Twitter For Business - Twitter Fails

Written by Jamie Courtnell on Monday, 05 August 2013. Posted in Social Media

Twitter For Business - Twitter Fails


In the last Twitter For Business blog post, we focused on best practices for people new to Twitter. The second point I identified was called 'Social media is written in pen, not pencil'. This is one saying that has always stuck in my head when it comes to using social media platforms such as Twitter.

There have been some truly remarkable melt downs, hacks and downright naivety that have taken place in public within the 'twitter-sphere', too many to mention. However, I will highlight the ones that stand out the most for me so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Poor Customer Relations

Time Warner Cable vs Patrick Stewart

Twitter represents one of the largest paradigm shifts in how customer relationships are managed in the last few decades. Never before has it been so quick and easy to connect and engage directly with your target audience and customers. However as Spiderman's uncle famously said 'With great power comes great responsibility', this rings true with Twitter too.

Whenever I think about customer service gone wrong, I'm instantly drawn to the case of Time Warner Cable vs Sir Patrick Stewart. Not only is this a case of misguiding the situation and ultimately making it worse, it's happened to a famous celebrity.

Sir Patrick, who had recently moved, became frustrated with the waiting time to get cable installed in his new home. So he went to Twitter to get the issues of his chest.

Although Time Warner Cable were able to respond quickly to his problem via Twitter, they failed to progress the issue and took to Twitter the following day without adequately satisfying Sir Patrick Stewart's requirements, which obviously lead to a angry response from the Star Trek man.

 Time Warner Cable vs Patrick Stewart Tweets

Ultimately, Sir Patrick ended up going with a competitor service and made sure to inform his Twitter followers just how impressed he was with his new cable provider.

Hashtag Hijacks

McDonalds #McDStories

Hashtags have been a popular way to drive customer engagement, and if successful enough to become a trending tweet, can be a massive driver of traffic to your Twitter profile and spread your message.

However, as Twitter is controlled by its users there is no telling what can happen once a Hashtag campaign takes off, especially if customers have bones to pick with the involved company.

McDonalds experienced this first hand with with their #McDStories, as you can see below, it didn't quite promote the issue McDonalds intended.

Hijacked Hashtag McDStories Tweets

It should be noted that although there was a hashtag hijack McDonald's social media manage Rick Wion stated that after McDonalds pulled the promoted tweets, the conversations peaked at about 1600. Compared to the 72,788 mentions of McDonalds throughout the day, the #McDStories hijack only represented 2% of that.

All publicity is good publicity... right?

Twitter Hacks

Burger King bought out by McDonalds

Sometimes it's not employees or even customers that cause embarrassment over social media. With the Burger King 'hacking' incident, having insufficient security protocols in place can cause even more problems.

In February 2013, Burger King had their account hacked. Which is bad enough, but even worse when the hackers then change their Twitter profile picture to that of their biggest competitor, McDonalds. Claiming they had been bought out by McDonalds because the Whopper 'flopped', the hackers tweeted for a little over an hour. Including racial slurs, obscenities and drug references.

Burger King Twitter Hack

Errant Employees

Vodaphone go looking for 'beaver'

When you're responsible for the Twitter account of a multi-national brand like Vodaphone, making sure you've got the right people in charge of updates is vitally important. Far too often you see mistakes being made by brands delegating social media responsibility to interns and unexperienced team members. Vodaphone learnt the hard way after their UK based Twitter account posted an offensive tweet.

Vodaphone fed up for dirty homo's and is going after beaver

Initially it was assumed that their account must have been hacked, however it later emerged the tweet was sent by one of its own staff. After hundreds of complaints about the homophobic tweet, Vodaphone entered crisis management mode to clear its name. The employee responsible was later suspended.

Chrysler Autos 'Detroit'

Followers of Chrysler Autos twitter account were also subject to a disgruntled employee taking to branded Twitter account to air their views. Although in my eyes this one looks more like he/she was looking to publish this on their personal account but a lapse of concentration and carelessness lead them to publishing it to the brands twitter account.

Chrysler Autos Detroit Tweet

Comedy Faux Pas

Kenneth Cole 'Cairo' hashtag

When Kenneth Cole, owner of the Kenneth Cole fashion brand, tried to use a trending hashtag to create some awareness about his brand, I'm sure he didn't fully think about what he was tweeting. Using a popular hashtag is a clever marketing tool, however, this particular trending hashtag happened to be #cairo which was about the unrest, riots and violence happening in Egypt at the time.

Trying to be humorous about a serious event like this was never going to come out in a good light. As such people weren't amused and spent the rest of the day attacking Mr Cole and his brand.

kenneth cole twitter Cairo tweet

Although he later deleted the tweet and apologised, the damage was done. Humour can be a great way to engage audiences, but at they can easily flop and at worse even damage your brand image.

kenneth cole cairo hashtag appology

What can we learn from these Twitter fails?

First off for tweets from within the company, it's so so important to take a step back when tweeting and read your tweet in an objective way.

How will your audience view it?
Is there any way it can be construed in a negative way?
How does this reflect on your brand?
Have you fixed the issue before you re-engage?
Are the necessary security measures in place to reduce hacking and unauthorised tweets?

However, some of these Twitter mistakes are out of the control of the company, such as hashtag hijacks, in these cases there is a risk but as long as you've got a positive public image, the likelihood is it's a risk worth taking.

Over to you

Let us know of any examples of Twitter fails and mishaps that you think are worthy of this list in the comments below.

About the Author

Jamie Courtnell

Jamie Courtnell

My name is Jamie Courtnell and I am one of the co-founders of Marketing My Journey. I am a digital marketing and SEO enthusiast and blogger who loves all things digital and branding. I first learned SEO while on my marketing degree placement and since graduating I have worked full time within the industry in an in-house role. Follow me on twitter and Google+..

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