Top eight corporate Twitter disasters

Following on from British Gas' social media screw-up yesterday, we thought we'd look at some of the other tantalisingly bad corporate social calamities.

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 14 Nov 2013

What were they thinking? Usually when a company is about to deliver incredibly unpopular news to the masses, it tries to avoid a public bloodbath by keeping its head down. British Gas decided to do quite the opposite – at the exact time when it was announcing a hefty 9.2% price hike – it started a Twitter Q&A, #AskBG.

Take aim…FIRE! Cue a very public pelting. Poor Bert Pijls.
Here are the best bits from yesterday:


British Gas is hardly the first company to suffer the indignant shame of having a well-meaning social media campaign go horribly wrong. It’s actually a pretty common thing.
Feast your sadistic, social media crazed eyes on these:

1. Waitrose – a very middle-class social mishap

In 2012, Waitrose launched a promotional campaign asking its customers to finish the sentence ‘I shop at Waitrose because…’ Hilarity ensued.


The supermarket handled it pretty well:  ‘We like to hear what people think. We’ve thanked everyone for the genuine and funny tweets,’ blushed a spokesperson.

2. McDonalds – fast food fiasco

At the start of 2012, McDonalds decided it wanted to spread Maccy D good news and get customers to share their happy (meal) stories using #McDStories.
Customers shared their stories alright. But not the ones the fast food giant would have hoped for.

3. Urban Outfitters and American Apparel – tactless tastemakers

These two clothing brands have quite a lot in common. They are both favoured by the hipsters of the world, both pretty overpriced and they both saw Hurricane Sandy as a marketing opportunity. America didn’t see the funny side. These two tweets prompted a barrage of complaints and some big apologies from the clothing stores.

4. Snickers – celeb-led snafus

Snickers enlisted Katie Price and Rio Ferdinand to send some alarmingly out of character tweets (Price tweeted about the economy, Ferdinand said he was going to knit a cardigan).
These were followed up with tweeted pics of the celebs eating Snickers bars accompanies with the slogan: ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry.’ Clever you might think. But it caused outrage among the pair’s legions of fans and prompted an OFT investigation.

5. Friends Reunited – Losing friends and alienating people

Friends Reunited saw the horrendous terror attack on the streets of Woolwich earlier this year as a chance to post pictures of a happier Woolwich. A tad facetious in the light of how horrified the country was by the event.

6. Susan Boyle – ain’t no party like a Susan party

The marketing whizzkids behind Susan Boyle’s album launch must have been delighted with themselves when they came up with the hashtag they wanted to use for the promotion. Unfortunately they didn’t notice a glaring problem with stringing those words together.
We can’t confirm whether Susan’s party had more or fewer attendees than anticipated.

7. NatWest – Unhelpful banking

In June 2012, NatWest’s online services went down – leaving many without access to their accounts. Naturally, disgruntled customers took to Twitter to vent their frustrations. Instead of answering customers’ concerns, NatWest did a stellar impression of an ostrich and buried its head – refusing to answer tweets. This didn’t go down too well…

8. Sweden – Socially active citizens

The Swedish tourist board was clearly musing over whether or not people from outside ‘got’ it – fully understood what Sweden was all about. The board had the idea of letting a different ordinary Swede take over its Twitter account each week with unsurprisingly precarious results.


Marketing Misc

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