Everyone knows that using social media to promote a brand, company or celebrity can have positive effects – increased exposure, brand development and improved fan/customer loyalty, to name a few.

But a mistake on social media can have significantly negative impacts, thanks to how easily content can be spread on these websites. Below are seven of the most cringeworthy recent fails on social media.


George Osborne

The UK is still suffering the effects of a global economic crisis. Thankfully, Chancellor George Osborne understands what the average working family is going through. Or does he?

Not according to this snap that he posted on Twitter the day before a major spending review.  Whilst he might have been trying to come across as a ‘man of the people’ by eating a burger with fries, this wasn’t your average McDonald’s 99p fare. This was a gourmet burger from Byron, costing around £7.

He later tweeted “McDonald’s doesn’t deliver”, but social media users had already spread their criticism of his seemingly lack of touch with reality.

Burger King

On the subject of burgers, international fast food giant Burger King made a slip-up of its own in February last year.

Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked. Its logo was changed to that of rivals McDonald’s, and a number of unusual tweets followed:

“We just got sold to McDonald’s! Look for McDonald’s in a hood near you.”

Surprisingly, the account gained over 30,000 followers during the hour-long account theft. McDonald’s commented:  “We empathize with our @BurgerKing counterparts. Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking.”

Another reminder to keep your password secure and change it regularly!


This is a lesson in having controls in place to make sure disgruntled employees don’t damage your online reputation.

Shortly after it was announced that HMV would be making redundancies, some strange tweets appeared on the company’s Twitter account. The first read:

“There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #hmvXFactorFiring”.

This hashtag was used in the six similar tweets that followed before someone at HMV caught on and put an end to the amusing tirade.

British Gas

One of the best aspects of social media for a business is that it can be used to engage customers and find out what they really think.

British Gas might have had this in mind when they asked customers to send them questions via Twitter using the #AskBG hashtag, but this was badly mistimed – on the same day, they had announced price hikes of 10.4% for electricity and 8.4% for gas.

The hashtag quickly became one of the top ten trending topics on Twitter for all the wrong reasons. Thousands of angry users tweeted complaints and abuse at British Gas, such as:

“@britishgas Thanks for helping me save money on heating. Your latest hike has boiled my blood enough to keep me warm through winter. #askbg”

Bert Pijls, the company’s director of customer services, tried to rebuff some of these tweets but was soon overwhelmed.

David Cameron

David Cameron surely intended this image to show him as a serious statesman. However, this picture of him on the phone to US President Barack Obama soon became one of the most mocked pictures of the year, with Twitter users including comedian Rob Delaney and actor Patrick Stewart posting parodies.

Time to rethink the social media strategy, David.

David Cameron again

The PM just can’t seem to get it right with social media.

In November last year, Twitter users discovered that David’s account was following the account of Carltons of London: a company that offers the “finest London escorts to gentlemen of distinction”.

Downing Street was quick to say that following did not imply that the PM endorsed the business, claiming that the Carltons account had been followed back automatically.

Ed Balls

There are a worrying number of political figures on this list. In April 2011, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls made a poignant early tweet:

“Ed Balls”

Yes, clearly still getting to grips with the website, he simply tweeted his own name. Some Twitter users argued that he had mistakenly done it whilst vainly searching for mentions of himself online.

The message was retweeted 24,696 times and favourited over 10,000 times, showing just how fast gaffes can spread on social media.