The use of social media by brands has become commonplace. However, lack of proper understanding of the medium could lead to embarrassing situations. Unlike a print ad that could be soon forgotten, a gaffe on social media can cause a lot of damage due to its viral nature. We have seen several instances of brands, as well as renowned personalities, finding themselves in the midst of a controversy due to their social media antics. Especially, Twitter, with its 140 characters limitation notwithstanding, is infamous for landing many in trouble. We take a look at some Twitter controversies that rocked the social media scene in the recent past.
Watch your wicket
Suresh Raina learns it the hard way
Suresh Raina, the rising Indian cricketer, has been the latest to commit a faux pas on Twitter. While India beat Pakistan in the recent ICC T20 World Cup play-off matches, it was Pakistan who entered the semi-finals. As it turned out, Pakistan was sent packing home by Sri Lankan team who made it to the finals. A tweet from @ImRaina taking a potshot at the archrival's loss in an unsavory manner read “Ek do din late gaye ghar !!!! Woh bhi besharam ki tarah Gaye… Bye bye Pakistan!!!!.” This tweet obviously made news and Raina received a lot of flak for the unsportsmanlike attitude. He later deleted the tweet and provided explanation that the tweet was actually posted by his nephew using his Twitter handle and he was clueless about the same. He nonetheless offered an apology. While it’s difficult to know how much of truth there is to it, some enterprising folks on Twitter have gone ahead and created a parody Twitter account – @raina_nephew.
KitchenAid got mixed-up by taking on Obama
A couple of days ago, KitchenAid, a brand in US that is known for hand mixers and blenders, found itself in a soup over a tweet. It’s very common for brands to tweet about the on-going events, while promoting their brand. With the U.S. presidential elections just around the corner, the presidential debate was one such event that gained much hype over the social networks. In fact, according to reports, it became the most tweeted about event in US politics with more than 10 million tweets sent during the 90-minute live event. While we may all have our favourites, as a brand you need to be careful about expressing your opinions. That’s where KitchenAid went wrong, as it made reference to President Obama’s late grandmother in a tweet that said, “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! 'She died 3 days b4 he became president.” Needless to say, it caused quite a controversy. Even though they were quick to delete the tweet, many had already retweeted it and not to mention taken a screenshot, which was then widely circulated online. KitchenAid, while apologising to the first family, provided an explanation saying that the tweet was carelessy sent by one of their team members and that the concerned person wouldn’t be tweeting for them anymore.
Vibrate or Shiver?
Shiver or Vibrate? Not too sure…
Volkswagen, the German automobile manufacturer and the company behind the iconic Beetle, has time and again come up with novel ad campaigns sparing no expense. Back in 2010, it caught people off-guard with its talking newspaper ad. A small speaker device was implanted on the last page of the newspaper and as soon as people turned to the last page, the device trigged the audio message about its new car Vento. It was novel, never seen before in India and was well received. However, Volkswagen wasn’t that fortunate the second time around. In September, readers of leading dailies were treated to vibrating newspaper, thanks to Volkswagen. The front page ad inquired “Feel the shiver of excitement?” and the little black box embedded in the newspaper was supposed to let people experience the “shiver”. But unfortunately for Volkswagen, people perceived it as vibration more than shiver and took to social networks lampooning the ad using double entendre. Twitter especially was abuzz and what added fuel to the fire was a tweet from Volkswagen supposedly defending the creative campaign, but failed miserably. The tweet from the official Twitter handle @VolkswagenIndia read “Women would be dumb to call it a vibrator. Or maybe they do not understand real driving experience. #PunIntended #Volkswagen #Creative”. This tweet invited further wrath from people. And Volkswagen committed social media hara-kiri when it deleted the offending tweet by taking the usual line of account being compromised. And since then, the official Twitter account hasn’t been updated.
Mamma Mia, not quite
Hash tag gone wrong
Another Indian brand that recently made a social media faux pas was Fortis Healthcare. Its Mamma Mia initiative on Twitter is aimed at pregnant women and new mothers, to guide them on their journey. To celebrate World Breast Feeding Week in August, it decided to launch a contest on Twitter urging people to use a certain hash tag and come up with creative one-liners. This was indented to spread awareness about benefits of breast feeding, however, it didn’t give much thought to the hash tag it chose. It urged followers to use #AgarMaKaDudhPiaHaiTo. Of course, everybody will identify those words that were spouted by Amitabh Bachchan in the movie Lawaaris in an angry overtone. Twitter users had a field day using the hash tag, coming up with absurd one liners referring to bollywood celebs and even our Prime Minister. Needless to say, the hash tag didn’t quite serve the intended purpose. To redeem itself, Fortis, too, just like Volkswagen, attributed the gaffe to its account being hacked. However, to give it credit, it recovered quickly and continued with the awareness campaign; of course, sans the hash tag. Looks like Fortis has learnt its lesson well and since then, has run several successful campaigns on Twitter.
Shashi Tharoor is well-known for his Twitter gaffes
Shashi Tharoor has remained in the eye of the storm with his several foot-in-the-mouth tweets. A renowned member of parliament, he is quite active on the social networking sphere. First time around it was his cattle class remark that created an uproar. He used the word cattle class to refer to the economy class of the airlines. His remark was highly publicised by all the media channels so much so that the Congress termed it ‘absolutely insensitive’ and firmly stated that the party does not endorse his view. Though no disciplinary action was taken against him, the party did distance itself from the whole controversy. What went unnoticed, however, was the fact that it was not Shashi Tharoor who used the expression ‘cattle class’ in the first place. He was simply replying to a tweet by a prominent columnist who had used the expression. Then again, his public spat with IPL chief Lalit Modi was well chronicled on Twitter. After resigning from his post as the Minister of State for External Affairs, he remained inactive on Twitter for a little while, but he is back again and so far has managed to remain controversy-free.
While the list is endless, we have picked just a few. Apart from those mentioned here, do let us know the ones you find most amusing.
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