5 Lessons from Companies Who Failed on Social Media | Chillibyte
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5 Lessons from Companies Who Failed on Social Media

5 Lessons from Companies Who Failed on Social Media

There have been some golden social media fails over the past 10 years. Tweeting from the wrong account, posting a private message as a public post, and having a bot run your responses can damage your company reputation.

Whilst some businesses commit social media fails that make us cringe or laugh, some can offend the masses or touch upon sensitive subjects. Below we have outlined some of the worst social media fails in history and lessons that can be learnt from each.

British Airways

Back in October 2016, whoever was in charge of the British Airways Facebook account was most likely handed their P45. Don’t get me wrong, we all love a bargain, but accidentally promoting your competitor’s sales post is a bit awkward. It didn’t really help when the error wasn’t spotted and Virgin Atlantic responded with ‘Thanks British Airways! So kind of you to share! #onethingweagreeon #flyvirginatlantic’ ouch. British Airways made a further blunder when they edited their original post to say ‘Finally we agree on something except for how to get there #FlyBAtoLondon.’

Valuable Lesson: quadruple check everything you post in-house or for your client. If you make an error, delete as appropriate.


Bic’s South African arm royally messed up a couple of years ago. Their social media advertising campaign rolled out during the South African Women’s Day holiday but was not doing gender equality any favours. The slogan contained ‘think like a man’. What a way to empower your countrywomen Bic South Africa. The company delivered a weak apology of “We can assure you that we meant it in the most empowering way possible and in no way derogatory towards women.” By this point it was a little too late and Bic had alienated customers not only with the messy campaign but the half-hearted apology.

                                                                                                                  Valuable Lesson: when you mess up, apologise and move on.

American Apparel

It’s 4th July 2014 and American Apparel’s social media team are utilising their platforms for the celebration. One member of the team shared an image showing plumes of smoke, assuming it to be the Grand Old Flag fireworks celebration. What they had actually posted was an iconic image from the Challenger space shuttle disaster of 1986 when all seven astronauts lost their lives. Once the comments of shock and disbelief started rolling in, American Apparel removed the image immediately and put out a sincere apology.

Valuable Lesson: do not just select images at random from the internet.

Seattle Seahawks

#InternationalPizzaDay, go for it! #InternationalPuppyDay, be my guest! But try and stay away from trending hashtags or national holidays if you are utilising them for personal gain. The Seattle Seahawks evidently didn’t get the memo when they tweeted an image of a tearful Russell Wilson with a Martin Luther King quote superimposed over the top. It was Martin Luther King Day so they also made sure to use #MLKDay. Distasteful didn’t quite cut it and even die-hard Seahawks fans were appalled at their social media team for trying to make a personal gain out of the federal holiday.

Valuable Lesson: don’t utilise every trending hashtag or holiday.


A documentary was released in 2013 titled Blackfish. Essentially, it was an expose on SeaWorld and the scandal surrounding their captive killer whales. The film had a negative impact on SeaWorld and in a bid to win fans back, they invited anybody on Twitter to engage in a question and answer session using the hashtag #AskSeaWorld. Inevitably, the world wasn’t fooled and the minute PETA got involved it was game over for SeaWorld. Countless disapproving people and animal rights activists took to Twitter with their own hashtag, #EmptyTheTanks.

Valuable Lesson: be careful when openly inviting social media users to ask questions.


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