July 17, 2017

Social media management fails of 2017

Published: 17 July 2017 

Social media can be a great tool for businesses. It’s a great way to raise awareness of your business while maintaining communication with your followers. It can also be relatively cheap when compared to traditional forms of advertising.

However, every now and then there will be instances where the use of social media backfires. Whether it’s a distasteful tweet or a campaign that hasn’t been completely thought through. And with consumers being so vocal on social media, the backlash is often fierce and swift, with companies often having to make a public apology as a result.

So what have been the social media fails so far in 2017?

1. United Airlines

 No social media list of 2017 could be complete without mentioning United Airlines. This one was hard to miss.

The drama started when a passenger was forcibly removed from United Airlines flight number 3411 after it had been announced that the flight was overbooked. The footage was shared on social media and soon went viral. But this was only the start of this particular fail. Rather than offering a sincere apology, CEO Oscar Munoz released a statement which praised his employees for following the proper procedures. The statement made no reference to the passenger who had been physically dragged from his seat. The victim blaming statement caused a new round of uproar aimed at United Airlines. The airline also lost $1 billion in value as a result of the disaster.    

2. Pepsi


 Pepsi recruited Kendall Jenner for their latest advertising campaign. The ad revolved around people from every walk of life protesting something (we’re still unsure what exactly they were protesting). The crowd of protesters face off with police, which is peacefully resolved when Jenner offers a police officer a can of Pepsi. The officer cracks the can and peace is found thanks to Pepsi.

The controversy happened swiftly, as people were quick to call out the striking similarities to the Black Lives Matter movement. Even Martin Luther King Junior’s daughter called out the commercial on Twitter.

Pepsi released an apology stating “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

The Pepsi case highlighted how you really have to do a bit of market research before releasing your commercials to avoid a social media backlash.

3. Uber

Uber isn’t having the smoothest year. The year started with Donald Trump’s travel ban against majority Muslim countries. As a result of the travel ban, taxi drivers in the New York Taxi Workers Alliance called a strike, which involved boycotting JFK International Airport for an hour. When this was announced, Uber took to Twitter to announce they had dropped surge pricing at the airport. People who were against the travel ban showed their disapproval for Uber’s choice not by taking to social media, but by deleting Uber’s app. People then began to share screenshots of themselves deleting the app, encouraging others to follow suit.

In response to their app being deleted, Uber posted online that “We wanted people to know they could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices.”

4. Nivea

Nivea is another example of a company that should have done some market research with their latest online campaign. Back in March, Nivea Middle East decided to go with the tagline “White Is Purity” to advertise their invisible deodorant.

This online campaign came after Pepsi’s Black Lives Matter fail, and people were quick to point out Nivea’s oversight and how tone deaf their campaign was.

Nivea released a standard response, stating “The Nivea Middle East post was not meant to be offensive. We apologize. It’s been removed. NIVEA values diversity and tolerance.”

5. Adidas

Adidas’ fail is something we’ve all done - sent an email, text or social media post that you immediately wish you hadn’t sent and could take back. However, Adidas just did it on a much larger, public scale. In April, Adidas sent out an email with the subject line “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon.”

Social media users were quick to point out how inappropriate this subject line was, considering it followed the 2013 attack at the Boston Marathon, where three people were killed and 260 people were injured. Survivors of the 2013 bombing had even run in the 2017 marathon.

Adidas released an apology stating “We are incredibly sorry. Clearly, there was no thought given to the insensitive email subject line we sent Tuesday. We deeply apologize for our mistake. The Boston Marathon is one of the most inspirational sporting events in the world. Every year we’re reminded of the hope and resiliency of the running community at this event.”

These social media management fails highlight how sometimes it’s best to get a second opinion. Make sure you do your market research, and if you are at the receiving end of social media backlash, make sure to release a sincere apology, or else the general public will be able to see straight through it.

What other social media management fails have you seen this year? Let us know in the comments.

Ben Maden

Read more posts by Ben

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