Five Epic Twitter PR FailsBy Mickie Kennedy

Twitter can be your best friend when things go right, but when they go wrong, boy do they go wrong.

Sometimes you don’t just fail, you epically fail.

While everyone makes mistakes, there are some Twitter PR fails that are worth highlighting.

Here are five examples of what NOT to do on Twitter.

Five Epic Twitter PR Fails

1. The WPMI-TV Billboard

Late last year, a TV station in Alabama found out how treacherous a live feed Twitter billboard can be. While most of the news feeds were the same old garden variety small town headlines, one involved three people being accused of a gang rape.

Unfortunately, the news station has three news anchors, all of whom were on the billboard, right next to the live Twitter post about the gang rape. Can you see where this is going? Somebody saw it, snapped a picture, posted it online, and the general manager and news director were both suspended.

2. Horsemeat Blunder

When popular UK supermarket chain Tesco was caught selling hamburgers containing nearly 30 percent horse meat, it made headlines around the world. What might not have made global headlines was the tweet their social customer care people sent out shortly after the announcement, “It’s sleepy time, so we’re off to hit the hay!”

Needless to say, people were outraged at the cheek, but as it turns out, the offensive tweet a pre-written/pre-scheduled autotweet, that no-one remembered to change. A good lesson for all of us using automation tools.

3. Tweeting a Funeral

In 2008, after a young boy was killed while in an ice cream shop, an intrepid Rocky Mountain reporter (probably wanting to be on top of the social media game) decided it would be a good idea to live Tweet the kid’s funeral. Even worse, someone on the editorial staff agreed with him!

After the event, which included tweets such as “family members shovel earth into grave,” the community was  in an uproar. This was before Twitter became the nation-wide powerhouse it is today, so not only was it a terrible PR moment for the TV station, it was awful for the still growing Twitter as well.

4. BPGlobalPR

Not a failure for the actual account, but for what it means, which is that BP had failed enough in its responses to the huge crisis in the Gulf, that a fake account parodying their responses could become popular enough to receive worldwide attention.

In fact, after seeing some of the real BP responses on television and slips online, one could almost believe BPGlobalPR really was the organization! Luckily the guys behind the account are using their notoriety to help raise money for the oil spill.

5. McDonald’s and #McDStories

The Twitter hashtag #McDStories was meant as a way for users to share their warm and fuzzy memories of eating at McDonald’s. Of course, with childhood obesity on the rise and fast food and huge sugary drinks taking a big share of the blame, fuzzy memories weren’t the only things shared. It only took the Twitterverse two hours of vitriolic tweeting before the company stopped promoting the hashtag.

The lesson here? Don’t ask for feedback unless you can take it.

What Twitter epic fails do you look to when thinking about what not to do?

Mickie Kennedy

Mickie Kennedy is the founder of eReleases, the online leader in affordable PR distribution since 1998. 

View all posts by Mickie Kennedy