As a wise social media editor once told me, "Wit is never rewarded on the internet." If only more U.S. businesses had followed her advice and kept their social promotions to a quiet minimum.
Instead, 2017 has been a standout year for cringeworthy social media moments, from the conservative Ted Cruz accidentally "liking" a pornographic tweet to Donald Trump's unwitting coining of the term "covfefe." But corporations took it to a new level. Their gaffes were not only embarrassing--some businesses even saw their stock price take a nosedive.
Here's a look back at five of the worst social media moments of 2017.
1. Wendy's Goes Anti-Semitic
In January of this year, the fast food chain tweeted out an image of Pepe the Frog. The cartoon character has become a popular meme among white supremacists and the alt-right, often used to negatively denote Jewish people. Wendy's removed the character from its feed less than one day after publishing it, explaining that the team's "community manager" was unaware of the evolution of its meaning.
Our community manager was unaware of the recent evolution of the Pepe meme's meaning and this tweet was promptly deleted.-; Wendy's (@Wendys) January 4, 2017
Nevertheless, the move drew the ire of human rights groups. In an open letter to Wendy's, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights subsequently urged the chain to do more to support Jewish communities.
2. Dove Reaffirms Eurocentric Beauty Norms
In October, the consumer product company published a Facebook ad depicting a looped image of a black woman removing a dark brown T-shirt to reveal a white woman. "We missed the mark," the company ultimately admitted, referring to what many viewed to be the racist undertones of the commercial.
3. IHOP Retweets an Anti-Hillary Campaign Message
Earlier this year, the breakfast conglomerate retweeted a message referring to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign as "garbage." The company quickly removed the post, but not before hundreds took screenshots of the messaging and vowed to boycott IHOP in response.
Although the company later claimed that its Twitter account was hacked, few seemed to believe it. "Hackers compromised the @IHOP Twitter account in order to retweet one single tweet... Seems legit," wrote one user.
4. Uber Promotes Itself at the Worst Possible Time
2017 hasn't been Uber's year. In June, the ride-hailing giant saw the departure of its founder and chief executive, Travis Kalanick, amid allegations of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination at the firm. Meanwhile, Uber continues to fight a host of regulatory battles in areas such as London.
Then there was the travel ban incident. In January, when President Trump issued the first iteration of a ban that would prevent members of Muslim majority nations from entering the U.S., several taxi companies in the New York City area banded together to stop pickups from JFK International Airport. Uber, on the other hand, issued a tweet to promote its service, drawing the ire of many on social media. For the first time ever, rival Lyft saw its downloads surpass Uber's, on Sunday, January 29th, as a direct result of the so-called #DeleteUber movement.
#DeleteUber I've deleted my account due to Uber CEO's accepting position on Trump's advisory council and strikebreaking at JFK on Saturday!-; Kathryn Birstein (@kbirstein) January 31, 2017
Uber swiftly issued an apology on Sunday, with then-CEO Kalanick releasing a statement that condemned Trump's travel ban.
5. McDonald's Tweets Out a Placeholder
On the day after Thanksgiving, when stores across the nation offer deals and discounts as part of a movement called Black Friday, the fast food chain published a tweet that seemed, shall we say, incomplete:
Black Friday **** Need copy and link****-; McDonald's (@McDonaldsCorp) November 24, 2017
The tweet prompted thousands of responses on Twitter, including "Uh, ok hun," and this reporter's personal favorite: "Didn't really expect such a profound insight on the emptiness of Black Friday from McDonalds' social media tbh."
Still, this may be the rare example of a company benefiting from a social media faux pas. The merciless but relatively banal mocking it received may have led to more people seeing the advertisement.
"This will probably get more awareness than their originally planned tweet," suggested London-based Musa Tariq on Twitter.