We’ve all been there. You accidentally friend request the person whose profile you’re looking at, Tweeted the wrong account, or liked a photo from 2011 during a sneaky Facebook stalking session. But we are just normal people, not huge celebrities, brands or companies. So what happens when those in the limelight make a social media mistake? And what can you do to avoid making similar ones? Let’s take a look at some of the more terrible examples in the hope we can all avoid acting in a similar way in the future.

Frozen Pizza manufacturer accidentally jumps on a domestic violence hashtag

You may have seen certain hashtags trending on Twitter from time to time that you’ve decided to join in on. In general, it’s always a good idea and definitely promotes social interaction. When you get involved and take part with new and interesting hashtags, you tend to attract more new and interesting people too. But always make sure you know what it is your joining in with… unlike the manufacturers of frozen pizza, DiGiorno did.

In September 2014 the hashtag #WhyIStayed was trending in support of domestic violence victims, aiming to analyse the reasons that they stayed in an abusive relationship, in the hope that others would recognise the signs and act. It quickly gained traction, with people from all over the world joining in, sharing their experiences and supporting others.

Then it happened… the unthinkable. Frozen pizza manufacturer DiGiorno pizza wades in… with this…




At first glance it does just look like a desperate attempt to sell pizza. And under normal circumstances that would be fine. After all, who doesn’t love pizza? The big mistake they made here is not knowing what the hashtag was about or why people are using it. So what happened next? Well in short, apologising, and lots of it.


DiGiornia Twitter


I won’t show you every apology because we’ve all got lives to live. Sometimes that’s all you can do in such a public forum after a mind-meltingly bad mistake. So how do you avoid making a similar mistake? The answer is a pretty simple and quick one. Always do a little research about the hashtag you’re going to be using before putting it out into a very public forum. It’s really that simple. Just a quick read through the Tweets themselves would have allowed them to see that this was really not a pizza kind of hashtag.


Ed Balls Tweet’s his own name by mistake, accidentally creates ‘Ed Balls Day’ forever more

Here’s an example of how a social media mistake, while embarrassing, doesn’t always have devastating effects on the way in which you’re viewed online. It can spawn something fun and long lasting.

It’s Thursday the 28th of April 2011. Ex-Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls was shopping in ASDA when a colleague suggested that he search for an article about himself on the Twitter platform. After becoming distracted by a phone call, Ed Balls continued his search but accidentally typed his own name into the compose Tweet box and Tweeted it to his numerous followers (that probably included most of the country’s journalists.)


Ed Balls


As you can see from the amount of engagement the Tweet got, it didn’t go unnoticed. And ever since, every year, the 28th of April has been referred to as Ed Balls day on Twitter, with people just either Tweeting their own name or Ed’s in honour of his legendary mistake. Ed Balls day has just had it’s 5th anniversary and inexplicably seems to get stronger every year.

You might think, so what? No big deal, the guy Tweeted his own name. And you’d be right. The humor comes from just that. The fact that it got blown out of all proportion is what makes it so great. It probably caused a massive spike in Mr. Ball’s followers as well. So it’s not all bad.

The negative effect comes from the impression the young voter would probably get from witnessing the debacle back in 2011. It doesn’t look great coming from a prominent member of cabinet, especially one from a government doing their best to appear in touch with the youth vote. Still, at least he will be remembered forever more in the Twittersphere. Well done Ed. See you next year.


Google+ Tries to make everyone use their real name on YouTube, accidentally makes everyone hate Google+ even more than they already do.

Remember when Google+ first launched in 2011? It was kind of a big deal for a while there. It was initially invite only in beta, there was a huge buzz about circles and hangouts. I still remember getting my beta invite and thinking I was in on something on the ground floor for once. There was even talk of G+ finally being a player big enough to take down Facebook as the number one social network. None of this really came to fruition and Google+ became somewhat of a ghost-town in a pretty short space of time.

But Google wasn’t going to go down without a fight.




In 2013, in an effort to force the social media world and wider world into loving the unwanted social media child that is Google+, Google itself imposed a new rule regarding posting comments on YouTube. This would later become part of what would become known as Nymwars. Google decided that if you wanted a YouTube channel or to comment on a video, you would have to sign in through your Google+ account. And guess what? In 2011 Google+ made it a rule that in order to have a profile on the platform, you had to use your full and real name, and pretty much deleted any profile that didn’t conform. So this meant in order to comment on a YouTube video your name would be displayed right there next to it.


This created a huge backlash from both content creators and consumers, raising concerns about privacy and freedom of speech on the platform. Now imagine your boss finding out that you had made any of the comments below using your real name…


Slow LorisStunSword


Mine probably wouldn’t be too impressed but (hopefully) they would also see the funny side.

Eventually (and thankfully) in July 2014, Google caved in to public demand, and finally changed their minds regarding the full name policy for YouTube. So now we can all go back to making terrible comments that our bosses will never find.


@TotalBeauty makes a silly, possibly racist mistake

Live Tweeting the Oscars. It’s become just as much of a tradition as the red carpet or those tiny gold men everyone seems to carry around at the event. Live Tweeting about an event is a great way to engage your users and expand your social reach. Especially when Tweeting about something as huge as the Oscars. But one thing about live Tweeting is you’ve got to be ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY sure who and what you’re Tweeting about. And when it comes to people you don’t want to annoy, massive Hollywood stars are probably people to avoid. And since we’re on the subject, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey are probably two that nearly top the list when it comes to Hollywood celebs not to annoy.


So it’s never good to get them confused and Tweet about their ‘unknown tattoos’…


The wrong celebrity

Lucky Oprah has something of a sense of humor, she posted this photo to Instagram shortly after she heard it had happened.

Oprah Reaction


Other people weren’t so forgiving however, as #ThatsNotOprah began to trend pretty quickly – others began to voice their grievances as well. @DCDiva28 wrote: ‘@TotalBeauty there is no way you can fix this or make it better. Insulted doesn’t even begin to cover it! We don’t all look alike!’


It’s safe to say that TotalBeauty probably lost more than a few followers that day. But they did post an apology. So I guess it’s not so bad, right?

Total Beauty


Okay, yeah it is pretty bad.


Microsoft unleashes a rogue, offensive AI chatbot on an unsuspecting public

A few articles ago I talked about the future of social media, and one point that I mentioned was that AI bots would take over much of the customer service roles. It has already begun, like this robot who has recently gotten 160,000 parking tickets overturned in both London and New York. You’d think a company like Microsoft would be at the very cutting edge of this technology. And you’d be right. But even they don’t get it right all the time, every time.

In a futile attempt to engage millennials, and better understand how they communicate with each other through social media platforms such as Twitter, Kik, Facebook and Instagram, Microsoft unleashed ‘Tay’. Tay is (was) a chatbot that learns from interactions with people via online chatter. The idea was that it would learn quickly and you would be able to have a normal conversation about history, pop culture, modern art, current events, pretty much anything you wanted to talk about it really. Since it’s AI was derived from real online chatter it initially worked well after a short teething period.

That is until the now infamous 4chan’s /pol/ imageboard got wind of it. Who then began to feed it disgusting, offensive and sometimes racist language through multiple platforms, which Tay then began spitting out in conversation with other users, who were unaware of why it was ranting and raving about 9/11, Hitler and other touchy subjects.

Right here I would normally show you some examples of what Tay began to spit out at users in general… but quite frankly, they are racist, sexist and sometimes quite disgusting. (You can find plenty by just googling the phrase “Tay Tweets”) so I won’t be including any images of those Tweets.


So let’s just take a look at the first and cleanest Tweet it sent.



Things went downhill pretty fast after that. So we’ll leave it there.


So what can we learn from these mistakes and how can we make sure we don’t make similar ones ourselves? Well we’ve certainly learned to not act in a offensive way, even if it is by mistake. Which should go without saying, but we’ve also learned that checking and attention to detail is almost everything on social media. Including your reputation. Sometimes it (kind of) works out in your favour, a’la Ed Balls. Other times it means you may as well just schedule 100,000 ‘sorry’ Tweets into Hootsuite and just turn your laptop off. Just remember to be careful out there, and that the internet NEVER forgets. So before you hit that schedule, send or Tweet button later, just pause for thought and remember these tales of woe.