5 Terrible Social Media Fails in 2016 That You Must Avoid

Brands are closer to their audience with the help of social media. They experiment and try various creative styles to win hearts. But quite often ideas may end up in a paradox when the implementation goes awry. Social media fails can prove to be costly and brands may have to balance a tricky situation to regain their position. It takes many campaigns, much brainstorming and creative effort to nurture and build a brand cult, but it takes just one misstep to offend people. These are things your brand must avoid!

Let us see some Social Media fails and disasters of 2016, so far…

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5 Terrible Social Media Fails in 2016 That You Must Avoid

1. Coca Cola traps itself between Russia and Ukraine Politics

The cola giant posted a Christmas card showing a beautified map of Russia, as a part of a greeting to Russians. They got highly offended with absence of Kaliningrad region, the Kuril Islands, the Crimea. President Putin’s supporters flared up the issue further due to the exclusion of Crimea region. To respond, Coke amended the map and infuriated the Ukrainians in the process. This resulted in the Ukraine embassy showing its concern for the illegally occupied Crimea region by Russia. Soon, the #BanCocaCola was trending in the country. Coca Cola was caught between the political mayhem and finally removed the post stating “We, as an international company, do not take political positions unrelated to our business, and we apologize for the controversial post, which we have removed.”

Phew! A graphical error with the intent of brand connect could provoke people going against the brand.

Learning: It’s not a “business vs people or politics” situation but being cautious of choosing and researching the right expression to communicate. Choose positive and be aware of geographical concerns, sentiments and regional issues. Don’t get caught in a controversy!

2. Tay, Microsoft’s AI bot account, had to go offline soon after its release

Miscrosoft built Tay (@TayandYou) to learn and then understand conversations to become naturally responsive over a period of time, like humans. Microsoft’s tech and research teams experimented if they could train a Bot to produce exciting and interesting conversations similar to the Millennials. Success of this could be used by organizations in number of positive ways.  But due to its nasty responses on Twitter it raised an alarm for the software corporation’s reputation.

Learning: Is the organisation at fault for conducting an experiment? The bot gave back what it was getting (often offensive comments). Or does it hold responsibility for communicating anything or everything on a public platform? Guess an approach could have been to code in a bit of sensitivity filters – or what that be unauthentic? It’s an open question! But it’s clear that we perhaps don’t want to share half baked ideas too soon.

3. Automating customer service on Social media good or bad?

ASOS, the online fashion retailer, was questioned by annoyed customers when its responses were perceived to be coming from automated robots. It went overboard with repetitive responses under different customer representative names. Automating customer service rescues a company from extra manual investment but it’s surely not an alternative to irrelevant messaging. Poorly managed customer service can cost a company its business!

Learning: Stay authentic and if things go overboard, pick up the phone. Putting everything on autopilot does not work. 

4. David Bowie – a tragic event to increase sales disguised as Tribute

To honor the music legend, brands constructed ways to promote their sales. Like, Gorringe Park Pub offered a cocktail at 8 bucks. Tribute to a loss like that is way beyond a promotional sale. Imagine making money off someone’s passing away.

Learning: Better campaign ideas like recreation of the brand image or styles inspired from David Bowie’s creative energy work better!

5. Seoul Secret discriminates between White and Black skin tone

We do like to believe that we’re now above clichés, casual racial jibes and stereotypes. So, unsurprisingly, an advertisement tagline by Seoul Secret, a beauty products brand, “You just need to be white to win” generated an upheaval online. The 50 second video showed the importance of fair skin to be confident. Celebrity Cris Horwang portrayed a winning career is possible only for white skinned women. The brand gained negative publicity and posted a public apology on its Facebook page and removed all the ads from various platforms.

Learning: Please behave like we live in 2016 brands! And stay away from stereotypes and tone deaf notions that we need to shake off, not endorse!

These examples simply callout for a need for a little attention and research from many perspectives before the execution of a campaign begins. This tip may seem small, but it can offer a lot of help and save brands from committing a brand disaster.  Remember, social media can snowball into something much greater in magnitude than you can imagine. It pays to think before you blurt out! Oh, and, remember to create a social media etiquette policy for all your employees and partners, so that you’re well prepared.

What are some of the worst social media examples you saw this year?


Simran Chopra

Simran Chopra

Simran is a writer and social media planner for brands. She works as a contributing writer for Brandanew.
Simran Chopra