We all have bad days. We all mess up and do something stupid. We all get angry and rant about someone or something. A joke backfires, or you don’t realize a colleague’s listening in.
Here are some of the best gaffes people have made on Twitter, and how we can learn from their follies.
Is there anything more cringe-inducing than a politician trying to act normal? Actually, yes…
1. Cruz Cuts to the Chase
You’d think this would be the biggest social media goof of 2017 so far.
If Ted Cruz likes a Twitter pictures of yours from three years ago at 2am…
It's his "intern".
— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) September 13, 2017
Senator Ted Cruz allegedly liked a two-minute adult video, posted by @SexuallPosts. The clip showed up at the top of his feed and was seen first by over three million followers, and since then, everyone who uses the internet.
Suffice to say, Cruz was quick to blame an inadvertent staffing issue, understatedly calling it a mistake. It certainly was. Cory Chase, the adult star involved in the video, had hoped the Texas Senator enjoyed the video (if indeed it were him who liked it) but criticized Cruz’s attempted restrictions on the adult entertainment industry.
@SexuallPosts has since changed its description to “Follow for the Same P*rn @TedCruz Watches” and added a hilarious cover photo.
The lesson to be learned: Recognize that Twitter changed its algorithm. Before, what you liked would show up only when searching someone’s profile. Now, liking a tweet is pretty much the same as retweeting it. The next time you think about clicking that heart symbol, consider whether you’ll regret it later.
2. Fancy a Covfefe, Mr. President?
You know the tweet. Its enigmatic message read: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”
And that was it.
The tweet wasn’t followed up, but was retweeted over 5,000 times before its deletion around six hours later. Some figured he meant “coverage” — in which case, the tweet is still missing its conclusion. Still, he’s the Commander in Chief of the USA. I guess he has more important things on his mind.
President Trump later tweeted:
Who can figure out the true meaning of "covfefe" ??? Enjoy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2017
Either he’s pretending it was on purpose, or he’s encouraging us to have fun with it.
The lesson to be learned: Think before you tweet. That should be Twitter’s tagline, frankly.
3. Ed Balls
Every time April 28 rolls around, Twitter users come together to celebrate Ed Balls Day.
— Rory Bickerton (@RoryBickerton) April 28, 2016
For the uninitiated, Ed Balls is a British Member of Parliament who, in 2011, tweeted his own name. He was shopping and wanted to search for articles that mentioned him. Except he typed in the wrong box and tweeted “Ed Balls.”
Fair play to him, however. He admitted to this show of vanity and it’s since been retweeted over 95,000 times. Balls himself retweeted it back in 2014.
And so the legend lives on… and Balls proved himself particularly popular when performing Gangnam Style on Strictly Come Dancing (the U.K.’s version of Dancing With The Stars).
The lesson to be learned: Don’t indulge your own egotism. Or at least make certain you’re clicking Search, not Tweet.
Forget drunken behavior and plastic surgery: if you really want to see celebrities making a fool out of themselves, Twitter’s the place to be.
4. Susan Makes an Ass Out of Herself
Okay, so this gaffe wasn’t committed by a celebrity, but rather perpetuated by their PR team.
Susan Boyle rose to stardom via a British reality TV show, Britain’s Got Talent, and in 2012, released her fourth studio album, Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs from the Stage. To generate hype on social media, her marketing team came up with an ingenious hashtag.
There was simply no way #susanalbumparty could backfire. Ahem.
— Kimberley (@KimberleyW1983) September 10, 2017
You’d think, considering the number of people in a marketing team, just one of them would’ve spotted it before it went live.
They were quick to change it to #SusanBoylesAlbumParty, but not before millions had spotted the hilarious error. Soon, poor Susan became associated with a celebration of nether regions, and a press disaster that still makes us giggle like we’re watching a Carry On film.
The lesson to be learned: Make sure your hashtag is conveying exactly what you want it to. Even adding capitalization should help things.
5. Not a Lucky Guy
We’ve all done it, right? In 2011, Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men) urged Justin Bieber to phone him. Except he posted his number to his 5.5 million followers, instead of sending it as a Direct Message (DM). The tweet read:
“310-954-7277 Call me bro. C”
Don’t try calling him now, it’s been disconnected.
That’s because his followers retweeted it, and he subsequently received a reported 1,800 SMS messages. His cell went into overdrive while he was eating dinner at the Guy Savoy restaurant in Las Vegas. He was a good sport about it, apparently answering a few calls by saying “Ray’s Pizza” and “winning.”
Sheen’s representative later joked, “I haven’t been able to get through to him on the phone since Wednesday. He just got a new number.”
The lesson to be learned: The Messages section on Twitter is now well separated from normal tweeting, but just in case, encourage DMs by automating a welcome text for followers — perhaps by using the Crowdfire app which also lets you unfollow dead accounts easily.
6. Anything Cher Posts
Some people, however famous, simply should not be allowed on Twitter.
Tom Hardy is an "AMAZING"ACTOR !
— Cher (@cher) October 30, 2013
Going through Cher’s Twitter feed is like habitually walking past an alcoholic who shouts at all passers-by. Often, she comments on current events in enigmatic fashion, which would be fine — apart from the fact they’re devoid of context. Sometimes you can work it out. Other times it’s completely out the blue.
Oh, and she does have an odd penchant FOR SUDDENLY USING CAPITALS FOLLOWED BY LOTS OF EMOJI & sumtimes txt spk.
A few favorite Cher-tweets (a genre of itself) include:
- “Is this mom?”
- “Ok just sent 100 desks”
- “I THINK, HITLER, GOEBBELS, GORING, HIMMLER & HESS ARE LIVING IN ICLOUD….”
The lesson to be learned: Don’t follow Cher. Or do, if you like that brand of unpredictability. Seriously, though, too many people tweet out of context, and for followers, it’s baffling and infuriating. Clarity is always key. If you overstep the character limit, split your messages across numerous tweets. Label them “(1/4)” et al. so no one gets confused.
The brand may be big, but they’re not always clever.
7. Come Fly With Me…
It all started out so innocently.
In April 2014, @USAirways received a complaint on Twitter: The American AA 1787 plane from Charlotte to Portland had suffered an hour’s delay. We all know how infuriating that can be, particularly when there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the tardiness.
US Airways apologized. Fairly standard stuff. Nothing to see here.
A short while later, they responded again, asking for feedback, and offered to review the delay. They also included a very NSFW image alongside that message: a woman with an airplane being inserted into her… well, let’s call it “business class,” shall we?
It was deleted an hour later, and another apology swiftly followed.
The reason for this shocking display? The photo, from a German amateur adult film site, was sent to the Airways account earlier that day. As they attempted to report it as abusive, it was accidentally pasted into the tweet.
The lesson to be learned: It’s easy to report a tweet. All you have to do is click on the downwards arrow at the top right of the message and click Report Tweet. You’ll then have to explain why it’s offensive. No need to copy and paste anything.
— Hunter Rossi (@VisionAllAccess) September 13, 2017
Of course, Apple rejected the complaint — calling it a “very rare” occurrence — but users and competitors took advantage of this chink in the previously-impenetrable armor. This included the French division of LG, which tweeted (following translation):
“Our phones don’t bend, they’re naturally curved :) #bendgate.”
Apart from a serious lack of semicolon, there was nothing wrong with that.
Ah, but the tweet revealed its own secret at the bottom:
“Twitter for iPhone.”
As is commonly the case, it’s since been deleted. It may have been tweeted by an outside marketing team, but LG still might as well have admitted, “We don’t use our products either.”
The lesson to be learned: Few people will actually have this problem. People only found out via Tweetdeck, anyway. This does remind us, however, to value our privacy and re-evaluate what details are shared on social networking platforms.
9. Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit
This is quite a sad story really: a 28-year-old man was fired for accidentally sending a tweet from a professional account, instead of his personal one.
Chrysler Group LLC’s feed issued the tweet:
“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f***ing drive.”
As you can imagine, the original tweet wasn’t censored.
New Media Strategies was the PR firm in charge of the account, and Chrysler ended its business with them immediately afterward.
The actual tweet was sent by Scott Bartosiewicz, who was subsequently dismissed from the company. Bartosiewicz said he could understand their position, but it was merely a mistake made while in a traffic queue on the Interstate 696.
The lesson to be learned: If you’re in control of more than one account, it’s simple to flit between them. Make sure you know which feed you’re tweeting from every time you do so.
All this goes to show that we’re all human. We all make mistakes. Some are costlier than others, generally based on how high-profile it is.
Have you ever made a huge mistake on social media? What was the fallout? And which other Twitter gaffes have made you burst out laughing?