10 Social Media Fails to Avoid in 2021

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Brian Appleton
Brian Appleton



Chances are you’ve witnessed a social media fail sometime in the past year. It usually results from a sense of urgency, or a miscommunication that ignores common sense, all for the sake of gaining attention.

A person looks at a big brand's bad social media fail.

It's true: Follow just a bit of poorly-advised posting on social media, and you, too, can create your very own brand fail in a matter of minutes.

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Many brands are over-concerned with posting frequency and speed, and not concerned enough with tactics that ensure quality and proper context. A single spur-of-the-moment tweet can cause irreparable damage. And even after it's deleted, the examples below show that content on social media never truly dies -- so make sure you have a plan in place that establishes clear boundaries and best practices.

As proof, here are ten of the worst social media fails you might ever come across.

11 Social Media Fails to Avoid

1. Chase's Poem About Financial Woes

In 2019, Chase posted a #MondayMotivation tweet that aimed to encourage audiences to save money. However, it came off like the bank was teasing its audiences for bad spending habits.

Chase tweet about spending habits.


Then, the situation got worse for Chase when presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tweeted in reply.

Elizabeth Warren replies to chase fail tweet


2. IHOP's April Fools Rebranding

Leading up to April Fools Day 2018, IHOP announced on social media that it was rebranding from the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) to the International House of Burgers (IHOB).

People began tweeting criticisms for the brand while also making fun of the name. Even though the joke aimed to gain attention, it seemed like the reaction was pretty mixed and confused.

IHOB IHOP tweet replies

Because almost everyone knew IHOP was up to something, the joke fell flat despite its major online chatter. 

3. EA Posts the Most Downvoted Reddit Comment in History

A few years ago, Reddit gamers were discussing a pricing issue on a subreddit related to the EA game they were playing. These gamers felt like they had to spend more money on a game they'd already purchased to get to new levels. At this point, in an effort to do damage control, EA wrote a PR-like response to one of the Redditors explaining and standing by the pricing of the game.

EA comments on thread on Reddit

Redditors, who were more interested in solutions rather than excuses quickly downvoted the item. It soon was sent to the bottom of this subreddit becoming the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. 

4. Massachusetts' Bay Transit Authority Asks Audiences to Post "What They Love About It"

On Valentine's Day this year, the MBTA launched a contest asking Twitter audiences to tweet a 60-second video about something they loved about MBTA. Those who entered the contest could win a round-trip JetBlue flight for two.

MBTA Valentine's Day Tweet fail

At this point in time, the MBTA has dealt with major criticism related to fair increases and ongoing rail construction. Twitter users that enjoyed complaining about the MBTA swarmed to this tweet about a number of sarcastic replies stating what they "loved" about the system. Here's one great example:

Reply to MBTA Valentine's Day tweet

5. Rhode Island or Iceland?

Good intentions fell flat for the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation in 2016, when it made one grave error in a $5 million promotional video -- and used footage not of the great state itself, but instead, of Iceland.

The mistake went viral and gained far more attention than an Iceland-free version of the promotion would have, but it wasn’t exactly the type of publicity we imagine the bureau of tourism was hoping for.

Thanks to the social media skills of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, you can enjoy your very own private viewing of this social media fail.

6. Amazon Offers 10-cent Discount on PlayStation

In 2015, Amazon created #PrimeDay as its own corporate version of a Cyber Monday. Unfortunately, at that point, many of the discounts and offerings didn’t quite live up to consumer expectations -- and the hashtag went viral for all the wrong reasons.

One kicker came when Amazon offered a whopping $0.10 discount on the Sony PlayStation 4 Console. It didn’t take long for #PrimeDayFail to start trending on Twitter.

7. Apple's #bendgate

Any time a brand winds up with a trending hashtag that includes the word “gate” in it, you know there’s trouble.

In 2014, Apple released the iPhone 6 with great fanfare, with one of the most aggressively highlighted features being that the phone wouldn't bend under pressure in, say, your back pocket.

In a video that now has more than 69 million views, Unbox Therapy squashed Apple’s claims by demonstrating how easy it was to bend the iPhone 6. Once the damage was done there was no going back. A war of words promptly took place between avid Apple fans and detractors, garnering even more attention on social media. 



8. Greggs' Turns a Fail into a Win

Robots aren’t always smarter. In 2014, a Google bot mistakenly attributed an offensive slogan to U.K.-based bakery, Greggs. Hilarity -- to some, at least, ensued when Greggs’ Digital Brand Manager, Neil Knowles, turned a potential brand disaster into a monumental win.

Thanks to the clever back-and-forth between Knowles and the Google team, and the massive publicity garnered by the exchange, Google’s original error wound up being one of the best things to ever happen to Greggs.

9. Coca-Cola vs. Russia and Ukraine

If you’re going to create a huge promotion that displays a giant map of Russia, it’s generally a good idea to make sure that map is accurate. Or, better yet: When in doubt, don't show a map.

Coca-Cola received massive backlash from Russian citizens when it posted a promotional branded image made to look like a map of Russia -- which left out Crimea. In response, many consumers took to Twitter to post images of themselved pouring Coke into their toilets, leaving a trending impression.

Then, in response to the backlash, Coca-Cola published an updated map that included Crimea -- which was promptly bombarded by outcries from Ukrainian citizens, due to tensions resulting from Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Lesson learned: Don’t publish original content that’s inaccurate, and has the potential to be highly (and globally) controversial.

Coca cola russia promotion

Source: The Guardian

10. A Giraffe for Ghana Tweet from Delta

Sometimes, all it takes to avoid a social media fail is a simple Google search.

During the 2014 World Cup game between the USA and Ghana, Delta sent out a congratulatory tweet to the U.S. soccer team. The tweet included an image of the Statue of Liberty with a “2” representing the U.S. score, and a giraffe with a “1” that was meant to represent team Ghana’s score.

There was one tall problem: Ghana doesn’t have giraffes. Of course, Twitter users jumped all over that one. 

Just remember: It’s always best to take extra time to conduct some easy research, and avoid social media gaffes -- no pun intended -- like this one.

Avoiding Social Media Disasters

You might have noticed a pattern in some of the “fail” examples. Twitter is not to be trifled with. Once something goes viral it lives on forever. The best way to avoid a social media brand fail is to establish a meticulous social media management approach. This allows you to control the types of content you post and the messaging your brand communicates with.

Regardless of how small your audience is or how innocent something might seem, there’s always a reason to quality-check before posting.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 but was updated for comprehensiveness in February 2020.

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