updated 4/15/2014 11:48:14 AM ET 2014-04-15T15:48:14

Here’s a friendly message from the Dept. of Goes Without Saying: Hardcore porn and corporate branding don’t mix well together. Like ever. Especially not in front of the whole world on Twitter.

By now you’ve probably heard about US Airways’ gross, jaw-dropping (and, ahem, “toy” airplane-centric) porno pic tweet gasped about across the globe yesterday. If you haven’t, it’s scrubbed clean from Twitter now, thank goodness.

Thanks to the unforgiving foreverness of the interwebs, you can Google screenshots taken of the offensive image, but we don’t suggest you do, especially if you’re at work and you value your job.

Yeah, it was that bad. A public relations train wreck easily a thousand times worse than Target’s recent “ thigh gap ” shame spiral. 

When we heard about the beyond NSFW tweet -- and then, yes, rushed over to US Airways’ Twitter feed and got an eyeful of it (then slammed our Macbook shut, lest anyone should see) -- we thought it was all a sick joke. A disgruntled employee must have hijacked US Airways’ Twitter account, right? Maybe hackers had more than a little fun with it.

Not so. Turns out the worst branded tweet of all time was an inside job, one that we hope wasn’t intended, an epic accident.

Related: The 5 Biggest Twitter Marketing Fails of 2012

It all started when a customer took to Twitter yesterday to complain to US Airways about, but of course, flight delays. US Airways responded with the standard apologies. After all, the airline doesn’t like flight delays either, it said. The customer responded by expressing yet more dissatisfaction and frustration. Then US Airways inexplicably fired back with the shocking image, which stayed live online for around an hour. Yeah, that long. Long enough for kids to bump into it.

How the seriously nasty image was irresponsibly left to litter Twitter for so long has us questioning the entire corporate communications team at US Airways.

And an hour is also about how long it took for US Airways to issue an apology tweet.

We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating.

April 14, 2014

Related: How Cheezburger Founder Ben Huh Rebounded After Hitting Rock Bottom

Then there was the outpouring of rude, downright tasteless tweets essentially saying that the lewd image was proof that the missing Malaysia Airlines plane had been found after all. Wrong on so many levels and a massive PR disaster on top of an already massive PR disaster.

Who put this guy in charge of the @USAirways Twitter account??

April 14, 2014

There was also no shortage of hilarious reaction tweets, 38 “priceless” gems of which were lovingly listed by Mashable (warning, some of them aren’t safe for work either). Imagine how much of a blast Saturday Night Live is going to have with this giant fail over the weekend.  

So, in closing, let’s go over this one more time, corporate social media managers everywhere. Here’s a word of caution: Yes, trending on Twitter is a generally good thing, especially if you’re a corporate marketer. No, trending on Twitter for pornographic shocker brand tweets like this one is not a good thing, again, especially if you’re a corporate marketer.

Please slow down. Please pay closer attention. Please handle your brand with care. Please think before you tweet. Your job depends on it -- and a whole lot more.    

Related: Celebrating Failure: How to Make a Hit Out of Misses

Copyright © 2013, Inc.


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