Twitter is a powerful tool for brands to directly interact with fans, build relationships with customers and keep people in the loop.
It’s also a place where it’s incredibly easy to fail.
Marketing campaigns can blow up in a hurry. Hashtags can be hijacked, attempts at humour can backfire and misuse of the medium can invoke outrage.
Every single tweet that a brand sends out can make a big impact, because of the intrinsically viral nature of Twitter. If there’s something scandalous, there’s nowhere to hide, and it’s easy for people to voice their opinions.
Qantas fired up a seemingly innocent Twitter campaign featuring the hashtag #QantasLuxury, asking folks to share their tales of being pampered on the airline.
But the timing couldn't have been worse. Qantas' entire fleet was grounded just a day earlier because of a labour dispute, and its customers were angry. They took the hashtag and railed on the company with a huge wave of snarky and sarcastic tweets.
Qantas did its best to roll with the punches, making light of the situation and joking around.
McDonald's learned first hand that you can't control hashtags. If the masses choose to, they can hijack a hashtag any time they want.
That's what happened with the brand's #McDStories hashtag. Put out there along with its #MeetTheFarmers hashtag, McDonald's meant to promote the quality of its suppliers.
Well, that didn't work at all. People used the hashtag to tell the entirely wrong types of stories that McDonald's wanted.
Jenny Craig prompted backlash from consumers on social media platforms after sponsoring Kyle Sandilands' radio show -- a host who became notorious after making sexist comments.
Then it made a big mistake, and tried to defend its actions on Twitter. People just became even more irate and railed on the company with the hashtag #jennycraig.
Finally, Jenny Craig tried to tame them by pulling its advertising from the show and starting a hashtag #tellkylewhatyouthink to deflect the outcry. It never caught on.
Vodafone gave itself a PR headache after an employee sent out an obscene, homophobic tweet from its official account
Vodafone's followers were shocked to see an obscene tweet in their stream from the brand's official account. The company received hundreds of complaints immediately and the media picked it up. Vodafone quickly had a crisis to manage.
The initial assumption was that the brand's account got hacked, but it turns out that the tweet was sent out by one of its own staff. Whatever Vodafone's checks are regarded account access, they weren't enough, but at least it was transparent about what happened.
The employee was later suspended.
Kenneth Cole's Twitter mishap actually came from the man himself. He tweeted an insensitive joke about the revolution in Egypt with the #Cairo hashtag (that was trending at the time).
People weren't amused, and the Twitterverse spent the rest of the day railing on Cole and his brand.
He later deleted the tweet and apologized. humour can be a great tool for marketers to connect with their audience, but when a joke doesn't stick, it's easy to get burned.
Whoever was running Chrysler's official Twitter account made a big mistake when they tweeted out a snarky driving rant complete with an F-bomb to its followers.
The person behind the tweet worked for Chrysler's agency, New Media Strategies, and was promptly canned. Chrysler later apologized for the errant tweet.
Later, Chrysler announced that it wouldn't be renewing New Media Strategies' contract.
Amber Karnes tweeted a blog post that accused Urban Outfitters of stealing designs from artists without credit, and the brand handled it terribly.
Its only immediate response was a single tweet, which said: 'Hey guys, we see your tweets regarding the I Heart Destination necklace. Please know that our accessories buying team is looking into this.' It wasn't anywhere near enough to address the issue, and things ramped up.
Three hours after the initial tweet, the brand had lost 17,000 followers and both #urbanoutfitters and #thieves were trending. Oops.
The social media marketers at Entenmann's tweeted out a message with the #notguilty hashtag, asking its followers how they feel about indulging in treats. It was an innocent gesture.
What was the problem? It was the day of the verdict of Casey Anthony's trial. #notguilty was already trending, and folks saw the tweet as completely insensitive.
Entenmann's quickly realised its mistake, deleted the tweet and apologized.
Furniture retailer Habitat's debacle came back in 2009 when its Twitter account spammed a bunch of trending topics to boost traffic, and its followers didn't appreciate it much.
The worst offending tweet was a promo that used the #MOUSAVI hashtag, taking advantage of what was going on in Iran at the time.
Habitat would later say that the addition of the hashtags were not approved, and apologized.
Bing decided to run a campaign to raise money for earthquake victims in Japan, but it backfired big time.
Why? Bing said it would donate $1 for every retweet it got, and that didn't sit well with people. They perceived it as an exploitative marketing campaign to promote the brand.
The backlash was rapid. Someone started the #fuckbing hashtag for people to use to bash the brand. Bing later apologized (sort of) and donated the full $100,000.
A quartet of cartoon characters released by RIM was meant as a fun graphic, but ended up putting the company up for widespread ridicule.
People took to Twitter and used the #BeBold hashtag to rail on RIM, and it got out of control quickly. The anti-RIM tweets were mostly limited to management criticism and sarcastic Blackberry jokes.
Marc Jacobs' Twitter account got compromised when someone claiming to be an intern started ranting about the company's CEO
Someone who seemed to be a disgrunted employee went off on a rant about Marc Jacobs CEO Robert Duffy on the company's official Twitter account.
The brand was looking for a replacement for Duffy, who had run the Twitter account until six weeks prior, and had an intern temporarily manage it until a full-time replacement could be found. He called Duffy a 'tyrant,' and said the job was way too stressful.
The tweets were deleted shortly after they were put up.
Someone at the American Red Cross accidentally tweeted a personal message on the nonprofit's official Twitter account that was, while harmless, pretty unprofessional.
The American Red Cross responded well to quell any potential PR issues by using self-depricating humour. It tweeted a follow-up saying, 'We've deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we've confiscated the keys.'
Dogfish Head, the beer brand mentioned in the tweet, got involved too. It used the #gettngslizzerd hashtag to encourage donations to the Red Cross.
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