Twitter is considered one of the most powerful social networking tools available. Who would have thought that short messages and #hashtagging could prove so successful? However, sometimes Twitter can go wrong for companies… Very very wrong indeed, doing a great deal of damage to the brand in the process.

What can you learn from the following examples? Be careful!


When HMV went into administration, the nation was shocked. But few were more shocked than their own staff, particularly the ones among the 190 that were made redundant. One rogue member of staff who managed the company’s Twitter account was so upset, that she decided to give a blow-by-blow account of what was happening, along with her own rantings about a ‘mass execution of loyal staff’. One tweet read ‘Just heard the marketing director (he’s staying folks) asking “How do I shut down Twitter?”’ Although the company managed to remove the tweets shortly after lunchtime, it was too late and they had already been retweeted several thousand times each.



The horse meat scandal that shook the UK and affected several large supermarket chains including Tesco was always going to be smeared across social media. Many people were tweeting horse jokes (‘Did you hear about the woman in hospital after eating a Tesco horse burger? …Her condition is stable’ etc.) and posting funny pictures, but Tesco made a huge mistake… by joining in! If the masses hadn’t done enough damage to the brand already, a pre-scheduled tweet saying that staff were ‘off to hit the hay’ was posted. While it was not intended to make light of the situation, it went down very badly with followers and was said to have been in poor taste. Tesco did apologise promptly but it was already too late.


Burger King

Normally when a company like this is targeted, it is to humiliate them or cause trouble, but the Burger King Twitter hack was actually found quite comical to begin with (although there would have been a few red faces at the BK Head Office I’m sure). These light hearted hackers decided to pop a McDonald’s logo and a Fishy McBites background on the BK page, and claimed that the company had been ‘sold to McDonald’s because the whopper flopped’. However, the hacker then started making racist and drug-related slurs which thankfully lasted little more than an hour. McDonalds responded with empathy while Burger King were left picking up the pieces, even severing ties with a few suppliers in light of the scandal.


BBC Weather

BBC Weather had a bit of a problem with their account, when Syrian activists hijacked their Twitter and posted a stream of obscure comments. One read ‘Earthquake warning for Qatar: Hamad Bin Khalifah about to exit’ while another claimed the Edinburgh storm warning office had been decommissioned due to funds being diverted to arm the Syrian opposition. The hackers were even rude enough to declare that the ‘Syrian Electronic Army Was Here’. While the accounts came back under the BBC’s control pretty quickly, it was said that BBC staff had been targeted by a phishing scam which diverted them to a fake BBC sign-in portal.