Social Media (n) is defined by Merriam-Webster as “Forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).”

Simple enough, right? Not quite. It’s easy to forget the behind-the-scenes thought processes that go into writing and creating social media posts: Is it accessible to all users? Is what I’m writing factually correct? Are there typos or grammar mistakes? The questions are endless, and not exactly low-stakes- it’s no secret that what we post on social media lasts forever. A simple click of the “Delete” button doesn’t do you much good when users have already acknowledged your mistakes and/or shared your content.

So, as we sit around our dinner tables this Thursday (or the kids’ table for those of us who have yet to graduate to the adults’ table), let’s give thanks to the important role social media can play in growing brand presence and helping to spread your company’s narrative. Let’s also take a moment to reflect on, and learn from, campaigns that have had social media fails in the past that served as learning moments for us all.

SeaWorld’s #AskSeaWorld

In 2013, the documentary Blackfish took the world by storm. In case you didn’t see it – the film records the detrimental effects of keeping such large animals in captivity through the account of one specific orca, Tilikum. Ever since the film’s release, SeaWorld has been trying to repair its public image. Two years after the documentary came out, in an effort to become more transparent with the public, SeaWorld launched a campaign called #AskSeaWorld. They thought they’d receive questions to help their case and that it would give them an opportunity to improve sentiment about their organization. Instead, it turned out to be quite the opposite. Activists and animal rights groups took to social media to #AskSeaWorld about their captivity practices and controversial points brought up throughout the film. What can we learn from SeaWorld’s mishap? Control your narrative, and know the right time to host a Q&A.

Snapchat’s “Would you Rather?”

It should go without saying – it’s never okay to make light of domestic violence or domestic violence survivors. But what did Snapchat do this past year? Just that. In March, the social media app posted an ad for a game called “Would You Rather?” that asked users whether they would rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown, alluding to the 2009 case in which Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting ex-girlfriend, Rihanna. Social media users immediately recognized the insensitive ad and were quick to call out Snapchat for posting it. Snapchat took the ad down and issued a statement saying that it was approved in an error. The teaching moment here? Never, never, never try to make light of serious situations and think about how your content could affect your audience before posting.

Entenmann’s #NotGuilty Disaster

Back in 2011, baked goods company Entenmann’s tweeted, “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?” While this might seem like an innocent tweet now, the day that Entenmann’s tweeted it was also the day that Casey Anthony was found not guilty for murder and manslaughter in one of the most controversial, publicized court cases of the past decade. The company later followed up with an apology noting that they weren’t intentionally referencing the trial and didn’t realize why #notguilty was trending. So, what does this teach us? ALWAYS check why a hashtag is trending before you try and jump in on the conversation.

McDonald’s Fill in the Blank Tweet

And for the sake of its one-year anniversary this week, our last social media fail is McDonald’s infamous Black Friday tweet.

There’s a good chance we all know why this was a social media fail – just look at it. The tweet, which was supposed to be on the subject of Black Friday, is missing both its copy and a corresponding link, and on top of that, went out at 1 am. Perhaps they really meant to schedule it at 1 pm and were going to fill in the missing pieces before that? We will never know. But the two things we can take away from this fail are 1- always proofread your posts, and 2- never schedule a post until it’s complete and has been seen by multiple eyes.

With social media being as far along as it is, you’d think the fails would be fewer and farther between. But time and time again, people and companies surprise us by not doing their research, being careless, or just plain lazy. Do your research, put multiple editing processes in place, and always get multiple eyes on a post before it goes out. Or you can just leave it in the hands of #TeamTMG- we can help you build a social media presence that will attract the right kind of attention for your brand.