Top 10 corporate social media fails

TWITTER FAIL: An unfortunate hashtag for Susan Boyle's latest album went viral.
TWITTER FAIL: An unfortunate hashtag for Susan Boyle's latest album went viral.

A lot of thought can, and should, go into the 140 characters that comprise a tweet.

Yet some corporations fail to understand the power of social media, and how quickly small messages posted online can turn into big headaches.

With that in mind, here are our top 10 companies that should either take a crash course in social media dos and don'ts, or revert to communicating via carrier pigeon.

1. The Melbourne team of strip club chain Spearmint Rhino decided to engage with their followers, and upload a baby picture of one of their workers, and ask people to guess who's photo it was. Apart from the obvious issue behind uploading a photo of a baby in the particular pose, it didn't take followers long to realise the timestamp on the photo meant their "worker" was only 14-years-old. To top it off, Spearmint Rhino then went and "liked" its own post.

2. US Airways was forced to apologise to its 400,000 Twitter followers after inadvertently posting a pornographic image depicting a naked woman and a model plane in response to a customer complaint. The airline took nearly an hour to remove the post, which was accompanied by the message: "We welcome feedback, Elle. If your travel is complete, you can detail here for review and follow up."

3. British grocery chain Tesco fell foul of social media just days after it was revealed the supermarket had sold beef burgers containing horsemeat. Things went from bad to worse when a tweet posted on its Twitter feed informed its followers that staff were off to "hit the hay". Despite Tesco bosses apologising and saying the tweet was scheduled before the horsemeat scandal broke, it was too late for hundreds of Twitter followers, who condemned it.

4. Possibly the very last thing you would expect Britain's Got Talent runner-up Susan Boyle to be involved in would be a bum party. It also beggared belief that such a party would even exist, let alone be advertised by the singer's PR team on Twitter. While trying to promote Boyle's upcoming album, the team tweeted she would be holding an exclusive album listening party, where the Scottish singer would answer questions from fans. Unfortunately, the hashtag chosen for this was #susanalbumparty, which spelt Su's Anal Bum Party to a significant majority of people. The hashtag was swiftly changed to the more family-friendly #SusanBoyleAlbumParty, but it was too late, and mock-invites to Su's original party spread like wildfire.

5. Corporations take note: do not insult the most powerful man in the free world, or his grandmother, on social media. Kitchen appliance manufacturer KitchenAid managed to do both in one fell swoop after President Barack Obama mentioned his grandmother during the first presidential debate, tweeting "Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president. #nbcpolitics" The tweet was swiftly removed and apologised for, and it appeared a KitchenAid team member had accidentally used the company account instead of their personal one.

6. Twitter was ablaze with heartfelt messages of support and condolences after the tragic shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. #Aurora was trending, and online retailer CelebBoutique misguidedly thought Twitter users were just loving their Aurora dress, a white pleated V-neck inspired by Kim Kardashian. CelebBoutique removed the tweet after about an hour, and apologised, saying their PR team was not US based, and had not checked the reason for the trend.

7. A particularly enthusiastic employee of London's Luton Airport posted a picture of a Boeing 737 that slid off a Chicago runway in 2005 with the caption 'Because we are such a super airport....this is what we prevent you from when it snows......Weeeee :)'. Less "super" was the background behind the photo - the Southwest Airlines flight slid off the runway in heavy snow, killing six-year-old Joshua Woods, who was a passenger in a car hit by the plane. The airport removed the post and apologised for the "wholly unacceptable and insensitive" post, and said an over-enthusiastic new member of their support team made an honest but misguided mistake.

8. Cooking site Epicurious decided to use social media to help people cope with the bombing at the Boston Marathon... By posting a recipe for whole-grain cranberry scones. After tweeting "Our thoughts are with everyone in Boston", the site then went on to post "Boston, our hearts are with you. Here's a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today," and "In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!" You may, but as became immediately obvious, the scone suggestion in the wake of a terrorist attack was not well received.

9. Global financial services firm JP Morgan decided to make use of social media to engage with consumers through a Q&A session on Twitter. Unfortunately for them, six hours of trolling ensued, as Twitter users asked "What's it like working with Mexican drug cartels? Do they tip?" and "When will you all go to jail?". The company realised its mistake, and wisely cancelled plans for a followup session of "Ask JP Morgan" the next day.

10. Employees subject to a mass-firing by British entertainment company HMV took to Twitter in 2013 to liveblog the "mass execution" to the company's 61,500 followers. Administrators who took over the business confirmed news of 190 firings - including the company's community manager who had access to its corporate Twitter account. Over a 20 minute period, Poppy Rose tweeted her anger at the mass-firing, which ended on an entertaining note just before HMV regained control of the account and deleted the offending tweets - "Just overheard our marketing director (he's staying, folks) ask 'How do I shut down Twitter?"'

TWITTER FAIL: Apologies were needed after a company dissed US President Barack Obama's grandmother.
TWITTER FAIL: Apologies were needed after a company dissed US President Barack Obama's grandmother.