Tips to Avoid Brand Fails on Social Media

As a public relations professional, it’s important to portray your client in a positive light. We are the communicators who work on their behalf – and we understand the value of connecting with users through social media. As the online world continues to grow, ensuring your company doesn’t end up in digital hot water or receive social media backlash is a must. Here are a few tips to avoid common mistakes on social media:

  • Be Cautious with Humor

When your brand wants to use humor in marketing, make sure you think it through before sharing with the public. Delta Air Lines and Coca Cola were recently caught in the middle of a marketing blunder when the companies released new soda napkins on Delta flights, which encouraged passengers to share phone numbers with their “plane crush.” Deemed creepy by customers, the photos quickly went viral on social media. USA Today reported the Delta Air Lines statement where the company apologized and admitted it “missed the mark” on this product.

Remedy: Test. Test. And TEST your products before launching. Even the smallest things – like a napkin – can rouse a negative response for your brand. When working in a partnership, make sure that both parties create brand messaging aligned with company standards. It might just save you from an online crisis.

Image: USA Today, via Twitter user @MJJoe
  • Review Content Before Publishing

Always double-check the social media handles you are tagging in online posts. With the growing popularity of the digital age, it’s a safe bet to take an extra moment and confirm you are using the correct tags for the influencers, brands, and companies you are working with. The same concept applies with emojis. In 2018, YouTube Creators tweeted out the wrong flag emoji when posting about America’s Fourth of July holiday. Twitter users caught on fast and called out the company on social media, as described in Social Media Today’s article here. Grammar mistakes can cause your brand to lose credibility with its consumer base, and often makes the company look unprofessional.

Image: Social Media Today

Remedy: It’s simple. ALWAYS take the time to review your content before publishing on social media. Though we are human and there is always room for error, these mistakes can easily be rectified with a fresh perspective. It’s small details like these which should encourage you to cherish the copywriter, social media specialist, or even the literature enthusiast in your life. Bonus points: take the opportunity to respond to your audience in an authentic way. Digital business consulting agency Kruse Control Inc. wrote on their blog about McDonald’s use of humor to recover from its social media fail, as shown below. Who doesn’t love a good caffeine joke?

Image: Kruse Control Inc.
  • Know Your Audience

It’s important to keep audience in mind when creating advertising messages, and to be aware of events which have deeply impacted them. Adidas, known for its popular athletic wear products, appeared to have completely disregarded a tragic event where Boston Marathon participants were attacked in 2013 when the race was bombed. A few years later, Adidas sent out a marketing email to customers with the title “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” The cringe-worthy advertisement clearly did not run this past their key audience – athletes – and were blind to the fact that there are real survivors out there who did endure a tragic event.


Remedy: Be sensitive to the needs of your audience. It’s fair to say that both athletes and non-athletes alike do not appreciate the unfortunate phrasing Adidas used in the email. Don’t undermine a tragic and unsettling event in U.S. history just for the sake of advertising your company’s products. Consumers will respond to brands who can connect authentically with their audience.

What other brand fails have you seen on social media lately? How would you as a PR professional have handled it instead?

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