12 AVOIDABLE Business Social Media Fails, a.k.a. “The Dirty Dozen”

11 min read

There are many ways businesses can benefit from a social media ‘win’, but there are just as many ways — if not more — that businesses can be hurt by social media fails.

The consequences of a social media fail in business can be pretty drastic (3 of the companies mentioned below permanently closed down after their social media fiascoes).

Don’t make the same mistakes (yes, they’re avoidable) and take a few minutes to learn from the 12 social media fails below.

Commit them to memory: thou shalt not repeat!

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #1: Losing Your Cool

This might seem obvious, but social media fails like Amy’s Baking Company (now permanently closed) make it necessary.

Amy’s Baking Company was featured in the 16th episode of the 6th season of Kitchen Nightmares, and was the first and only restaurant in the history of the show where Chef Gordon Ramsey was not able to finish his transformation of the business.

This might have something to do with the foul language, poor tipping policies, mass produced frozen menu items (falsely advertised as fresh), and some pretty hot tempers associated with the location. Along with social media reactions like the ones below.

They started out okay, giving thanks to their fans:


But when it came to responding to their haters, they went off course. Wayyyy off course:


Even years later, they were still on a roll:


How to avoid social media fails like this:

Keep your cool and don’t respond to haters with insults.

That’s it.

Oh, and you can try dealing with a bad review online in ways that can actually benefit your business (instead of closing it down):

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #2: Constantly plugging your product or service

(And only your product or service.)

You know that friend you have had who only talks about him or herself? The one who never asks you how you’re doing, and their only topic of conversation is always about him or herself?


Social media is a medium for communication, and communication should never be one-sided.

How to avoid social media fails like this:

Avoid social media fails like this by adding to the conversation and engaging with your audience. Talk to them, not at them.

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #3: Seizing EVERY opportunity to promote your business

If you’ve been guilty of using social media as a way to constantly plug your product or service (and ONLY plug your product your service), then you need to branch out into other topics.

However, if you’re talking about a current event like a catastrophic natural disaster, please don’t connect it with self-promotion.

Social Media Fails #3: Seizing EVERY opportunity to promote your business

A bit insensitive, but Gap realized their social media fail and apologized.

Unfortunately, replies to the Tweet show that the Twitter-verse was unmoved by their apology.

People can smell insincerity, and piggybacking on a natural disaster can turn into a PR disaster.

How to avoid social media fails like this:

Show empathy in times of natural disasters, and don’t promote your business unless you’re talking about what you’re doing to help the victims.

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #4: Skimping on research

Speaking of social media fails related to piggybacking, hashtags are all the rage. Many companies create dedicated hashtags for their marketing campaigns. And those who don’t, often use pre-existing ones on social media.

Go ahead and piggyback on a pre-existing hashtag, just make sure you find out exactly what the hashtag is being used for. Otherwise, you risk poking fun at a serious situation, like DiGiorno did with #WhyIStayed.

How to avoid social media fails like this:

Avoid social media fails like this by learning what a hashtag is used for before you use it too.

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #5: Talking politics on social media

Now, there’s nothing wrong with having strong opinions, but there is a time and place for everything.

Cup It Up American Grill (also closed permanently now) learned this the hard way.

The restaurant’s owners decided to get political on social media and wrote about their support for President Trump, repealing ObamaCare, and their stance on standing during the National Anthem.

All in one Facebook post.

Social media fails #5: Talking politics on social media

The message did not sit well with their audience, and the restaurant soon started receiving bad reviews online and harassing phone calls.

Social media fails #5: Talking politics on social media

The owners took down their Facebook post within 3 hours, but the restaurant closed down for good just 3 days later.

How to avoid massive social media fails like this?

Don’t talk politics on your business social media channels.

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #6: Not getting a second (or 3rd) opinion

Think you have a winning idea for a campaign? Do yourself a favor and run it by your colleagues first. Or your friends, siblings, mailman, whoever… just get a second opinion and think twice.

This will help you avoid running campaigns like Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice, where participants received vouchers for a free whopper by deleting 10 friends from their Facebook friend lists.

The idea was: you like your friends, but you love the Whopper.

Over 23,000 vouchers were sent out (meaning that more than 230,000 people had been de-friended) before Burger King pulled the plug.

It was an interesting idea, to say the least, but does the world really need more negative energy?

Not getting a second (or 3rd) opinion
Not getting a second (or 3rd) opinion
Not getting a second (or 3rd) opinion

How to avoid social media fails like this:

Get a second opinion… or third and fourth.

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #7: Confusing social selling with social marketing

Social selling is about finding and interacting with your sales prospects directly on social.

Social media marketing is about using social to promote your product or service.

Similar, but not the same — you can’t have one without the other, but they require different approaches.

And you shouldn’t expect them to produce the same results.

Social media marketing won’t be a huge source of sales. This is about promoting your product and generating awareness for your business.

Once you’ve set those wheels in motion and you’ve created some buzz, it’s time for social selling.

And this will be your source of sales, especially if you use social listening to find social selling opportunities.

For example, I monitored online mentions of the phrase ‘where can I find’ with Brand24, and I found over 50,000 results like this:


A common question, and nearly all the comments are recommendations of particular brands or eCommerce websites.

I’m an avid hiker, so I can name at least 7 other brands which nobody else mentioned, and these are brands that produce really high-quality hiking boots too.


How to avoid social media fails like this:

There’s an easy fix for social media fails like this: monitor keywords that are important to your business with an Internet monitoring tool like Brand24. This will help you identify social selling opportunities unique to your company or brand, so you can stop missing out on new prospects.

People talk, and they might even be asking questions that your business could (and should) answer. Are you listening?

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #8: Working with the wrong influencer

Ahh… influencer marketing… a buzz term that’s virtually everywhere these days.

Companies are eager to work with influencers, especially when they can expose their products to a wider audience, generate interest, and boost sales.

These benefits are tempting — so tempting, that businesses will often rush through the selection process and quickly sign on with influencers, even if:

  • Their audience is not the company’s target audience
  • Their brand personality is not compatible with the company’s brand personality
  • Their online reputation is not really as positive as assumed

What’s the common denominator here?

Not enough research.

These companies are rushing things and not taking the time to research and really get to know their influencers.

Rookie mistake.

When you hire an influencer to work with and represent your brand, make sure you know what you’re getting.

Influencers are people, and each person has their own individual story. Signing on to work with an influencer is more than just an agreement for X number of posts and exposure to audience Y.

You’re becoming part of their story

And their story (past, present, future) is becoming part of yours.

Let that sink in for a moment.

It takes time to get to know someone — both online and off-line.

P.S. Influencers, this works both ways: make sure you know what you’re representing and stay away from disreputable brands!

How do you avoid social media fails like working with the wrong people?

By not rushing through the research and taking the necessary steps to make sure you find the best influencer for your business.

And in today’s social media-obsessed world, not only do companies need to worry about finding the right influencers to work with their brand… they also need to watch out for FAKE influencers:

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #9: Separating real life from social media

Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado and Tastries Bakery in California have both been caught in social media fails after refusing to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

The stories quickly spread on the Internet, prompting responses like this:


Under Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, businesses are prohibited from discriminating against customers based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

Masterpiece Cakeshop closed down permanently (company number 3 to go out-of-business on this list of social media fails) after the same-sex couple they refused to serve pursued legal action.

And according to California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, it is illegal for business owners to discriminate against people based on their background, race, sexual orientation or other factors.

We definitely want to avoid drastic social media fails like this. The lesson here?

How to avoid social media fails like this:

Even if you don’t voice your personal opinions on your company’s social media channels, don’t assume that your actions in real life will be isolated and shielded from your customers’ social media feeds.

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #10: Not keeping up with current events

Read the paper before you post. Or head to your favorite news sites. At least check out the headlines.

Your campaign or post can wait half an hour.

And using a tool to schedule posts ahead of time doesn’t let you off the hook. If anything, it means you have to be extra vigilant.

I bet the National Rifle Association uses a scheduling tool for their Twitter account, explaining why they posted this Tweet on the morning of the mass Dark Knight shooting in Aurora:

Social media fails #10: Not keeping up with current events

They soon removed the Tweet, but not faster than the Twitter-verse could take screenshots & ReTweet.

Timing is everything.

How to avoid social media fails like this:

To avoid social media fails like this, grab a cup of tea, coffee, or juice, and just take a few minutes to scroll through that news feed before you post anything!

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #11: Not training your employees

As of June 2017, there are 3,885,567,619 Internet users in the world. That’s out of a global population of 7,519,028,970.

This means 51% of the global population are Internet users.

In North America alone, there are 320,059,368 Internet users, out of a population count of 363,224,006.

That’s 88.1%.

More likely than not, your employees are also Internet users. Create a set of company social media guidelines for your employees, and provide a company wide training session on social media do’s & don’ts for your business.

Let your employees know up front that certain types of behavior will not be tolerated. This will help you avoid situations like the one from Domino’s.

Their employees thought it would be fun to create a prank video of them putting cheese up their nose, mucus on sandwiches, along with other acts violating the health code. They even uploaded it onto Youtube.

How to avoid social media fails like this:

Avoid social media fails like this with more cautious hiring policies. And even if something might seem like an obvious don’t, spell things out to your employees. Make perfectly clear what qualifies as acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Considering the rest of the dirty dozen, this may be necessary.

SOCIAL MEDIA FAIL #12: No social media presence

This may be the worst one yet.

You don’t know this company because they don’t believe in using social media for business.

I wish I could tell you what they’re called, but… I’ve never heard of them either.

They could be selling pumpkins, delicious candy in bulk, and the most amazing costumes ever made (perfect for Halloween), but… we’ll never know!

How to avoid social media fails like this:

Social media fails like this are easy to fix. Start building social presence ASAP and get the word out about your business.

These top 10 social media marketing tips will point you in the right direction.

Avoid social media fails for your business

The thing is, whether you’ve been using social media for your business or not, this is where your customers are talking about.

Customers talk about products or services if they’re awesome… and ESPECIALLY if they’re terrible.

Americans tell an average of 15 people about a poor service experience, versus the 11 people they’ll tell about a good experience.

(American Express 2017 Customer Service Barometer)

Think that doesn’t apply to your business?

You better make sure!

Monitor online mentions of your own business with Brand24 and see for yourself what people are saying about your product, service, or company.

And keep these 12 AVOIDABLE business social media fails, a.k.a. The Dirty Dozen, in mind as you build social media presence.

Remember: thou shalt not repeat.

Good luck!

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