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The 10 Worst Social Media Screwups: How to Ruin Your Brand in 140 Characters

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have opened up broad new avenues for companies to better communicate with consumers, build stronger relationship and increase brand loyalty. So, naturally, many companies have used them to insult their customers instead. Here are 10 horrific examples not to emulate. (Click to enlarge images.)

Next: "You're an idiot and a liar!"»


10. Ryanair to blogger: "You're an idiot and a liar!" You almost have to admire Ryanair: They treat their customers with contempt, and they're proud of it. When a blogger thought he'd discovered a glitch on Ryanair.com that allowed him to book a free flight, a Ryanair employee flamed him: "jason! you're an idiot and a liar!!" The incident made headlines, and Ryanair stuck to its guns, issuing this awesome press statement:" It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won't be happening again. Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel."

Next: Insulting the mentally ill»


9. 7-Eleven uses Facebook to insult the mentally ill It's all fun and games until you do it in front of 700,000 fans: a status update for the convenience store chain said (click to enlarge):


The company deleted it quickly, and managed to avoid wider media fallout only because Osama Bin Laden was killed the night before, dominating headlines for the next week.

Next: Sleeping on the job»


8. A Comcast technician falls asleep and YouTube goes to work
Feel sorry for this guy: the technician spent an hour on hold with Comcast's HQ trying to get instructions to fix a faulty internet router and fell asleep while on the phone. The customer turned it into a video, and the man lost his job. The clip has since been seen by 1.6 million people.

Next: RV IMs = PR»


7. Folksy RV drivers who love Wal-Mart turn out to be PR people In 2006, Walmart got some excellent news: a charming couple who were driving across the country in an RV, using Walmart parking lots to stay overnight, was blogging the experience and giving the retailer rave reviews. It would have been even better if "Wal-Mart-ing across America" had not turned out to be a publicity stunt by Edelman, the company's PR agency.

Next: F*** you, you f***ing f***»



6. Chrysler drops the F-bomb
What is it about Twitter that makes people type without thinking? One of Chrysler's new media agencies used the F-word to complain about drivers in Motor City and ... then they were fired.

Next: "Well, that's just stupid"»


5. Cliff Freeman calls clients stupid on Facebook; goes out of business
The ad agency Cliff Freeman & Partners was once the hottest in the land: It handled the Wendy's account and created the "where's the beef?" campaign. But Freeman was baffled by the onset of new media, and as the shop declined someone started a discussion on the shop's Facebook page titled "Favorite Cliffisms." One commenter said, "To clients, 'Well that's just stupid":


Freeman was out of business a few months later.

Next: The duck that tweeted»


4. Gilbert Gottfried, voice of the Aflac duck, fired after making fun of Japan earthquake. Too soon! Too soon! before the scope of the Japan disaster was even realized, Gottfried began cracking jokes such as, "I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said 'is there a school in this area.' She said 'not now, but just wait.'" Gottfried probably thought he had some leeway with Aflac because his face doesn't appear in their campaigns and he'd made offensive jokes before and Aflac didn't say anything. The specific problem with the earthquake was that 75 percent of Aflac's business is in Japan.

Next: Slings and arrows»


3. Moms with baby slings give J&J a black eye No good deed goes unpunished at Johnson & Johnson (JNJ): The company made a web video suggesting that trendy baby slings can hurt your neck or back, and that Motrin is there to help. Hell hath no fury like a mommy blogger scorned, however, and in the face of a revolt on Twitter J&J apologized for the ad.

Next: Chuck Berry, he ain't»


2. Worst tweet ever: Ketchum exec insults Fedex, his client, with "I would die" remark In 2009, Ketchum vp James Andrews stepped off a plane in Memphis for a meeting at the HQ of Fedex and tweeted:


Employees at Fedex didn't like that one bit and sent a lengthy email to management decrying the "inappropriate" tweet. Everyone had to apologize, but not before the incident had been recounted on every blog on the planet.

Next: Rumor is, KC is a d*ck»


1. Kenneth Cole's "uproar in Cairo" The apparel retailer saw the masses gathering in Tahrir Square to demand freedom from decades of disctatorship and thought, hmm -- we can sell some tasteful leather goods on the back of this! The company tweeted: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online." Two hours and a zillion retweets later, Cole apologized.


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Ryanair photograph: Monika Szyma/Flickr/Some rights reserved