April 15, 2014 -- intro: Oh, the power of social media. Its forces seem to elude the global powerhouses that try and fail repeatedly to contain it.
Take Twitter, for instance. Companies use it to engage with customers and, in return, customers use it to complain publicly about poor products and services.
The worst of both worlds happened with US Airways' now-infamous tweet to a customer, @ElleRafter, who posted on Twitter about a flight that was delayed on the tarmac. The Twitterverse exploded with #NSFW ("not safe for work") hashtags, as US Airways investigated the source of the incident. Meanwhile, the customer with the delayed flight seemed to be able to take the shocking Twitter response in stride.
Here are 10 tweets from big brands that led to company apologies, including the most recent snafu by US Airways.
quicklist: title: US Airways media: 23332078 text:
In response to the pornographic photo that showed a toy airplane and a naked body, US Airways issued a statement that read, "We apologize for the inappropriate image we recently shared in a Twitter response. Our investigation has determined that the image was initially posted to our Twitter feed by another user. We captured the tweet to flag it as inappropriate. Unfortunately the image was inadvertently included in a response to a customer. We immediately realized the error and removed our tweet. We deeply regret the mistake and we are currently reviewing our processes to prevent such errors in the future."
READ MORE: US Airways Apologizes for Pornographic Tweet
That Tweet that "initially posted to [US Airway's] Twitter feed by another user" seemed to refer to when another person tweeted @AmericanAir, the Chicago Tribune reported.
"The irony of today's response from US Airways about my delayed flight from CLT is not lost on me," US Airways customer @ElleRafter tweeted.
quicklist: title: Campbell Soup media: 21148954 text:
Campbell Soup apologized in December for a tweet from its SpaghettiOs brand to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. An image showed its smiling mascot holding a U.S. flag.
The tweet asked Twitter followers to "Take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us." Thousands retweeted the message, some criticizing the tone of the smiley mascot when more than 2,400 Americans were killed in the attack.
A representative for Campbell Soup Co., which owns SpaghettiOs, said the message had been deleted. SpaghettiOs sent a tweet that stated, "We apologize for our recent tweet in remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day. We meant to pay respect, not to offend."
quicklist: title: Home Depot media: 20831144 text:
Home Depot apologized in November for a racist tweet after the home improvement store's Twitter account received unfavorable attention. The company said it fired the outside agency that created the Tweet and it was reviewing its social media procedures.
As a sponsor of College Gameday, the company tweeted an image of three drummers and the text: "Which drummer is not like the others?" leading to angry comments on Home Depot's Twitter and Facebook page.
Stephen Holmes, director of corporate communications, released a statement saying, "We have zero tolerance for anything so stupid and offensive. The outside agency that created the Tweet and The Home Depot associate who posted it have been terminated. We're also closely reviewing our social media procedures to determine how this could have happened, and how to ensure it never happens again."
quicklist: title: AT&T media: 20226569 text:
To commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, AT&T tweeted a photo of a phone with an image of the Twin Towers, leading to criticism that the carrier was capitalizing on the tragedy.
"We apologize to anyone who felt our post was in poor taste. The image was solely meant to pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy," AT&T tweeted after pulling down the original image.
quicklist: title: Forever 21 media: 20831489 text: Clothing company Forever 21 experienced Twittersphere backlash when it tweeted a photo of three Caucasian models wearing T-shirts with Ice Cube, City of Compton and NWA, which is short for “N****z Wit Attitudes.”
The company deleted the tweet and pulled the T-shirts from its website.
quicklist: title: Atlanta Journal-Constitution media: 20831618 text: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted in October: "$1M GA Lottery winner Willie Lynch can get 40 acres and a whole lotta mules." The message refers to a post-Civil War proposal to give freed slaves land previously held by whites.
After receiving unfavorable attention, Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor Kevin Riley released a statement that read: "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sincerely regrets an earlier Twitter message that contained an inappropriate statement. We took immediate action to apologize via social media and on our website and will issue an apology in Thursday morning's print edition. We do not condone such offensive messages and are reviewing our procedures to ensure this type of error does not happen again. Additionally, we are taking the appropriate disciplinary action with the individuals involved."
quicklist: title: Hollister media: 20831645 text: Clothing company Hollister apologized after models the firm sent to South Korea for a store opening tweeted racist photos and messages.
One Twitter message stated: "Hahahaha they ruhhvvvv itttt!"
The company fired the models.
"On behalf of our more than 80,000 associates around the world who cherish our core values and our culture of diversity and inclusion, we sincerely apologize for the offense caused by these unauthorized, ill-considered actions," Hollister wrote in an apology.
quicklist: title: Chrysler media: 20833116 text: An outside agency working for Chrysler accidentally tweeted the F-word in a message that stated, "I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f****** drive."
The company apologized and said its account was "compromised." The carmaker did not renew its contract with the agency.
quicklist: title: Entenmann's media: 20833127 text:
Baked goods producer Entenmann's received flack for using a #notguilty hashtag on the day of the verdict for Casey Anthony's trial. The company deleted the tweet and apologized.
quicklist: title: Kenneth Cole media: 20833183 text:
As the revolutions of the Arab Spring unfolded in the Middle East in 2011, the Kenneth Cole Twitter account stated: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online."
The company apologized by tweeting: "We weren't intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment."