9 Tweets That Were Big Mistakes

Ash Jurberg

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Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

I was recently teaching my 13-year-old sons about the use of social media. They have avoided TikTok (“that’s only for dancing!”), and Facebook (“for old people”) and have now expressed an interest in Twitter.

We discussed this and the need to be careful online with what you post and how you interact with others. There are a myriad of reasons — safety, trolls, future employment — and we sat down to look at some examples of bad tweets.

What was surprising is that many of them come from the social media accounts of big companies — that should know better.

Just as teenage boys need to be aware of what they tweet so should the social media managers of these organizations.

1. New England Patriots

The Patriots launched a campaign in 2014 to become the first National Football League team to reach a million followers using the #1MILLIONPATRIOTS.

They had an automatic system in place to mention the one-millionth follower in a thank you tweet to all their fans. Unfortunately for them they mistakenly tweeted the handle of a racist account that went out to all of their followers. To double up on their mistake, they also had a jersey mocked up with the racist’s Twitter handle.

Marketing lesson: Automated activity still needs to be checked before going live.

2. DiGiorno Pizza

Brands often jump on popular topics and trending issues on Twitter. This can backfire if not done appropriately as DiGiorno Pizza learned.

Raising awareness of domestic violence was the aim of the #WhyIStayed campaign. This encouraged victims to shed light on their own ordeals and the pains of being in an abusive relationship.

For some reason, DiGiorno saw this as a perfect opportunity to tweet this:

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The insensitive tweet deservedly caused ire and DiGiorno deleted their campaign and apologized. How they thought they could use domestic violence as an opportunity to sell pizzas is puzzling.

Marketing lesson: Pick which trending topics or campaigns to leverage on your social media and ensure it is a good fit for your brand.

3. Chrysler

Many social media managers spend the day switching between their work and personal accounts. If not paying full attention, this can lead to disaster — which happened to Chrysler.

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Chrysler swiftly laid the blame on their agency and they were immediately fired.

Marketing lesson: Check which account you’re using before posting.

4. American Apparel

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Wanting to celebrate July 4, the marketing team at this well-known fashion brand used the picture above with the hashtags smoke and clouds. They obviously thought the image was quite striking and represented fireworks.

Unfortunately for them, the picture was of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger which exploded after take off.

Twitter users were quick to point out the inappropriate image they used, with American Apparel removing the image but only after blaming their young marketing department.

“The image was re-blogged in error by one of our international social media employees who was born after the tragedy and was unaware of the event,” American Apparel stated.

An unfortunate tweet and to be honest, a poor excuse.

Marketing lesson: Check the source of an image before using it. Don’t always trust the image library you are sourcing from.

5. KFC

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The team at KFC Australia wanted to promote its new “hot and spicy” food range. There can be some sexual innuendo based on hot and spicy, and these marketers thought it best to use that as a way of humor. They used the #NSFW — not suitable for work.

KFC is a family brand and targets the family market, so using this angle wasn’t a good strategy. In fact, the tweet was up for less than an hour as the complaints came flooding in.

A standard apology from KFC followed. “We are very sorry this occurred — we didn’t mean to offend and removed the post as soon as we realized we’d made an error in judgment.”

Marketing lesson: You still need to adhere to the brand values and image on social media. If it is a family brand — tweets should be family-friendly.

6. Kenneth Cole

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2011 saw political unrest and protests in Egypt, leading to the Arab Spring. Kenneth Cole, creator and CEO of the fashion brand named after himself, made light of this situation to promote his new spring clothing collection.

He apologized but had past form in using current events in bad taste, reflecting on 9/11 by saying, “Important moments like this are a time to reflect… To remind us, sometimes, that it’s not only important what you wear, but it’s also important to be aware.”

Marketing lesson: Don’t try and use tragic events to promote your brand.

7. Microsoft & Oprah

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Back in 2012, Oprah Winfrey had 15 million Twitter followers, so Microsoft was keen to use her to promote the Microsoft Surface.

It seems, however, that Oprah may prefer their competitor, Apple, judging by the iPad she used for her tweet.

Marketing lesson: When getting a celebrity to endorse a product, ensure they use your product and not your competition’s.

8. Durex South Africa

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This tweet from the South African office of the condom brand defies belief. Using sexist humor that even a schoolboy would find offensive is appalling.

Marketing lesson: I mean, this one is just obvious.

9. Pepsi

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This one isn’t a tweet — but being a big football fan, I felt compelled to add it.

Leading up to a World Cup qualifying match between Sweden and Portugal, the marketing team at Pepsi Sweden ran a Facebook campaign using Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo voodoo-dolls. They placed the dolls in various bad situations such as the one above.

Taking on their hero was never going to go down well in Portugal and within 24 hours of the campaign release over 130,000 had joined a Facebook group — Nunca Mais Vou Beber Pepsi — I Will Never Drink Pepsi Again.

Pepsi apologized and ended the poorly conceived campaign.

The ironic twist to this was that Portugal beat Sweden in the match 3–2 and Ronaldo scored all three goals.

So it was a fail for both Pepsi and Sweden!

Marketing and life lesson: Don’t give the world’s best footballer added ammunition before he plays your team!

I am hoping that my two sons have a better sense when on Twitter than the companies above.

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