If you’re like the nearly one in five Americans who use Twitter, chances are you’ve come across some less than discerning tweets. Sure, Twitter gives some dim-witted individuals a public platform to spew offensive remarks or harass celebrities and athletes. But sometimes those that are guilty of sending out cringe-inducing tweets aren’t just regular individuals who are a few screws short of a hardware store. Sometimes, they’re the PR and marketing professionals tasked with managing a company’s brand.
So, because everyone loves a good Twitter PR fail, here are five that are sure to make you question some companies’ hiring practices.
Bing uses Japan earthquake to promote its account
Following the 2011 megathrust earthquake in Japan, support poured in from around the world from businesses, governments, and charitable organizations alike. Coverage of the devastating earthquake dominated the news and trended worldwide across social networking sites. Bing, Microsoft’s recently launched search engine, decided to capitalize on the tragedy to drum up some retweets with this status update:
Bing’s Twitter account generated much buzz, but not the kind Microsoft wanted. The ensuing backlash called out Bing’s lack of judgement and deemed the blunder to be one of the worst Twitter campaigns of all time. In the end, Bing apologized (sort of) and donated the full $100,000 that it had originally dangled for retweets.
Two strikes for Kenneth Cole
In February 2011, as the Arab spring raged in Egypt, designer Kenneth Cole tried to attach his brand to the trending topic by sending out this tweet:
The faux pas was followed by a personal statement from Kenneth Cole himself, apologizing for his insensitivity.
History repeats itself for Mr. Cole, however, as he pulled a similar gaffe earlier this year, this time regarding the situation in Syria. Shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry announced the U.S. intervention in Syria would not require “boots on the ground,” Kenneth Cole couldn’t resist the chance to discuss footwear:
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Kenneth Cole’s blunders don’t come in threes.
McDonald’s attempt at getting Twitter followers to share their favorite #McDStories went awry when users hijacked the hashtag to tweet their own McDonald’s horror stories. Instead of heartwarming tweets about first dates, childhood memories, and breakfast traditions, McDonald’s was inundated with tales of food poisoning, poor service, and quality control nightmares.
Golf Channel’s #DreamDay
On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the Golf Channel tried to make itself relevant by piggybacking off the trending topic, #DreamDay by asking its followers this:
The tweet was taken down only 20 minutes later – about the amount of time it took for someone at the Golf Channel to have a near-heart attack when they caught wind of this lapse in judgement.
Kmart and the Sandy Hook tragedy
Perhaps the most stomach-churning fail of all comes from Kmart who used the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as an opportunity to sneak their hashtag in among those related to the tragedy.
Kmart quickly apologized and shutdown the #Fab15Toys chat, but the damage was done as the Twittersphere voiced their disgust with the retail giant.