Pretty Simple: web, digital, social

Barely a week goes past without another news story about some hapless individual getting into trouble as a result of Social Media. Accordingly I’ve decided to keep a record of some of these tales of woe.

I’ll continue to add to it as new stories come up so if you spot a good one, let me know!

It’s worth noting that I’m collecting these as useful ‘lessons learned’ – not to put people off using such platforms for their organisations, but to provide a clearer picture of some of the pitfalls.

McDonald’s #McDStories Twitter Campaign Fails – 24th January 2012

A Twitter campaign by McDonald’s aimed at spreading good news about the firm has backfired spectacularly – with people using the #McDStories to highlight their worst experiences of the fast food chain. (source: Huffington Post)

The only surprising thing about this story is that they didn’t see it coming.

Labour sacks candidate in Twitter row – 9th April 2010

The Labour party sacks one of its parliamentary candidates after details emerged of offensive comments he had published on Twitter (source: The Guardian).

Quite an astonishing one, this. The phrase “should have known better” has never been more applicable. I’ve written a brief post analysing the story.

Sunday Express makes a Twit of itself – 17th January 2010

The Sunday Express publishes a damning exposé of the BBC’s use of Twitter, claiming that they have no followers and are wasting their time. Unfortunately the writers have confused followers for following, and the accounts in question actually have thousands of followers (source: No Rock and Roll Fun).

The article has since been pulled, but is a reminder of how easy it is to criticise social media without fully understanding it, as Tory MP Anne Widdecombe will now be finding out, after giving the Express a quote based on their dubious findings.

Alpha Course online poll backfires – 23rd October 2009

The Christian Alpha Course’s multi-million pound advertising campaign has potentially backfired when an online poll, asking whether people believed in God, showed an abnormally high 98% saying ‘No’. (source: The Register). Suspicions of an online sting by atheists seem highly likely.

I’ve also written a post looking at the risks of online polls.

Staff at PC World and Currys mock customers’ ‘stupidity’ on Facebook – 6th September 2009

Comments describe customers as ‘really stupid’ and ‘ignorant’, with some suggesting that they should be punched or even cattle-prodded (source: Guardian). Parent company DSG plans to investigate and take ‘necessary action’.

Lloyds spams Tweeters going on their hols – 26th August 2009

Automatic tweets to anyone mentioning the word ‘holiday’, plugging the pharmacy’s Travel Health webpage, do not go down well in the Twittersphere (source : Attempts to contact the company, suggesting they change their tactics, are ignored.

MI6 boss in Facebook row – 5th July 2009

Personal details about the next head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, are removed from Facebook amid security concerns (source: BBC News). Foreign Secretary David Miliband denies that security had been compromised, saying: “You know he wears a Speedo swimsuit. That’s not a state secret.”

Habitat abuses Twitter hashtags – 20 June 2009

UK furniture store Habitat starts tweeting, but abuses the hashtag in a surprising spate of spammy behaviour (source: Social Media Today) which quickly attracts criticism amongst Twitter users. Misused hashtags include #iphone, #Apple and #MOUSAVI (in a pretty cynical attempt to cash in on the high profile Iranian elections).

Force disciplines police blogger – 16 June 2009

A serving detective, revealed as the author of a high-profile blog, has been disciplined by his force (source: BBC). The award-winning blog had included criticisms of government ministers and police bureaucracy.

Council freezes Twitter account after insult gaffe – 3 June 2009

A council-run newspaper accidentally Tweets a potentially insulting message (source:, apparently intended only as a Direct Message to one person. Twitter account promptly shut down.

Probe into teacher Twitter posts – 22 May 2009

Teacher caught Tweeting on her mobile phone during class time (source: BBC). Up to 38 comments a day, some discussing her pupils. An investigation is launched.

Facebook gaffe earns woman the sack – 27 April 2009

A Swiss Insurance worker is fired after using Facebook whilst off sick (source: PC Pro). She had claimed a condition which prevented her from using her computer, and insisted she had accessed Facebook via her phone whilst in bed.

Video prank damages Domino’s brand – 15 April 2009

Domino’s Pizza employees post a film of unsavoury kitchen activity on Youtube (source: NY Times). Within days, millions have viewed the footage, and outrage spreads across the internet.

Domino's official response on Youtube

Damage control - Dominos responds via Youtube

New Skittles Twitter homepage not so sweet – 2 March 2009

Skittles adds a homepage feed of Tweets about it’s product, only to be inundated with abusive, unmoderated comments (source: PC Pro). As one poster observes, Skittles have “opened up the brand so we can all deface it.”

Girl fired for comment on Facebook – 27 Feb 2009

Girls describes her office job as ‘boring’ on Facebook. Is subsequently fired (source: BBC). Employer says “her display of disrespect and dissatisfaction undermined the relationship and made it untenable”.

Ryanair and the ‘idiot bloggers’ – 25 Feb 2009

Ryanair employees leave abusive comments on a blog which had reported a flaw in their website (Source: Times Online). The official statement that comes afterwards does little to defuse the situation.

Further reading

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