Best Buy
Best Buy found itself at the center of controversy after tweeting a message about a reference to it in the "Serial" podcast. Reuters

Best Buy apologized Thursday afternoon after attempting to capitalize on the attention it has been getting from the ultrapopular "Serial" podcast -- in which it plays a key role -- by tweeting a message that immediately generated controversy. The company deleted the tweet about an hour after it was posted.

The big-box electronics retail chain used the #Serial hashtag in a tweet that may mean little to the few people left who haven't listened to the podcast but has deep meaning for those who have:

The tweet, which went out from the official Best Buy account at 3:48 p.m. on Thursday, had already gone viral by 4:30 p.m., with more than 1,000 retweets and more than 700 favorites. But much of the response to it was less than positive, and it deleted the account about an hour later, replacing it with the following apology:

Best Buy also issued a statement apologizing for the “Serial” tweet via email shortly after 5:00 p.m. Thursday.

"We posted a tweet earlier that was clearly in poor taste. We deeply apologize for the tweet about Serial,” Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman wrote. “It lacked good judgment and doesn’t reflect the values of our company. We have tweeted an apology and taken down the offensive tweet.”

"Serial" is the most popular podcast of all time, notching more than 1 million unique listeners per episode. The first season of the nonfiction, multi-episode series was an instant smash hit after it premiered in October, and the attention grows with each new installment every Thursday.

"Serial" focuses on the Jan. 13, 1999, murder of 18-year-old high school student Hae Min Lee in Baltimore and the ensuing investigation into her death. Lee's ex-boyfriend, Adnan Musud Syed, was convicted of killing her, though perhaps wrongly, "Serial" suggests.

In the fifth episode of the series' first season, two producers test the time line of Lee's murder, at one point driving from her school to a Best Buy parking lot, where witness "Jay" claims Syed showed him the young woman's dead body in the trunk of her car. Hence Best Buy getting involved in "Serial" mania with its tweet.

The podcast later explains that Jay drew a picture showing Syed standing near a phone booth in the Best Buy parking lot when he met him there that day. Later on, these details are called into question as claims emerge that there was in fact no pay phone in the Best Buy lot.

Since Best Buy is the setting for some of the action, the electronics giant attempted to play on that with its Thursday tweet. Here's some of the reaction on Twitter:

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity; Best Buy will soon find out whether that old adage is true.