Worst Social Media Disasters of 2013

Every year there are plenty of big companies who manage to make a very public hash of their social media. 2013 was no different. Here are some of the most memorable social media set-backs of last year.


In January, an HMV staff member took to the company’s official Twitter account to live-tweet the redundancies of 190 members of staff as the business went into administration. Using the hashtag #hmvXFactorFiring the first post read, “We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!!”. It was quickly followed by, “There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand”. As executives discovered they were suffering a twitter-takeover, the staff member responded with, “Just overhead our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask “How do I shut down Twitter?””. The internal hackers managed to post seven angry messages before the company regained control of the account, deleting the posts.

American Airlines

In February, American Airlines’ policy of sending a well-mannered auto-reply to every tweet they receive backfired as they sent out, “Thanks for your support! We look forward to a bright future as the #newAmerican” in response to a tweet reading, “Congrats to @americanair and @usairways on creating the largest, shi**iest airline in the world”. It seems automated reply tweets are not such a good idea after all.

Burger King

Also in February, Burger King saw their Twitter account hijacked by mystery hackers who announced, “Just got sold to McDonalds because the whopper flopped = [FREEDOM IS FAILURE”. They also changed Burger King’s account name to McDonald’s, their background image to a picture of Fish McBites, and their profile picture to the McDonald’s logo. Under the tag-line “look for McDonald’s in a hood near you!”, the hackers posted a chain of tweets claiming Burger King had been sold to McDonald’s, along with racial abuse, swearing and references to drugs. Burger King had to temporarily shut down their account.


In June, at the height of the horse-meat scandal, Tesco made the school-boy error of forgetting to update their auto-tweets, sending their 77,000 follows a tweet that read: “It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay. See you at 8am for more #TescoTweets.” The next day, several national newspapers ran a full page apology ad from Tesco.

British Airways

In September, a disgruntled customer, Hasan Syed, used Twitter’s self-service ad platform to post a $1,000 promotional tweet reading: “Don’t fly @British_Airways. Their customer service is horrendous.” Following a business class flight where BA lost his father’s luggage, Syed tweeted a complaint. But when the airline failed to respond, he took matters into his own hands. His tweet was seen by nearly 77,000 users. And when British Airways finally got around to replying, they apologised for the delay and informed him their Twitter customer service was open from 0900-1700 GMT.

British Gas

In October, following British Gas’ contentious announcement they were to hike their energy prices at three times the rate of inflation, customer services director Bert Pijls took to Twitter for a Q&A session to counter negative opinion. But instead Britain’s biggest energy firm was subjected to a non-stop tirade as 16,000 angry comments rained down. From, “My Nan’s just been on the phone (no twitter) Should she burn the garden table or the chairs first to keep warm?”, to “Have you started an affiliate scheme with a funeral directors?”, “Have you found a way to channel angry customer feedback into electricity?”, and “Do the British Gas board prefer to bathe in £20 or £50 notes?”, #AskBG was the top trend on UK Twitter within an hour of launching the chat.

JP Morgan Chase

And in November, JPMorgan launched their ‘ask us anything’ Twitter campaign’, inviting followers to send in questions using the hashtag #AskJPM. They received more than 8,000 responses over six hours, asking JP Morgan anything from, “Can I have my house back?” and “What’s your favourite type of whale?”, to “Quick! You’re in a room with no key, a chair, two paper clips, and a lightbulb. How do you defraud investors?”. JPMorgan unsurprisingly cancelled their Q&A, tweeting: “Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.”

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