3 Silly and Sinister Social Fails to Learn From - Social Media Explorer
3 Silly and Sinister Social Fails to Learn From
3 Silly and Sinister Social Fails to Learn From

Filled with intrigue, interest, love, lust, war, and endless trolls, there’s no conceivable way for a brand to thrive online without a decent handle on social media. And frankly many don’t.

But why? A recent (think: two seconds ago) Google search popped up 89,200,00 results for the phrase “social media tips for business.” A wild stab through the web often leads to watered down and contradictory “expert” tips, so what’s a marketer to do to gain traction?

With 91 percent of retail brands using at least two active social media accounts, allocating around 20 percent of their marketing budgets (up 13 percent from just last year)– one social media mishap can spell disaster.

1. One Whoopi of a Twitter Fail

As the top visited site in the world, Facebook should be the dominant social platform for the biggest Fortune 500 juggernauts, right? Think again, because only 20 Fortune 500 companies actually engage with their customers on Facebook. However, a whopping 83 percent engage regularly and heavily on Twitter.

Facebook is essential of course (more on that later), but Twitter is the go-to place for casual, all-access chats. But the fast-paced nature and real-time response mean the social teams can tend to cut crucial fact-checking corners. Whether it’s careless oversight or an attempt to build controversial buzz, the brands below tweeted their way to infamy.

The Sinister Fail: Total Beauty Fatally Forgets a Famous Face

Oprah, the Oscars, glitz and glamor should be the perfect recipe for a trendy tweet. Instead, the magazine Total Beauty destroyed their reputation in 140 characters or less. With a celebrity as ubiquitous Oprah, it seems like it would be hard to mess up.

The tweet itself doesn’t seem terrible at first, simply reading “We had no idea @Oprah was #tatted, and we love it. #Oscars.”



Innocuous enough. Unfortunately, the attached image clearly features Whoopi Goldberg looking nothing like Oprah. This sort of sheer ignorance is irredeemable and really highlights the need for social teams to include an editor overseeing each post before publication. Total Beauty’s fans became outraged, and they haven’t been able to live it down since.

The Big Takeaway:

Mistakes can be made, typos happen, but to create the kind of shareable content that creates positive buzz– always use a second pair of informed eyes. Most novice tweeters don’t realize that more than 90 percent of unhappy customers won’t do business willingly again. Just one sentence sent a sweeping blow to Total Beauty’s fan base.


2. Even the Pros Can’t Get Pinterest Right

In 2015, Pew Research reported that Pinterest surpassed Twitter in popularity. Even more exciting for marketers, Pinterest inspired three times more inbound traffic than Google +, YouTube, Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and Reddit combined. While the other social juggernauts may have more users and inter-platform engagement, Pinterest still holds the most potential to drive eyes directly to your site. According to Shopify, whether it’s a national brand with an in-house design team, or a local start-up that used a savvy website maker; Pinterest users are thirsty to explore any alluring new site.

From scrapbooking ideas, to recipes to weight lifting advice (men are now the fastest growing demographic on Pinterest , Pinterest has the charm to woo just about anyone; assuming they take the steps to tailor their pins.

The Silly Fail: Even Ninjas Can Pin A Little Too Sneakily

Luckily, this case study is a little less heated than the others (not all fails lead to feuds!). While Pinterest’s platform makes it a little less difficult to accidentally create your own offensive or controversial content, minor mistakes can still add up to major fails. The insightful and informative blogger, “Dave,” from NinjaOutreach learned this the hard way.

Ninja has some great content, and relevant pins on their own page, but failed to make their content visible when pinned and shared by other interested parties. The staff at Marketing Artfully and other blogosphere fans attempted to re-pin the content, but failed at making any waves. The image specs and intro copy all-but disappeared in a sea of larger, more colorful and evocative teaser copy– rendering wonderful content all but invisible to fans.

The Big Takeaway:

Adjust your image and teaser copy accordingly. While the good people at Ninja created a perfect thumbnail and teaser-text for Twitter and Facebook, they did not optimize for Pinterest’s more visual appeal. In order to maximize the traffic-generating power of Pinterest, keep a detailed eye out for spec and copy options. It might take a couple moments longer, but if that means catching the eyes of loyal new fans, well come on!

3. Applebee’s Needs to Check Themselves, Because They Went and Wrecked Themselves

The mighty Facebook should be seen as a platform to nonchalantly entice your customer/ fan base with relevant content, not blast with ads and arguments. B2B spotlight report recently aggregated more than 600 surveys and unveiled that the top three most successful ways to market content are: blogging (65 percent), social media (64 percent) and case studies (64 percent).

If Twitter is the place for more personalized updates, then Facebook is the place to broadcast more focused, fan-facing content that draws traffic back to inspired content. Instead, sometimes even major brands can get defensive.

The Sinister Fail: Facebook is For Friends, Not Feuds

There is a good chance readers are already familiar with this example, and are also familiar with many restaurants’ policies regarding automatic gratuity for parties exceeding a certain number of people. In this case, a disgruntled Applebee’s server posted an image of a check for a large party: the diner crossed out the gratuity, wrote a big fat zero instead, and noted “I give god 10% why do you get 18?”


Whether you see this as rude is irrelevant, every server has their fair share of less-than-optimal customers. Posts like these always stir up controversy, but Applebee’s took it to the next level when they fired the server. After the termination was revealed, Applebee’s took to Facebook defiantly defending their actions, drawing more than 10,000 negative comments.

The Big Takeaway:

Instead of behaving like a remotely professional mega-brand, they continued to post the same snide defense over and over again. Sure, Applebee’s might see themselves as too big to “fail,” but that doesn’t mean they didn’t most likely lose millions in the meantime.

Why? Simple. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs reports that for every single negative comment a customer makes publicly, 26 other customers feel the same, even if they don’t speak up. For America’s “friendly neighborhood place,” one bad apple planted up to 260,000 profit-cutting seeds.


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About the Author

Nik Donovic
Nik Donovic has been involved in all facets of online marketing for about half a decade and enjoys being able to share his expertise about current topics and trends facing online marketing, with topics such as content marketing, social media, and increasing inbound traffic.

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