Social Media Fails of 2015: The Lessons They Teach Us

You would think, by now, that brands would be more cautious about social media posts. Yet here we are in 2015, and big brands are still slipping up. It’s enough to make me want to pound my head on a desk. Thoughts on what they were thinking and who approved of these social media fails might also follow. While they may give you 15 minutes of fame, I promise it’s not worth the epic mistake that will tarnish your brand’s image.

Let’s examine a few standouts from the list with the purpose of explaining how to make sure this never happens to you.

SeaWorld’s Twitter Q&A marketing campaign backfires

SeaWorld has been under fire ever since the documentary “Blackfish” aired in 2013, . They recently tried to set the record straight on what they say is “false accusations by activists who oppose whale and other animals in zoological settings.” SeaWorld held at Twitter Q&A allowing users to ask them questions about killer whale care, and guess how that went? Exactly as you’d expect. SeaWorld encouraged people to use the hashtag #AskSeaWorld and they started to question their integrity as opposed to asking questions about orca facts.

SeaWorld addressed that they were trying to answer questions on Friday, but had to weed through thousands of trolls and bots. “Ask SeaWorld” is only part of the company’s new marketing push. They have also been posting a series of tweets illustrating their #365DaysOfRescue in effort to showcase how they care for their animals at their parks and around the world.

Lessons Learned:

Micro polls and surveys are a clever way to engage users, but it’s more important to ask the right questions that elicit only positive responses. Similar to the SeaWorld scenario, McDonald’s once asked their Twitter followers to share moments of eating McDonald’s, using #McStories. Users went wild depicting horror stories. The company switched gears by introducing a new hashtag, #LittleThings, which encouraged users to share the little things that cheer them up.

Blackberry Caught Tweeting From An iPhone

BlackBerry tweeted out a (since deleted) message encouraging followers to “Keep up with the conversation on @twitter,” accompanied by a lovely photo of the BlackBerry Classic...and an auto-generated note that said “via Twitter for iPhone.” The company forgot this stuff is plainly visible in Tweetbot, Tweetdeck, and other Twitter platforms.

Lessons Learned:

I think this one is pretty obvious –– do not use a competitor’s product, especially in the digital space. There’s a delete button, but it doesn’t matter. You cannot delete screenshots or people’s reactions after these type of incidents.

Seahawks Fumble MLK Day Tweet

On MLK Day, the Seahawks official Twitter account thought it would be a good idea to make a connection between football and the national holiday. The team used a famous Dr. King quote to accompany a photo of quarterback Russell Wilson crying after the Seahawks’ comeback victory over the Green Bay Packers. The Seahawks’ oh-so-awkward Twitter caption?: “We shall overcome. #MLKDay”.

Not sure if you can compare overcoming discrimination with defeating your football rival in a playoff game. Many Twitter users didn’t take this kindly to the civil rights tie-in, and the Seahawks apologized on Twitter and deleted the original tweet.

Lessons Learned:

This is a very common mistake in social right now. Digital marketers see a trending topic and decide they must find a way to insert their brand into the conversation. If you are not part of the story, don't do it. If you truly fit in the conversation, fine. If you are stretching it even a little bit, step back and consider the consequences. When in doubt, play it safe.