Social Media On the Job FAIL

Fails in the social networking world don’t always lay at the feet of mega-corporations or the very famous. Sometimes it is a regular Joe/Jane that does something that is so filled with fail that you have to wonder if their mother had any kids who lived. Yeah, that is incredibly harsh to say, but sometimes the magnitude of fail is such that there is no other explanation. Today, we’ll take a look at some very well known social networking fails as well as a few you likely missed – and this isn’t about prolonging their torture. It is so you can see what they did wrong, how it impacted them and know what not to do to wind up in the same position.

In 2009, a young lady from California named Connor Riley – someone that basically grew up in the digital age – landed a job with Cisco. For most 22 year olds a job with good pay, benefits and plenty of upside would be a dream, particularly given how bad the economy is.  Instead of going online and bragging about scoring a primo job, she decided to go online and bitch about it – and keep in mind she hadn’t worked day one yet . Not even minute 1.

Her tweet that she didn’t know if the “fatty paycheck” was worth how much she knew she’d be “hating the work.” The thing about Cisco is that they have people that monitor mentions of their company. They do monitor their  brand online. A Cisco employee saw the tweet and decided to pass it on to HR. HR saw it and passed it on up the line. Before she ever started the job she was fired from the job. In 2010, Riley landed a job with Bittorrent as the rumor goes, and hopefully has enjoyed that seeing as they are pretty close to being extinct – while Cisco is still going strong comparatively speaking.

Anyone remember NFL running back Larry Johnson, formerly of the KC Chiefs? His Twitter tirade referring to people’s “broke ass mom birthed you broke”, another fellow “wit your fag pic” along with the usual references to people being little girls or and just so much crap – spelled so incorrectly even for Twitter shorthand – that I’m not sure he left any group un-offended.

The team wasn’t happy about him doing that – no one that makes money from the type of people he ripped mercilessly wants to be anywhere near that kind of mess. He became toxic property within minutes. Not only did the people he worked for and with want nothing to do with him, 32,000 Chiefs fans petitioned the team to immediately release him – and they did.

In a matter of just over two years, Johnson went from a pro Bowl player with superstar written all over him to rushing for a mere 208 yards and no touchdowns before finally being released from his 4th team in 2 ½ seasons. No team has even entertained giving Johnson a shot at making a roster spot since.

A woman over in the UK, who to this day remains unknown to all, decided to rip her boss on Facebook calling him a “pervy wanker” that made her do “sh*t stuff”. What she forgot however is that she added her boss, the alleged pervy wanker, to her friend list so he was able to see her mini tirade along with everyone else. His response to her – on that thread no less, was priceless.

He first pointed out that although he didn’t prance like a queen, he was gay and it was no secret. He had no reason to take any pervy interest in her. Also, the “sh*t stuff” she was asked to do was her job – and she didn’t do it well. Finally he wrapped up reminding her that she was 2 weeks shy of finishing her trial period – which was now not necessary as she was being let go.

I iz ur boss... lookin' at ur Facebook.

Just for fun, who can forget Kevin Colvin, AKA Pixie Fail, who got busted in a rather embarrassing way. Colvin was working as an intern at a bank when he called boss to tell him that he needed a day off at the end of October due to a “family emergency”. As you can guess, the only emergency Colvin was facing was figuring out how to get to a Halloween party – it was that time of the year. In almost no time at all, Colvin was busted.

He went to a party dressed as a full on fairy – or maybe it was supposed to be a pixie. Either way he was holding a wand of some sort in one hand and can of beer in the other. Did I forget to mention people took pictures of him – lots of pictures. They went all over his friend’s Facebook pages. Worse that that, they were time-stamped so there was no arguing these were old pics from last year.

They aren’t the first and they won’t be the last. Fail Kitty has a whole tub filled with social networking and social media fail. The big players make mistakes and the little guys make mistakes. The famous do it just the same as the guy next door. If you take nothing from this today but one thing, make it be this one guiding mantra:  It is not only possible to over-share online, it is a very bad idea as well.


Qantas Airlines FAIL

No one ever intends to make a social media disaster, but they happen all the time – and Qantas is living proof of that. While the fallout from the latest social media debacle from Qantas has finally died down, that doesn’t mean we should forget about it because it offers some great lessons about what not to do if you are a social media manager. For those that somehow missed the Qantas story, settle in for a lesson in fail.

Last November, Qantas decided that it would be a good idea to run a contest centered around asking customers for their “dream luxury in-flight experience.” That sounds like a good idea – other companies do similar promotions all the time and have great success. What other companies do that Qantas failed to get a grip on is research. What does research have to do with a dream travel experience contest? When it came to the Qantas campaign, research was the difference between Charlie Sheen style tiger blood winning and winding up here on Fail Kitty – it’s a huge difference.

Why no can haz airplanes fly?

If Qantas did just the most basic research, they would have realized they had employees on strike when they launched the online contest. They would have realized that they had literal plane loads of paying passengers sitting in the terminals with no plane to board. They would have realized that grounded customers + a mildly moderated (at best) online dream vacation contest was a recipe for disaster.

When you’re stuck in an airport waiting for a flight what do you do? Some wander around, a brave few try to nap amongst all the commotion. Some read or talk to whoever is next to them. These days though, a lot of people take to the web via whatever mobile device they are armed with. If you are stuck waiting for a flight, odds are you are going to check up on your airline since it isn’t one plane stuck on the ground but all of them.

You Google Qantas, and you see news of the problems their SMM somehow missed or decided didn’t matter because he had a schedule to meet or maybe he was told to just do it anyway – no one is saying even to this day. The next thing you see in the news feed is the Qantas contest about a dream vacation  – just tweet it #Qantas luxury… Bad idea… So terribly bad…

That spread like wildfire through the terminals which produced some incredibly ugly real-time tweets about what Qantas could do, how they could do it, and where they could shove it when they did it. Anything like that gets attention and before long – viral bad PR death! Qantas really stepped in it.

This social media fail could have been avoided so easily. It is a basic axiom that you make sure all your ducks are in a row before you launch a campaign. Would a restaurant launch a prime rib special and not have prime rib? Would a car dealership have a $3,000 off sale on every car on the lot if they had no cars? Obviously not, but that is exactly what Qantas did – they launched a travel contest without a plane in the air! Research, vet what you find, and then do it again. Social media management 101 stuff – don’t offer what you don’t have!

All together – EPIC FAIL!

McDonald’s FAIL

McDonald’s wasn’t lovin’ it when their Twitter campaign to get stories from customers about their dining experiences at the golden arches horribly failed. Fail Kitty was not pleased to see that the #Mcdstories campaign lasted a mere two hours before they had to pull the plug. Fail Kitty doesn’t even nap for less than two hours, so she almost missed the entire fiasco.


Rather than getting fun family stories about great food and awesome toys from Happy Meals, they got a lot bad stuff. Really bad stuff about fingernails in food, cracks about their burgers having no meat in them and the usual laundry list of McD’s makes you fat, gives you gas, causes all sorts of problems – you get the picture. The entire thing devolved into what called a “hashtag horror show”.

McDonald’s claimed it wasn’t that bad. According to their numbers, they claim #Mcdstories only accounted for about 2% of their mentions that day. That sounds good, but 2% is a lot when it is the wrong kind of 2%. No one is talking about their other campaign that ran simultaneously, #meetthefarmers. No one cares. Stuff about bits of garbage and body parts in your burger makes an impression and people talk about it , share it and keep it alive long after the campaign is pulled.

McDonald’s implemented their emergency contingency plan for such events , which is shut it down and pretend it never happened, but this time it didn’t work. It’s not so huge a fail as the McAfrica sandwich for instance, and it’s certainly not as big a PR disaster as the McLean proved to be, but it is a big enough misstep for Zoe to look upon McDonald’s and issue the verdict FAIL!!!

Papa John’s FAIL

Here’s an example of how a lone franchise employee can create a PR nightmare.

On Friday, January 6, 2012, around 8:00 in the evening, New Yorker Minhee Cho, age 24, walked into her local Papa John’s and ordered a small pepperoni pizza. She laughed and chatted with the server, completely unaware of what the employee really thought of her.

Lady Chinky Eyes. Classy.

That is, until the next day, when she glanced at the receipt. Instead of Minhee’s name, the employee had typed the words “lady chinky eyes”. Dumbfounded at the racial slur, Minhee turned to Twitter to express her disillusionment, Tweeting “Hey @PapaJohns , just FYI – my name isn’t “lady chinky eyes.”” The tweet, which went out at around 12:30 pm on Saturday, was accompanied by a pic of the offensive receipt (left, clipped from Minhee’s twitpic link). By 3:00 pm, the pic had been viewed over 25,000 times.

The Huffington Post attempted to contact Papa John’s, and reached an assistant manager who claimed no knowledge of the incident but insisted that she was sure the employee “meant no harm” but that “some people will take offense”.  (Really? I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t object to being referred to as “lady chinky eyes”!!)

According to the NY Daily News, store manager Ronald Johnson said the employee was a teen misguided by hip-hop culture, stating, “It’s unfortunate, but this is the modern culture that they’re involved in.”

Around 6:30 pm, 7 hours after Minhee’s Tweet of the receipt and far, far too late, Papa John’s posted a comment on their official Facebook Page:

“We were extremely concerned to learn of the receipt issue in New York. This act goes against our company values, and we’ve confirmed with the franchisee that this matter was addressed immediately and that the employee is being terminated. We are truly sorry for this customer’s experience.”

Now, some people say Papa John’s shouldn’t be penalized for one franchise employee’s incredible rudeness. Unfortunately, big companies are – for better or worse – represented by the people that interact with the public on their behalf. At the least, Papa John’s should have been all over this instantly – why don’t they have someone monitoring Twitter and Facebook who has the authority to leap in and start damage control before half a day goes by?