Social media week in New York ended with the SUXORZ Awards, a (sometimes) good-natured roasting of the worst public gaffes and fails, hosted by blog advertising network Blogads. In its circus-themed event, attendees voted for their favorites by tooting party horns and tossing popcorn. (SUXORZ is an attempt at hacker-speak for things that, well... )
While the jokes were mostly on others, everyone in the room knew they could have been the brunt of this year's celebration.
"'There but for the grace of God go I' was what most of us were feeling," Henry Copeland, the event's organizer, told TechNewsDaily. "At the time, it seems like a good idea, but then you put it out there, the public plays with it and it turns into something entirely different."
He pointed to Kmart's Twitter campaign, one of the nominees in the SUXORZ "What Were They Thinking?" category, which combined condolences along with a toy giveaway three hours into the Sandy Hook school shooting tragedy. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrible tragedy," was accompanied by #PrayforNewtown, #CTShooting and #Fab15Toys. The Twitter backlash continued for days.
Copeland said that this year's event really showed how an individual can "kick the pants off" a company. The best example came from a small moving firm that sent a letter threatening blogger Phil Buckley's wife with legal action after she posted a poor review about the movers on Yelp. Buckley blogged about the incident on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. His story was covered by The Consumerist, TechDirt and Reddit. No lawsuit was filed.
"You can really turn a little charcoal fire into a forest fire," Copeland said.
Here is a list of the finalists in 2012 Worst of Social Media SUXORZ Awards, chosen from each of this year's five categories:
The award for "What were they thinking?" went to Belvedere Vodka for its meme-style photo tweet that offended many of the company's followers. Belvedere apologized for the tweet — which depicted a grinning man clutching a terrified-looking woman with the caption, "Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly" — but the company's apology was brushed off by many.
Samsung was recognized as the winner in the "Don't Piss Off Bloggers" category for its roughshod treatment of two Indian bloggers sent to a technology conference in Berlin on Samsung's dime. When the pair refused to wear Samsung shirts and staff the exhibit floor booth, Samsung threatened to cancel their flights back home. The bloggers tweeted about their plight and got their flight home.
Mitt Romney's "Amercia" gaffe, in which the presidential candidate's team misspelled "America" in an iPhone app, won best "Hacks and Misfires," beating out the Burger King spoof of McDonalds' Twitter page and an employee's live- tweeting of a mass firing at a video retail chain in the U.K. Romney's "Amercia" blooper also took the grand prize.
For just plain "Lame," condom maker Durex received the most toots for its series of jokes that offended many of its female followers, which its South African division tweeted in 2011. "Why did God give men penises? So they'd have at least one way to shut women up," the company tweeted. The joke came on the eve of the government's public service campaign, 16 Days of Activism, designed to raise awareness about violence against women and children.
American Apparel tried to show support for Hurricane Sandy victims while promoting a sale — the two didn't mix and customers expressed outrage on Twitter. The company won the "Revenge of Social" award for its insensitivity.
The "Crowd Picks" award went to former "Britain's Got Talent" winner Susan Boyle for an unfortunate hashtag campaign #susanalbumparty, which was split up to read in a way not intended by her promoters: "Su's Anal Bum Party." While Boyle's fame had dimmed since her rise to stardom in 2009, it took only one social media misstep to put her back in the headlines.
Copeland said there are lessons from this year's winners or anyone who regularly uses social media. "If a company treats you badly, there's a huge amount you can do," he said. "You really can make a difference."
He also cautioned people to step back and look at what's happening during the day and ask themselves, "Should I do something different?"