Update #2, Monday 22 July, 4pm: The South African Weather service (SAWS) is currently monitoring a weather system that’s expected to impact Cape Town…
There’s a learning curve that comes with new technologies. This is especially commercial ones like Facebook or Twitter, which give voice to those who otherwise would have themselves thrown out of the local pub their for irrational ranting, just being ignorant, or freakishly ill-informed. As such, these social media platforms have their unique ways of sorting the bad apples from the rest: mass protest (aka virality).
As soon as a public figure or brand (it’s scary how frequently this is the case) slurs some nonsense or missteps his/her cultural boundaries, people in their thousands of thousands of opinions fire back until the bad apple is subdued.
If we look back at the learning curve mentioned above, humanity still has a while to go. Given the social media blunders, 2014 was not too different from its predecessors, but oh, how fun it is to report on people’s witty responses, frustrations and valuable life lessons captured in less than 140 characters.
Here’s our round-up of 2014’s top social media fail lessons:
1. Brands, don’t tweet porn pictures
Whether it got hacked or an employee executed a grudge, US Airways had a bad week when its Twitter account tweeted a picture of a woman with a model airplane in her vagina. Yup, this actually happened.
We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating.
— US Airways (@USAirways) April 14, 2014
The soft target that the airline then was, opened up room for a Twitter storm of note. This one response was our favourite:
The key to a great business is all about product placement…… Am I right @USAirways ?
— Strombone (@strombone1) April 14, 2014
2. Don’t do public Q&As when you’re not liked by the public
Popular music channel VH1 decided to host a Twitter Q&A with controversial musician Robin Thicke.
— VH1 (@VH1) June 30, 2014
This, as you’ve likely already figured out, didn’t go down smoothly for Thicke. People in their hundreds honed in on Thicke’s controversies, especially that of his song Blurred Lines which he admitted someone else actually wrote.
Just take a look at what the general Twittersphere had to say about the singer, carrying the hashtag #AskThicke. We’ve rounded-up 25 of our favorite here.
3. Don’t tweet ignorant racist things
Just for those (like the controversial Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr) who don’t know, Twitter is public. If you carry more than 126 000 followers — not to mention the fact that you’re a controversial cult figure living in South Africa — and tweet something in the lines of “blacks were the architects of Apartheid” you’re bound to create some sort of backlash.
Sorry to offend but in my books Blacks were the architects of Apartheid. Go figure.
— Steve Hofmeyr (@steve_hofmeyr) October 23, 2014
You know the story: Hofmeyr’s tweet caught the attention of hundreds of people, who then retaliated and the conversational war ignited.
4. Don’t encourage people to engage with a controversial public figure
Again, brand ambassadors, please don’t put someone in the unforgiving limelight of the internet in time of controversy. Especially when it comes to memes. Seriously.
After creating a meme generator of the once-favorite-dad actor comedian Bill Cosby’s web page, the internet instantly saw a gap, and did this, among hundreds of others:
Allegations of sexual assault dating back to 2006 are still raw for the 77-year-old Cosby, it seems. Now they know.
5. Don’t do Blackface
As much as it’s hated in the US, it’s even worse in South Africa. Two students from the University of Pretoria posted photos of themselves on Facebook dressed as black maids, with pillows under their skirts, scarves on their heads and their faces painted black.
The general public did not like this one bit.
Is #blackface acceptable? Many on my timeline seem to think so. Harmless fun or overt racism?
— Barry Bateman (@barrybateman) August 6, 2014
The pair of female students luckily wore disguises but ended-up getting expelled from their residences in TUKS university.
6. Don’t do freakin’ Blackface!
A few months following the incident at the University of Pretoria, two students from Stellenbosch University dressed up as US tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and took a photo of themselves, which inevitably landed on Twitter.
Stellenbosch University students with some Blackface. Classy as always pic.twitter.com/9l3YlAp4EB
— Siyabonga Nyezi (@siyanyezi) September 23, 2014
Again, the internet did not like this at all. The racist slash ignorant debate was reignited yet again.
7. Pay attention to the little things
Pay attention to the little things when you urge internet users to engage. Out of the tens of thousands, one pair of eyes is bound to find the tiniest slip-up, and blow it up.
The Twitter account @CityPwrJhb — which keeps people up-to-date on the South African city’s electricity woes — posted a loadshedding schedule, titled “nigga”.
— Stuart Buchanan (@StuBuSA) December 8, 2014
Yup, for some reason, someone behind the Twitter account decided to name a file probably one of the most discriminatory words out there, and then posted it for the whole world to see. Really?
8. Just ignore the trolls
The web is filled with people who are just looking to stir things up. What appeared to be a call for inspiration, billionaire Donald Trump was asked to retweet a photo of someone’s “parents who passed away”. He did so, not realising the couple in the photo were actually notorious serial killers.
— Philip Bradbury (@feckhead) September 29, 2014
Some jerk fraudulently tweeted that his parents said I was a big inspiration to them + pls RT—out of kindness I retweeted. Maybe I’ll sue.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2014
This opened up a can of worms with other people asking Trump to tweet pictures of Genghis Khan, Ted Bundy and the like for inspiration. Read all about that here.
9. Don’t be insensitive
People love dressing up to whatever’s trending at the time. In November 2014 this was Ebola, which meant that yes, people started selling Ebola-related merchandise.
Sexy Ebola costumes pic.twitter.com/yLWPfpqh1K
— ThingsWhiteFolksLike (@Things4WhitePpl) October 26, 2014
The sexy Ebola costume hit the web at a time when the disease outbreak was at its worst in history. However sexy it may be, the thought of making money off such a disaster is insane.
10. Know where to draw the line with your public sense of humour
Asked about where the major South African bank’s favourite mascot Steve was, FNB’s RB Jacobs Twitter account tweeted that “He’s somewhere in Afghanistan, putting a bomb under a wheel chair and telling the cripple to run for it!”
— Natalie Govender (@NattyGov) April 22, 2014
People responded, barking in outrage with the 38 000 follower-backed account inevitably making an apology. No word on whether it was an intern or someone with a crude sense of humour was outed afterwards, though the bank did make an official apology.
Perhaps 2015 will be a little bit different. We can only hope right?