Social Media Epic Fail Award 2012 … and the winner is….

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No matter how much you plan for something, things tend not to go according to plan.

Today is all about having fun and gaining insights from some campaigns, tweets, and situations that went horribly wrong this year. After the laughs settle, the hope is that it will help all of us avoid similar situations for the coming year.

You ready? Let’s count it down to our first ever Social Media Epic Fail Award 2012.

10. Charter 

Coming in at number 10 is Charter who decided to pull the plug on their customer support on social media a few weeks ago. Doing that will not help Charter as customers will continue to WANT customer support on any social networking sites they choose. In doing so, Charter forgets one of the most crucial and basic rules in business – where there is Demand, there is Opportunity. Remember the saying, the customer is ALWAYS right?

9. Oracle Social

Oracle Social, after having acquired a couple of companies under their belt, decided to combine the Facebook pages of those companies into one. As they could not predict how quickly the transition of the pages would be, they didn’t post any information on their Facebook page about the transition. A number of people, myself included, soon found out that we suddenly liked a new page and unfamiliar page – questioning if it was a virus or spam page – and at the same time doubting Oracle Social’s credibility. Oh did i mention they told people they would would explain everything in a WEEK TIME?


8. Acura  

What continues to be one of the biggest mistakes in social media? LAZY automation. That is what Acura did when they used 10 different Twitter accounts to send tweets to people using a particular hashtag of an event inviting them to a VIP area.

That means that even if I am in Asia and the event is in the US, if I so happen to use the hashtag to chat with a friend there I would get an invitation to the event as well. The problem is you will not know who you’re sending the message out to! Acura is lucky that their very lazy automation strategy was only to send an invite. Imagine what would happen if your company sent out automated tweets to a group of people that happens to be sensitive about it.

Acura gets the number 8 spot deservedly – but it could have been much, much worse.

7. Radio Head Concert 

Hot on the heels of a lazy marketing strategy is our not-so-lucky number 7. Number 7 is a fine example of how lazy automation could be much worse.

Radio Head had a lot of its fans confused and distraught at the automated message that its official promoter @LiveNationON sent out prior to the concert.  Live Nation Ontario scheduled a tweet asking those who attended to share Instagram photos of the show.


Unfortunately, by that time the concert stage had collapsed and the show was cancelled. Live Nation had forgotten that they scheduled the tweet earlier. Look what laziness can do to your business.

6. Kitchen Aid

Your personal views may not be the view of your business and sometimes you need to learn that the hard way. Stupidity is the key to our Number Six because someone who manages Kitchen Aid USA’s Twitter sent out a joke about President Barack Obama’s grandmother who passed away a few days before the presidential debate. The unfortunate employee wanted to post the insensitive message using his personal Twitter account but fate decided otherwise.


 5. Paradigm Mall

Know why you shouldn’t hire interns to manage your social media activities? Well that is what happened to Paradigm Mall – a new shopping complex in Malaysia – who had the embarrassing debacle of having to have its GM apologize publicly for a poorly handled customer service enquiry.

After a customer posted their frustrations on Paradigm Mall’s Facebook page, one of their annoyed team members decided to respond to the post in a sarcastic manner, telling customers that they couldn’t solve problems instantly…as they do not know magic and could not snap their fingers to solve problems.

Paradigm gets the number 5 spot only because it is not as big a brand name as the other contenders in this list. Also, we could argue that there are plenty of interns out there who are handling social media accounts very well – so maybe Paradigm Mall shouldn’t hire complete douchebags to run their social media show for them instead.

 4. McDStories

Earlier this year, McDonalds launched a Twitter hashtag campaign #McDStories hoping it would inspire McDonalds’ fans to share stories about their experience. Instead of getting fun and heartwarming stories, fans who hated McDonalds decided to use the hashtag and share sarcastic tweets and their bad experience there instead. McDs gets the number 4 spot for their utter failure in realizing that theirs is not a five-star restaurant and completely overlooking the fact that social media can be a double-edged sword – something we all need to definitely learn before venturing into it.

3. NRA Rifleman 

While people are still terrified and shocked over what had happened during the Aurora shooting, which took the lives of 12 innocent people, NRA Rifle, not knowing what had happened on that fateful day, tweeted their followers the following:

Having had even more horrific and tragic incidents follow the Aurora shootings, NRA should stop pairing their ‘Good Morning’ greetings with any references to shooters.

2. Gap & Urban Outfitters

Did brands learn anything from Kenneth Cole in 2011? To refresh your memories, Kenneth Cole used the hashtage Cairo to tweet about their new spring collection as the uprising in Cairo was happening!

I guess some of us failed to learn from the backlash of such insensitivities because during the recent Hurricane Sandy, it’s best for brands to not selfishly use the hashtag to promote their business.


That is what a couple of brands decided to do, with Gap and Urban Outfitters facing embarrassing (but utterly deserved) backlashes when they decided to use hashtags of the hurricane to promote their business. Not a stroke of genius and only serves to prove utter selfishness.

1. Celeb Boutique Aurora

The first (and least coveted) place in our Social Media Epic Fail Award goes to Aurora Boutique! One of the silliest mistakes a brand or business can do is using a hashtag without finding out what it was about.

We saw it happened in 2011 when Entenmann used the hashtag: #NotGuilty without realizing that it is a hashtag used to tweet the Casey Anthony murder.

Aurora Boutique takes the top spot not only because of the silly mistake with their hashtag, but also how badly they tried to cover-up their mistake afterwards.

Mistake #1: Didn’t read what the hashtag was about

Aurora Boutique made headlines when they decided to use the hashtag: #Aurora to talk about their latest dress without knowing the tweet was about a shooting incident which took place and people were killed.

Mistake #2: Playing the blame game

What do you do when you make a huge mistake? You apologize. Profusely. That is what Aurora Boutique could have done better. They should have followed the example done by Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media (the company who manages Entenmann) to clear their name.

Instead, the company tweeted:

“We didn’t check what the trend was about hence the confusion, again we do apologise. We are incredibly sorry for our tweet about Aurora. Our PR is NOT US based and had not checked the reason for the trend; at that time our social media was totally UNAWARE of the situation and simply thought it was another trending topic. We have removed the very insensitive tweet and will of course take more care in future to look into what we say in our tweets. Again we do apologise for any offense caused. This was not intentional & will not occur again. Our most sincere apologies for both the tweet and situation. – CB””

The whole ‘apology’ just stinks of the blame game too much and their most sincere apologies were only for the ‘tweet’ and the ‘situation’ – one can only wonder what situation would that be? The tragic event or simply their tragic PR?

Hopefully this post will give us insights and lessons as we move forward to 2013. What do you think? Did I miss out on anything?

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