Brand Arc’s Top Social Turkeys of 2012 – Happy Thanksgiving!

While many of you are in the throws of preparing a big, beautiful Thanksgiving meal for family and friends, we thought we’d take this opportunity to highlight a few of 2012’s most memorable social media failures in order to see what there is to be learned from this year’s biggest turkeys.

1) The Gap’s Hashtag Takeover

Click HERE for the entire story, but what happened was The Gap hijacked the #HurricaneSandy hashtag and tried to turn it into a shopping advertisement, which negatively came across as an insensitive and opportunistic use of the trending hashtag. The misuse of hashtags was also number one on The BrainYard’s list of 2012 social mishaps, citing The Gap as one of the biggest brand offenders, in addition to a few others (e.g. CelebBoutique’s #Aurora incident). The lesson here?  Just because a hashtag is trending does not mean you should use it to gain visibility. If you are going to use a trending hashtag, understanding the context of that hashtag is a must.

2) The NRA’s Pre-Scheduled Tweet Blunder

For the entire story click HERE, but what happened here was shortly after the news of the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado broke, the NRA published the tweet pictured above. It later came out that tweet was published through HootSuite, a program that allows users to schedule tweets in advance, however, the Twitter community was outraged by the NRA’s obvious ignorance of current events and the NRA ended up completely deleting their Twitter account. The lesson: Sometimes it’s not what you say in a social media post, but rather, when you say it. Also, if you’re going to use a scheduler for your posts, staying on top of current social events and reacting appropriately is a must.

3) The Kitchen-Aid User Error

Click HERE for the full story, but this incident involves a Kitchen Aid social media employee who forgot to switch to their personal account before tweeting their personal opinion about the 2012 Presidential election (see tweet above). The lesson here is simple: If you’re the social media administrator of multiple accounts, double and triple check which account you are posting from. Even if you realize your mistake in seconds, in a world where instantaneous screengrabs exist, there is no such thing as delete.

So, in honor of Thanksgiving, be thankful none of these social media fiascoes happened to your brand. Secondly, remember that companies that treat social like a process, instead of a living, breathing thing, with needs that change by the minute and hour, are more likely to make mistakes.  AMC Theatres is a great example of a brand thinking on their toes and reacting instantly to a great social media opportunity. When Oreo asked it’s Twitter followers if they brought cookies into their movie theater, AMC quickly fired back with this clever tweet:

Lastly, if there’s one thing the lasting (and potentially damaging) effects of social media has shown us, it’s that community managers and brand marketers must not only monitor their own messaging, but also be constantly aware of social events and prepared to react to controversy.  Meaning, for many of the brands we mentioned above, it wasn’t so much the content of their message that bothered people, so much as the ill-timed posting of their message. Remember, with the current state of social media and technology, it is almost impossible to “take-back” what you’ve put out into the social universe. Therefore, it’s important for brands to be consistently aware of current world news and social events in order to manage how they might effect their social media messaging.


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