Social Media Mishaps To Avoid

by Jen Anderson Inspiring Interns

Most brands have had at least one campaign that didn’t quite hit the mark, and with the instant-feedback model of digital marketing it’s never been easier or quicker to judge the consumer response and make adjustments.

Unfortunately, digital marketing also comes with a whole new set of pitfalls – from getting to grips with new technologies to navigating internet culture.

Learning from your mistakes is tough, but necessary for businesses to succeed. Learning from other people’s mistakes, however, can be just as useful and significantly less painful.

Misreading The Audience

A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics found that 99 per cent of adults ages 16 to 34 were internet users (compared to 41 per cent aged 75+) which makes digital marketing a great tool to reach younger demographics.

Brands have tried every trick in the book to get millennials and Gen-X-ers on board, from sassy social media feuds with other brands to meme-based marketing campaigns.

Unfortunately, like a dad who thinks wearing a baseball cap backwards makes him trendy, this kind of #relatable digital marketing can backfire; there’s an entire sub-reddit (/r/FellowKids) dedicated to cringeworthy campaigns.

Another well-known example is this tweet from Hillary Clinton, in which users are asked to express their feelings about student debt using emojis.

Staff Gone AWOL

It’s rare to find a business with no social media presence these days; it’s a brilliant way to connect with customers in real-time and get instant feedback on your brand’s message.

This means placing a lot of trust in the people who manage your social media accounts – with occasionally disastrous consequences.

Back in 2013, a HMV employee who was being made redundant got hold of the company’s official Twitter account, resulting in this series of tweets.

The likes of McDonalds and Vodafone have also been caught up in Twitter storms after offensive remarks (most likely meant for the employees’ personal accounts) were mistakenly posted to the brand’s feed instead.

Viral For The Wrong Reasons

Most of us are familiar with the controversial Kendall Jenner Pepsi advert from earlier this year – a prime example of misinterpreting the social playing field.

Apologies were issued and the ad was pulled but when you Google “Kendall Jenner” or “Pepsi Advert”, it’s still near the top of the suggested searches list.

The much-ridiculed Protein World campaign from 2015 also offers a lesson in how not to respond to criticism; the brand remained unapologetic and even argumentative on social media during the backlash.

It has to be said that the adverts did do a lot for the brand’s visibility, taking it from little-known to infamous in a matter of days, but most companies prefer to build a more positive image.

Your Digital Footprint

The golden rule of the internet is that once something is out there, there’s no getting it back – as many celebrities, who carefully curate their brand through social media, learn the hard way.

Most recently, YouTube personality Jack Maynard pulled out of I’m a Celebrity after some racist and homophobic tweets from 2011 came back to bite him.

There’s a lot of debate about whether old social media posts should be a case of live and let live, but it’s certainly a PR headache that most digital marketers will want to avoid.


Jen Anderson writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and graduate jobs.