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Social Media Disasters of 2017 So Far #Fail

Social media fails are not uncommon, but when you're a global brand the pressure is on to impress your customers. With social media being so popular, even the smallest mistake doesn't go amiss, there will always be people waiting for you to trip up. Whilst it's never nice to see, it's aways a little amusing when big brands get it wrong too.

From political correctness, tone deaf copy and hackings, here are a few of 2017's worst social media fails so far.


Nivea’s “White Is Purity” campaign is a great way to start my list of social media disasters.

In this ad campaign released in March, Nivea overlooked the racist context behind it’s bold copy. Despite Nivea's blindness to the insensitive nature of their ad, Twitter didn't let it lie. Followers, fans and pretty much everyone made the brand aware of what an awful mistake they had made. In response to this Nivea came back with a somewhat rehearsed response - “The Nivea Middle East post was not meant to be offensive. We apologise. It’s been removed. NIVEA values diversity and tolerance.”



An email mistake Adidas wish they could take back in a heartbeat.

Despite this being an email content error the backlashed received took social media by storm. This was a result of copy within a consumer email congratulating Boston Marathon runners for “surviving” the race. The content was written in extremely bad taste considering in 2013, 3 people lost their lives and many were injured when a bomb exploded at the Boston Marathon finishing line.

Afterwards, Adidas responded with a heartfelt apologetic tweet, realising their mistake and complementing the running community.


March this year saw the Mcdonald's Twitter account suffer from an external hacking which resulted in the the below:

The hacker didn’t just write the tweet, but also pinned it to the top of the Mcdonald's Twitter profile, ensuring maximum exposure. The tweet received a lot of love from Americans, but also initiated the trending hashtag #BoycottMcDonalds, fuelled by angry Trump supporters.

Mcdonald's responded to this unfortunate hacking by deleting the tweet, and publicly confirming the tweet was the result of an external hacking and did not represent their brand.

United Airlines

United Airlines have been at the centre of PR disasters throughout the whole 2017. This started with UA staff denying two girls access to a flight because of their outfits, consequently ‘body shaming’ them.

Shortly after, the brand went viral when a video of staff dragging a customer off one of their planes engulfed social media, generating millions of online views. It's safe to say the company’s reputation went down faster than one of their planes.

Some Twitter users continue to see the funny side, but as a brand, being on the receiving end of your consumers jokes are not always beneficial.

Southern Rail

Earlier this year Southern Rail put their Twitter account into the hands of 15 year-old intern, Eddie. With a number of unhappy customers going ignored, Southern Rail officials had not been in control of their social channel for a while, until this... “Hi, Eddie here! Here on work experience and ready to answer your questions! :-)”.

Eager and ready to change the world, Eddie responded to the brands angry customer mentions by answering questions with witty responses. Shining a great light on Eddie, he was offered jobs galore. However, the repercussions for Southern Rail were not so good. Customers expressed concerns to as to why the reputable brand had put a 15 year old intern in control of their social media - a very important communication platform that should have been used for serious customer service.

But, was this Southern Rail fiasco a rookie error or a genius PR stunt, what do you think?

Remember, your social media should always be a team effort. Don’t delegate your social media marketing to the office intern (unless his name is Eddie, of course), these channels act as a vital touch-point with your customers and should not not be taken light-heartedly.

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