of various products. He is a data-driven strategist and a passionate story-teller. He posts about all social innovations and delivers high-quality research and content to our readers.


Leave a comment