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Top 7 Corporate (X) Twitter Failure and Disasters: A Recap

Twitter is a social network that has become an essential tool for businesses and individuals to communicate with their audience. With over 330 million monthly active users in 2023, it’s no surprise that many companies have turned to Twitter as a way to reach out to potential customers.

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Why is Twitter important?

Social media platforms like Twitter provide businesses with the opportunity to connect with their audience on a more personal level, engage in conversations, and share content that resonates with them.

Using social media also boosts your website traffic by sharing links back to your site or blog posts. This can lead to increased visibility and ultimately generate leads or sales for your business.

Avoiding Big Corporate Mistakes on Twitter

While there are many benefits of using Twitter for marketing purposes, some big corporations have had major failures when it comes to managing their brand’s presence on this platform. Here are some of the most disastrous Twitter Failures!

1. United Airlines

In 2017, United Airlines faced a major Twitter disaster that significantly impacted its brand reputation and customer trust. A passenger was forcibly removed from an overbooked United Airlines flight, sparking a viral video that caused a public outcry on Twitter. People voiced their indignation on Twitter over United Airlines’ treatment of the passenger.

Read: How to download Twitter videos

The Tweet That Sparked Controversy

United Airlines’ initial response to the incident was widely criticized for its lack of empathy and understanding of public sentiment. Munoz’s tweet, expressing regret for the incident and offering an apology for re-accommodating customers, failed to assuage public outrage due to its perceived insincerity. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” This choice of words only fueled public anger as it seemed dismissive and insincere in light of the violent nature of the removal.

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The Aftermath

In response to mounting criticism, Munoz issued another statement apologizing more directly for how they treated the passenger and promising changes within United Airlines moving forward. However, this apology came too late for many users who had already formed negative opinions about the company due to their earlier communications mishap.

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  • Stock Price Drop: Following this PR disaster, United’s stock price dropped by nearly 4%, resulting in an estimated loss of $1 billion in market value.
  • Meme Culture: The incident became fodder for countless memes mocking both United Airlines and its CEO’s statements on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
  • Lasting Reputation Damage: Despite their efforts to rectify the situation, United Airlines’ reputation has been significantly tarnished. A 2018 RepTrak survey found that the airline’s reputation score had dropped by 10 points compared to the previous year.

This Twitter disaster serves as a cautionary tale for businesses about the importance of timely and empathetic communication in crisis situations. By not addressing public concerns head-on and using insensitive language, United Airlines inadvertently amplified negative sentiment towards their brand on social media platforms like Twitter.

2. McDonald’s

In 2012, McDonald’s launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #McDStories intending to engage customers and share positive stories about their experiences with the fast-food giant. Unfortunately, this plan backfired as users hijacked the hashtag to share negative experiences and criticisms of the company.

The #McDStories Campaign Gone Wrong

Initially, McDonald’s used promoted tweets to encourage people to use #McDStories to share heartwarming anecdotes about Happy Meals or memorable moments at their restaurants. However, the campaign quickly went awry as users began posting negative stories about McDonald’s on Twitter. Instead of uplifting tales, Twitter users began posting horror stories about food quality issues, poor customer service encounters, and even health concerns related to consuming McDonald’s products.

Damaging Brand Reputation on Social Media

The misuse of #McDStories by disgruntled customers quickly gained traction online and turned into a PR nightmare for McDonald’s. The widespread negative attention caused significant damage to their brand reputation on social media platforms like Twitter, where they had hoped for increased engagement from loyal fans.

  • “One time I walked into McDonald’s, and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air.”
  • “I haven’t been inside an McD since watching Super Size Me.”
  • “These #McDstories never get old…kinda like a box of McD fries left out for years.”

Lessons Learned from McDonald’s Twitter Disaster

There are several key takeaways for businesses and marketers to learn from the McDonald’s #McDStories debacle:

  • Be prepared for negative feedback: When launching a social media campaign, always consider the possibility of receiving negative comments or backlash. Have a strategy ready to respond quickly and skillfully to any negative responses.
  • Maintain control over your message: Using an open-ended hashtag like #McDStories can lead to unintended consequences. Instead, choose more specific hashtags that guide users towards sharing positive stories about your brand.
  • Monitor and respond quickly: Keep an eye on how people are engaging with your campaigns in real-time. If things start going south, be ready to adapt or pivot as needed before further damage is done.

In hindsight, McDonald’s could have avoided this disaster by being better prepared and having tighter control over their messaging. A warning to other companies who use Twitter for connecting with customers, this situation serves as a reminder of the importance of being prepared and having appropriate oversight over communication.

3. DiGiorno Pizza

In 2014, DiGiorno Pizza made a significant misstep on Twitter when it used a trending hashtag without understanding its context. The popular frozen pizza brand attempted to join the conversation by using the #WhyIStayed hashtag in one of their tweets, but unfortunately for them, this particular hashtag was created as part of a larger discussion about domestic violence and why victims often stay with their abusers.

Misusing a Sensitive Hashtag

The tweet from DiGiorno read: “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” While it may have seemed like an innocent attempt at humor or engagement at first glance, it quickly became apparent that the company failed to research the meaning behind the hashtag before jumping on board. Many Twitter users expressed shock and dismay at the seeming lack of consideration from such a renowned brand.

A Swift Apology and Lessons Learned

Recognizing their mistake almost immediately after posting the tweet, DiGiorno deleted it and issued an apology. They acknowledged that they did not understand what the hashtag represented before using it in their marketing efforts and expressed regret for any offense caused:

This incident serves as an important reminder for businesses utilizing social media platforms like Twitter – always do your due diligence when engaging with trending topics or hashtags. A simple search could have saved DiGiorno from this embarrassing situation.

Tips to Avoid Similar Mistakes

  1. Research before you tweet: Always take the time to understand the context of a hashtag or trending topic before using it in your marketing efforts. This will help prevent any misunderstandings and potential backlash.
  2. Be sensitive to serious issues: If a hashtag is related to a serious issue, such as domestic violence, avoid making light of it or attempting humor. Instead, consider whether your brand can contribute positively to the conversation.
  3. Apologize quickly and sincerely: In case you do make an error on social media, own up to it immediately and apologize genuinely. Own up to any errors quickly and sincerely, as people are more likely to forgive if they see that you recognize your mistake and take steps to rectify it.

DiGiorno Pizza’s corporate Twitter failure is a reminder of how important it is to stay aware and monitor your social media presence. KitchenAid, on the other hand, faced backlash when they tweeted an inappropriate comment during President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

4. KitchenAid

In 2012, popular kitchen appliance brand KitchenAid found itself in hot water after an insensitive tweet was posted on their official Twitter account during a presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The tweet caused a stir among users and damaged the company’s standing.

The Insensitive Tweet

The debacle began when a member of KitchenAid’s social media team accidentally tweeted from the company’s account instead of their personal one. The tweet read: “Obama’s gma even knew it was going 2 b bad. ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president'”. President Obama’s grandmother had passed away three days before his election in 2008.

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Immediate Backlash and Apology

Twitter users were quick to react, calling out KitchenAid for its insensitivity and demanding an apology. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Cynthia Soledad, then Senior Director at KitchenAid USA, took immediate action by deleting the offensive tweet and issuing a series of apologies both personally and on behalf of the company:

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Lessons Learned from KitchenAid’s Mistake

  • Social Media Training: Ensure that your social media team is well-trained and understands the importance of maintaining a professional tone on official company accounts. Mistakes like these can be costly in terms of brand reputation.
  • Separate Personal and Professional Accounts: Encourage employees to use separate devices or applications for personal and professional social media usage, minimizing the risk of accidental posts on company accounts.
  • Swift Damage Control: KitchenAid’s quick response to apologize and address the issue helped mitigate some of the damage caused by their mistake. When faced with similar situations, act promptly to rectify errors and communicate transparently with your audience.

In today’s digital age, companies must tread carefully when managing their online presence. In order to avoid costly missteps, businesses should take cues from previous social media blunders like KitchenAid’s 2012 incident. By learning from past corporate Twitter failures, such as KitchenAid’s 2012 debacle, businesses can better navigate the complex world of social media while safeguarding their reputation.

5. American Apparel

In 2011, the popular clothing brand American Apparel faced significant backlash after posting an offensive tweet that led to public outrage and ultimately resulted in the company issuing a formal apology. This incident serves as a cautionary tale for businesses on how not to use social media platforms like Twitter.

The Offensive Tweet

American Apparel’s Twitter disaster began when they posted an image of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion with the caption “Smoke Clouds from Member’s Only.” The insensitive tweet was meant to promote their line of jackets but instead sparked widespread criticism due to its inappropriate reference to the tragic event that took place in 1986, claiming seven lives.

Public Reaction and Apology

The response from users on Twitter was swift and harsh, with many expressing their disgust at American Apparel’s insensitivity towards such a tragedy. Some called for boycotts while others demanded an explanation or apology from the company. Recognizing their mistake, American Apparel quickly deleted the offending tweet and issued an official apology, stating that it was “an honest mistake by one of our employees who did not know about this historic event.”

  • Lesson Learned: Always ensure your content is sensitive and respectful before sharing it online.
  • Action Steps: Train your team members on social media best practices, including understanding historical events’ context before referencing them in promotional materials.
  • Mitigating Future Disasters: Implement guidelines for reviewing all social media posts before publishing them, and have a crisis management plan in place to address any potential backlash.

Long-term Impact on the Brand

This Twitter blunder serves as a warning of the rapid speed at which things can take an unexpected turn on social media. The incident undoubtedly tarnished the brand’s reputation and may have contributed to its bankruptcy filing in 2015. Although it is impossible to determine if this single tweet led directly to their financial troubles, it certainly did not help their image or customer loyalty.

Businesses must be especially wary when utilizing Twitter and other social media networks for marketing purposes in the modern digital age. By studying the missteps of others, such as American Apparel’s tweet, companies can safeguard their brand image and financial health. By learning from past corporate Twitter disasters, such as American Apparel’s offensive tweet, you can avoid making similar mistakes and protect your business’s online presence.

American Apparel’s Twitter disaster in 2011 showed that even the most well-known companies can make mistakes when it comes to social media. Moving on, Bing faced its own share of problems with their corporate Twitter account as well.

6. Bing

In the wake of the devastating 2011 Japan tsunami and earthquake, search engine giant Bing attempted to show their support for those affected by pledging a donation on Twitter. However, their tweet was met with backlash as it appeared to be more focused on boosting their brand recognition rather than genuinely helping the victims.

The Controversial Tweet

Bing’s original tweet read: “How you can #SupportJapan – For every retweet, Bing will give $1 to Japan quake victims, up to $100K.” While this may have seemed like a generous offer at first glance, many users criticized Bing for using a tragedy as an opportunity for self-promotion. Instead of simply donating directly to relief efforts without any strings attached or fanfare, they chose to tie their contribution amount directly to how many times people shared their message.

Public Backlash and Apology

Twitter users were quick to call out Bing’s insensitive marketing ploy. Some accused them of exploiting a disaster in order to gain followers and boost engagement on social media platforms, while others urged them to just donate the full amount without requiring retweets from users.

In response, Bing issued an apology via Twitter, stating: “We apologize for today’s tweet about our pledge campaign during this difficult time & appreciate your feedback.”

Lessons Learned From This Incident:

  • Genuine Intentions Matter: When attempting philanthropic gestures through social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook, businesses should ensure that they are doing so with genuine intentions rather than seeking publicity or personal gain.
  • Be Sensitive to Context: Companies should be aware of the context surrounding their social media posts, especially when discussing sensitive topics like natural disasters or tragedies. A poorly timed or insensitive message can quickly lead to backlash and negative press.
  • Listen and Respond Appropriately: When faced with criticism on social media platforms, it’s essential for businesses to listen carefully to what users are saying and respond appropriately. In Bing’s case, they acknowledged their mistake and issued an apology – a crucial step in managing any PR crisis.

Bing’s failure to recognize the power of Twitter and its potential for connecting with customers has been a major setback in its marketing efforts. Kenneth Cole serves as an example of how one misstep on social media can have significant repercussions that spread across multiple platforms.

7. Kenneth Cole’s Twitter Disaster

In 2011, Kenneth Cole caused an uproar on social media with a tweet using the hashtag #Cairo that was meant to promote his new spring collection but ended up being seen as exploiting a serious political situation for commercial gain. The tweet was meant to promote his new spring collection but instead sparked outrage and backlash from users who accused him of exploiting a serious political situation for commercial gain.

The Controversial Tweet and Immediate Backlash

At the time, Egypt was facing an upheaval of civil unrest as part of a revolutionary wave known as the Arab Spring. In an attempt to capitalize on this trending topic, Kenneth Cole tweeted: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”

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This poorly-timed marketing stunt quickly backfired as people took to Twitter to express their disgust at the brand’s insensitivity towards a dire political crisis that had already claimed numerous lives. Many users called for boycotts against Kenneth Cole products, while others used sarcasm and humor to create similar tweets with other global crises hashtags mockingly.

Kenneth Cole Apologizes

Realizing his mistake, Kenneth Cole promptly deleted the offensive tweet and issued an apology through both his personal account (@mr_kennethcole) and company account (@kennethcole). He wrote: “Re Egypt tweet: we weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment -KC”. Despite acknowledging their error, some critics felt that it wasn’t enough, given how severe their misstep had been.

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Tips and Tricks for Twitter Success

When it comes specifically to Twitter, there are some key things you can do that will help ensure success:

  • Create a consistent brand voice: Make sure your tweets align with your company values and goals. This helps create trust between you and your followers.
  • Engage regularly: Responding promptly when customers tweet at you shows that you value their feedback and opinions.
  • Avoid controversial topics: Unless it’s relevant or important news related directly to your industry, avoid discussing politics or religion, as they could alienate potential customers who don’t share the same views as yours.
  • Be Aware: Stay informed about current events and be sensitive to the context of trending topics before using them in your marketing efforts.
  • Think Before You Tweet: Always consider how your message might be received by a diverse audience. What may seem like a clever play on words to you could come across as offensive or insensitive to others.
  • Apologize Sincerely: If you make a mistake, own up to it and apologize genuinely. Own up to any mistakes and make it clear what happened while also showing that steps are being taken to stop similar issues in the future.

Use Twitter Wisely!

From United Airlines’ disastrous handling of a passenger incident to Kenneth Cole’s insensitive tweet about political unrest, these top corporate X, previously known as Twitter failures and disasters serve as cautionary tales for businesses using social media. It’s important for companies to have a solid social media strategy in place that includes clear guidelines and protocols for posting content, responding to customers, and crisis management.

If you want your business to avoid becoming one of the top corporate Twitter failures and disasters, consider seeking out expert advice from Project. Our team specializes in creating social media plans that reflect your company’s ideals and connect with the people you want to reach. Read more blogs on WallBlog to increase your knowledge!


Why is Twitter Challenging for Businesses?

Twitter can be challenging for businesses due to its fast-paced nature, potential for negative publicity, and difficulty in controlling the narrative. Missteps or poorly executed campaigns can lead to backlash and damage a brand’s reputation. However, when used strategically, Twitter offers valuable opportunities for engagement and promotion.

What are the Challenges of Using Twitter?

The main challenges of using Twitter include managing real-time communication effectively, dealing with character limitations, navigating negativity or trolling, staying relevant amidst rapidly changing trends, maintaining consistent branding across multiple platforms, and monitoring conversations around your brand closely enough to respond appropriately when necessary.

What is the Purpose of Twitter for Business?

The primary purpose of using Twitter for business includes building brand awareness, engaging with customers directly through mentions or direct messages (DMs), sharing news updates about products/services/events/promotions quickly and efficiently, reaching out to the audience instantly, providing customer support, fostering relationships with influencers, generating leads, driving website traffic, and measuring campaign success through analytics tools provided by the platform itself.

Youssef Hodaigui is an entrepreneur, blogger and SEO expert with a strong track record of success in launching and growing blogs and websites. He has a deep understanding of search engine algorithms and the latest digital marketing techniques, and he is committed to helping bloggers and entrepreneurs achieve their online business goals.

The Wall is a digital blog that helps the marketing, media and communications industries to understand the effects of emerging technology and media change. From ecommerce and email, to search and social media, The Wall features expert commentators and analysis of digital developments.


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