News Ticker

BBH Feature: Whoops! Are Social Media Fails Honest Mistakes or Shameless PR Stunts?

We all make mistakes; we just hope those mistakes don’t prove too harmful or embarrassing.

When bloopers take the form of a social media fail, and the entire world is watching, someone’s job usually goes up in flames.

As social media marketers, we watch social media gaffes and mistakes with a certain amount of amusement mixed with a heaping dose of humility. After all, these blunders can happen to anyone.

Social media mistakes are a well-documented category of big, mortifying and very public blunders.

While one can remove an errant tweet or an embarrassing post, someone else almost always snaps a picture or grabs a screencap faster than one’s little fingers can hit “delete.”

Oprah, I Mean Whoopi…

A recent blunder occurred on the evening of the Oscars when Total Beauty tweeted a photo of Whoopi Goldberg but mistook her for Oprah. Whoops!

Whoopi as Oprah

Fortunately for Total Beauty, Ms. Goldberg graciously excused the slip-up with an understanding “people make mistakes.”

Ms. Winfrey addressed the hiccup through her BFF, Gayle King, with this funny but very pointed Instagram post.

oprah about whoopi mix up

What to Do When You Experience a Social Media Fail

  • So, how do you handle a social media fail?
  • What’s the most important rule?

We believe you must apologize quickly and concisely. We think Total Beauty did a nice job of fessing up in a timely manner and not making any excuses, as seen in the tweet below.

Total Beauty Sorry

However, Total Beauty tried to take the apology a step further by offering to donate $10,000 to the charity of Ms. Goldberg and Ms. Winfrey’s choice.

While this seems a generous offer, reactions to the tweet ranged from negative to downright nasty with many suggesting the money should instead be spent on diversity training.

Furthermore, Total Beauty’s donation offer appeared to many as a way to extend the conversation and elicit more buzz.

Followers questioned if the mix-up was an honest mistake or a PR stunt. We’d like to believe this apparent social media fail wasn’t a shameless antic, but I suppose we’ll never know.

Other Social Media Fails

Countless other social media faux pas exist. A Crowdbabble post on Medium documents social media disasters in 2015.

We found their engagement metrics from brands that faced social media fails absolutely fascinating. Remember the Clorox emoji gaffe last year?

Crowdbabble’s data indicate that Clorox not only suffered with social media in the days following the controversy but that Clorox’s social media suffered long term with very little or no engagement long after the snafu.

Social media moves at a rapid pace. A brand or player must post quickly to stay in the game and remain relevant. But sometimes, moving too quickly proves costly – especially when one forsakes proper reviews for speed.

A Social Media “Safety Checklist” to Use Before You Post Anything

What can we learn from these social media fails?

At Roaring Pajamas, we created a “safety checklist” to use before posting or publishing – regardless of how swiftly or leisurely we intend to post. Here’s how we try to avoid marketing blunders:

  • Check your facts, be certain of no mistaken identity or incorrect details.
  • Examine your grammar and your words – make your 7th-grade grammar teacher proud and also be certain no double entendres exist.
  • Consider brand, voice and tone – ensure the post stays true to the message and on brand.
  • Check everything, again.
  • Send to someone else – someone with a critical eye – for review if you are working on something major or when you have the luxury of extra time and budget.
  • Review again before posting.
  • Post or publish.
  • Monitor

There’s an old saying that there is no such thing as bad press.

Our team insists on good press over bad press and works hard to keep it that way.

But, what do you think – is a social media disaster really a problem?

What steps does your team take to ensure social media fails remain nonexistent?

About Melanie Yunk (50 Articles)
Melanie Yunk, President, Roaring Pajamas Melanie Yunk started working as a social media and search engine optimization consultant early in 2009, when she founded Roaring Pajamas, a digital marketing agency in Northern California. Melanie is passionate about helping businesses market their products and services online. She brings more than 20 years of marketing, engineering and content experience to clients from various industries, including search engines, construction, retail, B2B, wholesale, heavy duty trucks, authors and more. Melanie previously founded Melanie's Fine Foods after purchasing Big Acres® Gourmet Sauces where she expanded the line to be distributed nationwide and in Canada. She also founded Yunk Consulting where she assisted software and semiconductor companies in implementing international standards for electronic databooks that she also helped developed while working at Intel Corporation. Her earliest career began at Honeywell Commercial Flight Systems where she worked on the Boeing 777 and MD11 cockpit projects. She continues to write on the Roaring Pajamas Blog and also as a guest blogger writing about all natural and gourmet foods. Melanie volunteers as a Board Member for the San Carlos Chamber of Commerce and former President of the Advisory Board for the Rosalie Rendu Center in East Palo Alto. She lives in San Carlos with her husband Kent and two Cornish Rex cats.