The Worst Social Media Fails of All Time & What You Can Learn from Them

E Commerce
October 31, 2019 By Invictus Studio Editor

People might spare a person when he makes a mistake on social media, but the rules of the game change when it is a business. If you make a mistake as a business, it takes only a few minutes for the audience to launch a verbal onslaught and crack cruel jokes. Companies with bad social media presence are also likely to lose a lot of customers.

Social Media Marketing Gone Wrong

Here are a few instances when some well-known brands dropped the ball on social media and bore its repercussions:

1.    Users troll Snapchat’s support bot

When Snapchat users began to experience some difficulties with Snapstreaks in July 2018, the company ran a tweet to make its followers aware about the issue being fixed.

Snapchat, however, didn’t expect that setting up a bot to auto-reply to disappointed users would turn into a meme and they’ll themselves fall victim to it. The auto-reply was a big loophole, which is why many users found a way to game the system. Users are intelligent; after one user caught Snapchat, the others joined the bandwagon to test it too. It goes without saying that Snapchat failed the test.

snapchat social media marketing fail

snapcht social media marketing fail

Automation is a wonderful way to save time, but when it comes to replying to people’s comments, brands shouldn’t rely solely on auto-reply. While, in this particular scenario, automation turned out super useful as it sent users a reassuring message and pointed them in the right direction, Snapchat had very little idea about how automating their replies on Twitter could be the worst possible thing. But like we said earlier, users are smart and if you treat them like numbers, they figure it out quickly.

Here’s the takeaway: although it is not always a bad idea to automate some aspects of your social media (like scheduling), setting up a bot to auto-reply in some cases is tantamount to jumping into hot water.


2.    Sunny Co. Clothing Company fails to keep its promise

Since Sunny Co. Clothing Company wanted to promote their Baywatch swimsuit “Pamela” and their new design, they started a giveaway (a swimsuit worth $65 for free) for everyone who reposted and tagged their picture in the first 24 hours. What they didn’t know was that their post would go viral, with almost 3000 people reposting and tagging the image within a very short time period.

Obviously, Sunny Co. Clothing couldn’t fulfill their promise – distributing millions of dollars worth of free products was out of the question. Following this embarrassing gaffe, their inbox was inundated with angry customers who feared they wouldn’t be able to get the free swimsuit.

The company later issued another post that they had the right to end the promotion due to the high number of responses.

sunny clothing social media marketing fail

The gist? Even if you want your social media marketing campaign to go viral, you should never make promises you can’t keep, especially when it involves distributing free products.


3.    Dove gets called out for its racial insensitive ad

Of all the beauty brand names making news, Dove struggled to change the culture of advertising by choosing real women (e.g., older women with wrinkles, overweight women) to challenge beauty stereotypes.

But Dove nearly lost its audience and faced severe social media backlash when it showed a black woman taking off her shirt to reveal a white woman in its body wash ad, which was designed as a 3-second gif.

Social media users asserted that there were racist implications of the soap ad and the imagery suggested the white skin as dirty and black as clean. Dove was also lambasted for instilling racism while claiming to be a staunch supporter of women’s diversity. Some even noticed that there is a historical legacy of racism in soap ads.

dove transformation racist

After Dove was swamped with tons of messages from women across different races, it took the post down and put out an apology statement, but it still was a major blow.


4.    Benetton excludes women in social media marketing campaign

The Italian clothing brand United Colors of Benetton shot itself in the foot when it posted an image of three boys modeling pieces from the SS17 collection on Instagram, along with the caption: ‘Sorry ladies. Girls not allowed!’. Benetton ruined a potentially perfect advertising picture with a sexist caption.

Although being one of the most progressive brands in the world that also advocates for gender-neutral fashion, when Benetton resorted to sexist language to sell clothing, it contradicted its own campaign.


The controversial Instagram post provoked strident criticism from parents and online backlash because users felt it excludes girls from wearing Benetton’s clothes and encourages gender stereotypes.

Following the backlash, the brand apologized for unintentionally offending its customers, insisting that the post was meant to be playful, but it struck the wrong chord with their audience. They also pointed out a recent campaign that aimed at empowering women and promoted gender equality in order to redeem themselves.


5.    Dolce & Gabbana receives stringent criticism after racist Instagram messages

In 2018, Dolce & Gabbana’s controversial campaign wreaked havoc. The fashion brand ran a campaign video on social media featuring a Chinese woman struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks, which was posted on its social media accounts. Users were quick to castigate D&G for being insensitive, outdated and plain racist. The situation escalated swiftly after that.

d & g chinese

An argument between Stefano Gabbana’s verified Instagram account, @stefanogabbana, and a user only added fuel to the fire. Gabbana’s derogatory comments on Chinese people amplified the controversy.

D & G

As a result, the brand had to cancel its fashion show in China. But it doesn’t end there: thousands of products from this Italian luxury house were removed from China’s biggest shopping websites.

This was one of the biggest social media mistakes and caused D&G a great damage.