Twitter #Hashtags that Backfired

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Twitter mascot by Rosaura Ochoa (via Flickr)

A good reputation takes hard work, patience, and persistence while a bad reputation can be formed overnight with social media like twitter. Brands really need to focus on connecting with consumers in a genuine way because, if they don’t, they will throw the brands under the bus. Here are 6 high profile tweets that backfired.

Kenneth Cole:

Keeping up with current events could have an effect on your business. Fashion designer Kenneth Cole found this out after a tweet that said “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at -KC” The timing did not help as it was going on during the protests in Egypt.


This is one of those areas where public relations really kicks in with social media and twitter especially. Bing tweeted “How you can #SupportJapan – . For every retweet, @bing will give $1 to Japan quake victims, up to $100k”. This generated negativity because people saw it as a marketing scheme rather than a genuine charity effort for the people suffering in Japan.


This is a classic example of social media having an effect on your career and job hunt. A tweeter user named “theconnor” was excited but unsure about a job and tweeted “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” Cisco promptly responded with “@theconnor Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”


The famous fast food chain launched a twitter campaign called #McDStories to show the hard work that went into providing quality ingredients for McDonald’s. The hashtag was hijacked and turned into what was later coined a “bashtag” which forced McDonald’s to remove the tag within 2 hours. At least they caught on fast enough for damage control! (that said, the hashtag continues to this day if you care to search for it)

Durex offends pretty much everyone:

Durex made a rather obvious mistake in South Africa, maybe hoping that the cultural difference would make it more acceptable. They tweeted “Why did God give men penises? So they’d have at least one way to shut a woman up. #DurexJoke”.

Toyota’s Twitter Spam:

Toyota attempted to take advantage of social media during the super bowl by targeting those tweeting with their teams hash tags like #patriots. They then sent a spammy looking message faking participation in the super bowl conversation then switching to self promotion of a Toyota contest for a free Camry. Users weren’t impressed.

Let these backfired tweets be a lesson to always respect your customer by putting their wants and needs first. Be aware of how your social media messages might come off and how disgruntled customers might respond negatively. Treating people like individuals and not numbers is always the best policy. Which Tweets do you remember that were simply terrible PR?

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