Twitter faux pas: Summer edition

Since the disastrous New York Police Department (NYPD) social media snafu, a new series of Twitter mistakes have graced (or defaced) the Twitter feeds of thousands, if not millions. It’s a sure sign that some folks aren’t thinking before pulling the trigger on social. If #myNYPD wasn’t a game changer, what digital disaster will it take for brands to put serious thought behind their social media efforts?

This summer’s most recent Twitter fails involve simple negligence, poor research and no second glance.

Let’s delve into two of the summer’s biggest Twitter blunders.

Talking about the 2014 World Cup online was a sport in and of itself, and brands of course didn’t miss out on the opportunity to take part in the social buzz. After a disappointing loss to Belgium in overtime, the United States team packed its bags and the corporate kudos quickly died down, but we caught one [of the many] overzealous companies looking to capitalize on spirit.

While celebrating the US victory over Ghana, Delta Airlines tweeted a picture (since removed) of the two nations' scores, along with symbolic, patriotic backdrops: the Statue of Liberty standing in for the US and giraffe silhouetted by a sunset representing Ghana.  

The big problem here is that giraffes don’t represent Ghana -- giraffes don’t  live in Ghana, but instead inhabit dry savanna zones south of the Sahara. This inaccuracy could have easily been detected if Delta had taken a moment to check before tweeting. Research 1, Delta 0.

On a more somber note, following the World Cup, the tragic Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash and the escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza have dominated the news cycle and social media.

By mid-day on July 17, more than 810,000 people tweeted about the Boeing 777 shootdown in Ukraine. Over the past week, the hashtag #MH17 has been used more than 3.1 million times on Twitter, according to Topsy.

On July 23, The Associated Press tweeted the following to more than 3.2 million people:

Yes. It says “crash lands.” With this useful illustration, courtesy of Buzzfeed, it’s clear how the tweet’s incorrect grammar misconstrued its intended meaning:


The Associated Press quickly clarified its unfortunately misleading tweet:


Were lessons learned? We can only hope. Simple editing processes, like reading posts aloud or fact checking, are easy ways to avoid an damaging mistake. Especially during events like the World Cup or an international tragedy, when everyone’s eyes are glued to their social feeds for updates, a hyper-awareness of social copy is more crucial than ever.


At Obviously Social, we go through these three steps prior to publishing anything:

1. Stare at the content for [at least] 30 seconds before posting.

2. Ask “Can we @mention anyone here?”

3. Determine who could be offended by our message (and if that’s OK).


Gus Esselstyn is a summer correspondent at Obviously Social.


Victoria DecauxComment