5 Stupendously Stupid Social Media Blunders

In today’s active social media landscape, there’s no shortage of social media mistakes to look to and learn from. Here’s a review of some of the biggest blunders we’ve seen in recent memory. Entertaining? Yes. Educational? For sure. And give our Takeaways some thought, then make sure your own social media is working hard and avoiding blunder.

1. #myNYPD Goes Rogue

The New York City Police Department attempted to showcase their police officers serving the community in positive ways. What resulted, however, was not what the NYPD expected:

Tweet showing NYPD running over man on motorcycle.


The topic began to trend on Twitter and fill our feeds with photos of the police officers doing less than positive community relations (grabbing people by the hair, sleeping, running people over on a motorcycle, etc.), creating more negative press the NYPD was trying to squash with the campaign in the first place.

A spokesperson for the NYPD, however, defended the campaign despite the overwhelming backlash, saying: “The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community. Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city.” Smooth move.

On the flip side, the campaign did achieve its purpose. The hashtag is still active as of this posting, and is now used mostly to showcase positive stories involving the NYPD. Sometimes it pays to wait out the storm.

The Takeaway: Just because you created a hashtag doesn’t mean you own it. Remember that social media is a public forum, and as the Miranda Rights go, anything you say can and will be used against you, albeit not in a court of law. Expect that things can, and will, always backfire. When planning on launching a hashtag campaign, think of every scenario possible for how it may be received and prepare an action plan to handle it.

2. US Airways Wrong Image Scandal

What started as a routine response to a disgruntled customer quickly turned into amateur X-rated content. To see the image for yourself, we suggest you Google it after your shift is over.

US Airways tweet showing inappropriate response to customer.


According to a spokesperson for the company, US Airways was trying to flag an inappropriate tweet that contained the graphic image. In doing so, the pic.twitter.com URL was copied, as well. The graphic image was inadvertently pasted into a tweet sent to the user. Whoops!

While many assumed the social media manager on the other end of this was about to be fired on the spot, US Airways released a statement saying it was an honest mistake that was the result of attempting to follow their social media policy so everyone was keeping their job. Cheers to US Airways!

The Takeaway: We will skim over the obvious “measure twice, cut once” philosophy and skip to not sweating (or blaming) your social media mistakes. Edit and delete buttons are there for a reason. While you ideally will never make a spelling error or post the wrong picture, mistakes happen. The best thing you can do is own up to your mistake, draft an apology and not play any kind of blame game.

3. Global Village Duluth MLK Sale

The Global Village Duluth store in Minnesota found itself in hot water this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day after it advertised a special sale with “25% off everything black.” The Facebook post sparked a flood of back-and-forth comments, with one user noting: “Some people on here might genuinely not understand why this is offensive. Using the word ‘black’ in general is not the issue. It’s how it’s used. Black people were, not very long ago, sold as property in this country.” Yikes.


Duluth, MN store global village had an inappropriate MLK day sale.


To add insult to injury, it took the store four days to respond:

Global Village responded to MLK sale backlash.


While the store did apologize, we (and users) have a problem with the defensive language happening here.

The Takeaway: Brands need to take a serious look at the way they conduct business online and offline. You cannot expect audiences to read between the lines of potentially offensive (and non-offensive) comments. While the following advice is not a best practice, it’s applicable here: If you cannot craft a sincere apology, maybe it’s best to stick to your guns not to say anything at all.

4. Dave & Busters’ Politically Incorrect Tweet

In the world of social media fails, this one’s pretty indisputable and hard to wrap your head around. While promoting their weekly ‘Taco Tuesday” deal, Dave and Buster’s sent out the tweet below. As you might expect, the reactions against the Dave and Busters Twitter fail were just as strong as the tweet was racist.

Dave and Buster's racist tweet got them in hot water.

The Takeaway: When it comes to social media, sometimes it pays to air on the conservative side over going for the laughs. While it depends on your audience and industry, a good model to follow is avoiding the three B’s: Barack; the Bible; and Belittling the competition or your audience.

5. DiGiorno Pizza’s Out of Context Hashtag

#WhyIStayed began as a conversion around why men and women chose to stay in abusive relationships after the Ray Rice video surfaced. Clearly, the author of this tweet didn’t understand the context of the digital conversation and sent out this number:

DiGiorno Pizza got backlash for their insensitive comments on a trending topic.

After realizing their mistake seconds later, the pizza brand deleted their tweet. It was a few seconds too late however, as hundreds of users were immediately sent up in arms.

On top of a general apology, DiGiorno continued to send out personalized apologies to each person who tweeted at their account in disgust over their tweet. While it doesn’t make up for their lack of oversight, tweeting out hundreds of personal apologies is not too shabby, DiGiorno.

DiGiorno Pizza sent out personalized apologies for their remark


The Takeaway: Do your research. Before tweeting about any trending topic or responding to a tweet, make sure you know who and what you’re talking about. We mention making sure you know who you’re tweeting to/about so you can avoid this blunder by the New England Patriots.

Also, an apology goes further when it isn’t an auto response.

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