Social media can make or break a brand’s reputation. Here are last year’s howlers.

Twitter and Facebook are used by the world’s biggest brands to reach out to customers.

But when things go wrong on social media, there’s nowhere to hide.

Lots of companies fell foul of the viral power of these networks in 2014.

Here’s our pick of the best of the worst offenders.

SAINSBURY’S SLIP-UP GOES VIRAL

Sainsbury’s found itself targeted in a social media backlash after a poster, which was meant for internal use only, accidentally appeared in the window of one of the supermarket’s east London stores.

The staff incentive, called the “Fifty Pence Challenge”, aimed to boost the retailer’s profits by encouraging staff to up its customers spend.

The poster said: “Let’s encourage every customer to spend an additional 50p during each shopping trip between now and the year end.”

However, the show of Sainsbury’s behind-the-scenes strategy prompteda swift and scathing response on social media.

One former Waitrose employee wrote that the retailer’s rival would “die of mortification” if a similar slip-up occurred.

Sainsbury’s was alerted to its mistake by Chris Dodd, a TV freelancer, who spotted the poster in the grocer’s store on Romford Road in Stratford.

He posted a photo of the poster to the supermarket’s official Twitter account, @Sainsburys, with the message: “Not sure this is meant to be in your window.”

Rival supermarket brand Lidl later responded to the blunder, launchingits own fifty pence challenge.

“Let’s encourage every one of our lovely customers to save as many

50ps as possible,” it said.

MASTERCARD GETS BASHTAGGED

In February, Brit Awards’ sponsor MasterCard was on the receiving end of some revenge hashtag-hijacking – otherwise known as “the bashtag”.

Journalists were asked by the credit card company’s PR team to agree to certain demands before they were given press accreditation for the event.

They were told to use social media from both publication and personal accounts to live-tweet the event, and to link to specific pre-event coverage and specific YouTube videos afterwards.

All tweets must carry the #PricelessSurprises hashtag, MasterCard’s PR bods said.

Thanks to The Telegraph and a leaked email via Press Gazette, these demands were aired on Twitter, generating a storm of criticism for resorting to “Soviet” news management techniques for the awards.

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