Save Yourself and Your Workplace From 2017’s Biggest Social Media Fails

by Kaitlan Whitteberry on November 17, 2017

The social media world moves fast, even though there is little room and little sympathy for mistakes. This can be a difficult situation, considering social media posts are frequent – and not always properly looked over before public. But once they’re out there, they are out there for good. We’ve gathered some of the most publicized social media fails this year, and what we can learn from them. Here’s how to throw yourself a life preserver if your social media boat pops a leak.

When NPR updated followers on the actions of a toddler named Ramona

For twelve minutes one evening this past October, NPR’s Facebook account was updated with the daily happenings of a mysterious miss Ramona. This young toddler happened to be the daughter of Chris Hopkins, an editor for the NPR team. He quickly issued an apology, stating the initial post was meant to go out from a personal account. However, there was actually a positive reaction to this social media “fail”. People wanted to know more about Ramona, and how she was doing.



Wendy’s Back-and-Forth With a Customer

While it appears that Wendy’s was attempting to take a lighthearted, more comedic approach when a customer responding to their post with a negative tweet – things went south, fast. An individual made the claim that Wendy’s beef wasn’t in fact fresh, and Wendy’s responded on Twitter claiming the individual was “wrong”. Things only escalated from there. Other people began tweeting at Wendy’s hoping for a snarky response, and they got it. Wendy’s took things too far. This is a prime example of why to never engage in an argument online, both parties end up looking unprofessional, regardless if the intention was a positive one.

When the U.S. Department of Education couldn’t spell W.E.B. Du Bois

The U.S. Department of Education tweeted a picture of W.E.B. Du Bois — a civil-rights activist, scholar, and co-founder of the NAACP, about the importance of education. While the meaning behind the tweet was heartfelt and appropriate, their social media team forgot to double check the spelling, of his name. This spun Twitter into a frenzy, with people making fun of the mistake for hours. Finally, the Department of Education issued an apology, and then in that tweet, they misspelled the word “apology”. Face palm. While this was a harmless error, it did not put the department in a positive (well-educated) light. 

When Adidas’ Timing Was Really Off

As a sponsor of the 2017 Boston Marathon, Adidas sent out an email to participants with the subject, “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon”. In the same event where back in 2013, three people died and 260 were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line. The email was widely criticized on social media, and a well meaning message just wasn’t completely thought through. The sportswear company quickly admitted their choice of words had been “insensitive” and said they were “incredibly sorry” for the email. 

Learn From These Social Media Fails:

Keep personal and work accounts separate. I’ll admit, this has happened to me before, and most social media managers I know. Accounts are often too easily able to switch back and forth between. However, this doesn’t make this any less important. Remind yourself to always check which account your posting from, and if you use a social scheduling tool – keep your personal profile off the platform completely.

Never engage in negative banter with customers. Yes, sometimes people are mean online. Yes, sometimes what they say is uncalled for, or simply false. Resist the urge to engage in a back-and-forth with anyone on social, ever. It’s best to address the issue, and take the conversation offline to come to a resolution.

Triple-check your posts. While no one is perfect, and the occasional spelling or grammatical error is bound to happen to even the most stickler of writers, misspelling of names or events is really unacceptable. It takes a few moments to glance over spelling to avoid a few hours worth of damage control. Find someone in your department who has a keen eye for mistakes, and make it their job to review posts before they’re public.

Admit to your mistakes. They happen, we’re only human after all. The best thing you can do when you make a mistake is address it quickly and appropriately. If it’s something sensitive (like an offensive post or post meant for a personal account) delete the post and issue an apology. If it was a simple spelling error or less serious issue, make the change and address any concerns in the comments of your post. Being upfront and honest about mistakes is always the best policy, and will help you get out of dangerous waters quickly, with your company’s reputation in tact.

While these examples seem a bit extreme, they did happen to real companies – with real people managing their accounts. Being prepared is better than finding yourself in a sinking ship. Take precautions, and you’re sure to have smooth sailing through your social media journey. 


Kaitlan Whitteberry

Kaitlan Whitteberry is a Magna Cum Laude graduate from the University of Missouri's journalism program, and currently focuses on iOFFICE press releases, software updates and related news.

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