WOW: Twitter #EPICFAIL Case Studies

by David · 2 comments

Epic FailYou want people to like you and your brand. That’s the whole point of being on Twitter, right?

Honestly, it’s not that difficult. Unless you’re a sociopath.

Just behave like you would anywhere else where you want people to like you. Say hi. Ask questions. Be interested. Be interesting. Share cool stuff. Occasionally talk about yourself. Don’t interrupt people.

Not rocket science.

Mainly stuff your mama taught you.

Yet even the big brands who invest millions of dollars in social media marketing sometimes mess up. Epically.


For the purposes of education and amusement, let’s look at some case studies.

You have permission to laugh. These are pretty funny.

Toyota’s Superbowl Spambot

Ahead of the 2012 Superbowl Toyota’s social media manager got inspired by the robots on the car maker’s factory floor.

Here’s a (fictional) guess at their thought process:

Robots are great… why don’t we use robots on Twitter… I know we could use robots to message anyone who tweets about Toyota, wouldn’t that be cool?

No, not cool. But at least people who talked about Toyota on Twitter might be interested in hearing from the company.

It got worse.

Hmmm… not all that many people talk about Toyota on Twitter. I know, why don’t we create a robot to message anyone who mentions the Superbowl. Millions of people talk about Superbowl.

What’s worse, Twitter let Toyota get away with this nonsense. Toyota was allowed to set up official, verified Twitter accounts to spam anyone who mentioned the 2012 Superbowl, the Giants or the Patriots.

Toyota’s tweets weren’t even relevant to the Superbowl. Their tweets were along the lines of:

“We’re excited about Sunday too! Why not enter our Camry Effect prize draw?”

Not cool.


After a backlash from bloggers, Toyota apologized.

“We apologize to anyone in the Twitter-verse who received an unwanted @reply over the past few days. We were excited to share the message of our Camry Effect campaign in a new way and it was never our intention to displease anyone.

“We’ve certainly learned from this experience and have suspended the accounts effective immediately to avoid any additional issues.”

What’s really crazy is how this violates Toyota’s own philosophy. The first principle of the Toyota way is to:

“Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term goals.”

Sending out spam on Twitter may get you a few clicks in the short term. Long term? It damages engagement with your audience.

Toyota, respect your audience.

McFail: Don’t Expect Customers to Sing Your Praises

A little over a year ago, McDonald’s launched the #McDStories hashtag. They asked people to post nostalgic memories about eating Happy Meals as a child.

The hashtag trended, just as McDonald’s hoped it would (As the company has millions of followers, any hashtag it creates is likely to trend).

However, there was one small problem.

Not everyone’s memories, or day-to-day experiences of McDonald’s are positive.

The hashtag became an emblem for complaints against McDonald’s.

Twelve months on, search #McDStories on Twitter and you’ll find horror stories from staff and customers.

Hubspot reflects on what went wrong:

“This hashtag was just too general to prevent the subsequent firestorm. With a reach so large, even a small number of detractors mean a ton of negative internet coverage.”

Wallowing in #EpicFail Luxury

Qantas, the Australian airline, set up a competition which customers could enter by tweeting about their “dream luxury in-flight experience”. Tweets had to include the hashtag #QantasLuxury.

Qantas failed to realize this was the perfect opportunity for disgruntled customers to tweet about their less than luxurious experiences with the airline.

Here are a few of the funniest:

My #QantasLuxury experience would be no matter what time or duration of the flight a proper meal is served a cookie is not a meal its a joke

A complimentary cheap hotel room because your cynical airline left you stranded in Adelaide, of all places. Adelaide. #QantasLuxury

A plane that doesn’t have an exploding engine! #QantasLuxury


The British luxury supermarket Waitrose fell into a similar trap with its “I only shop at Waitrose because…” campaign.

Joke answers included:

“because I detest being surrounded by poor people.”

“because [other supermarkets] don’t stock unicorn food.”

“because I’m filthy rich and therefore automatically better than [other people].”


Over to You

What are your favorite funny stories of #epicfails by brands on Twitter?


Want to know how your brand can be a Twitter success story? Check out this week’s featured Social Caffeine ebook, The 10 Commandments For Building a Brand on Twitter. Get your copy from Amazon here. Amazon UK users: get your copy here.

David is Social Caffeine’s acting editor. He’s British, but we don’t hold that against him.

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Joe Talcott March 11, 2013 at 5:39 am

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