#fail : The Ugly Side Twitter

What do you do when things go wrong on Twitter?

So it sounds like a good idea in theory. Picture some well meaning individual pitching what they feel to be a revolutionary way to engage with their audience and come across as, for lack of a better term, ‘with it’. Only social media is cruel and it doesn’t always work out so pretty, does it? Several big fish brands have fallen prey to the #epicfail that follows an vague open question on Twitter.

The most recent faux pas was brewed in the communications office for the NYPD. In my dramatic mind I imagine it all went a little like this:

A communications officer shuffles on their seat bustling with excitement, raising their voice for quiet and then allowing for dramatic pause before releasing their idea, “Why don’t we use Twitter to get people involved? Asking them to share pictures with the NYPD, using the hash tag, #myNYPD?”

No doubt a subsequent round of nods and pats on the backs that ensued as this was then tweeted to the NYPD Twitter news page:

NYPD Twitter fail

What followed was certainly not planned, but in my mind wholly predictable with a pinch of hilarious. Below are the highlights.

Manage brand on Twitter

NYPD on Twitter - damage limitations

Now when you search #myNYPD, instead of being a sweet homage to the beloved police force of New York City, it is actually a rap sheet of NYPD shameful moments. Mission failed? I think so.

A similar example can be fond with JP Morgan, under the hash tag #AskJPMorgan in which they incited people to pose a question for their Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee. A quaint thought with dismal consequences. The result was a slew of angry questions from Americans still raw after the financial crisis. See some highlights below.

Damage limitation on Twitter JP Morgan Twitter fail When things go wrong for your brand on Twitter


What is worse, is when these fails occur, the brand in question ends up coming off as out of touch with the public – driving a further wedge due to their inability to judge the potential backlash. This of course is the last thing they wanted to do.

So how to avoid similar #fails in the cruel world of Social Media?

The lesson here is simple. ‘Ask me no question, and I will tell you no lie’.

PR and Marketing is all about managing your image. So do just that, put out tweets that progress the positive image you wish to portray. There are negative sides to any business and open ended questions leave you open to fire. If you must crowd source information, make the perimeters clear and the desired outcome precise. It would also help to consider your platform. Twitter spreads like wildfire, can backfire and is brilliant yet volatile – like fire – it has its uses, when controlled.