The great thing about Twitter (and social media in general) is that it allows you to quickly communicate to millions of potential customers in a frank and engaging manner. The worst thing about Twitter (and social media in general) is that it allows you to quickly communicate to millions of potential customers in a frank and engaging manner.
Last Wednesday, the American Red Cross found itself in the middle of a potential disaster of their own when Red Cross social media specialist Gloria Huang sent out a personal tweet on the ARC's official Twitter stream.
As you can imagine, tweets about getting drunk weren't part of ARC's social media strategy. An embarrassed Huang apologized, explaining it was her ineptitude with Hootsuite that was responsible for the inadvertent tweet. The Red Cross also quickly diffused the situation by stating that they deal with life-changing disasters every day and this is not one of them.
The sheer frequency of communication that is an inherent part of social media increases the chances for an errant communiqué exponentially. Not to mention how easy it is to quickly share any misguided messages and you can see how some companies are still reticent about delving into the deep end of the social media pool.
However, if handled correctly, you can easily diffuse any bad tweet or post and perhaps even enhance your brand. Here are five strategies to help you in case a malicious missive makes its way to the social media airwaves.
- Remove the tweet or post
Sometimes the simplest solution is the easiest one. Twitter and Facebook allow you to quickly and easily remove anything you post of their sites. Twitter does warn that it could take a while to remove it from Twitter search, but it will eventually disappear.
- Mea culpa
Although you may be quick to remove a tweet or post, it is more likely someone will still see the offending/embarrassing tweet or post and spread it around. Look no further than the "Cisco Fatty" incident when a job offer was extended to a woman who tweeted that she had to weigh the idea of getting a "fatty" paycheck from Cisco against hating the potential job.
The best thing you can do is admit to a mistake. Social media is all about the importance of being authentic, and mistakes happen. People recognize this and are more forgiving if you actually 'fess up. Making no comment or denying any wrong-doing will only exacerbate the situation.
- Take your lumps
Sometimes, there may be a remark that is not easily covered up by simply saying you're sorry. Kenneth Cole tweeted about the events unfolding in Egypt and used it to promote his spring fashion line. His attempt at humor was ill-conceived to say the least.
He has since come out an apologized for the tweet. But with the firestorm that quickly rose in social media circles (as well as traditional media channels) concerning his comment could not be contained. Ultimately it may have damaged his brand. The best thing he can do at this point is sit back and take his lumps and learn from his mistakes.
- Revisit your social media strategy
Once the post or tweet goes out and apologies have been made what should you do next. Well, it may be a good time to revisit your social media strategy and make sure that everyone in your organization understands your social media policy to help avoid any future mistakes. It may also be a good idea to create an official response for these types of situations and make that part of your policy.
- Try to make lemonade
If for some reason you are at the receiving end or somehow involved in a mis-tweet or post, there may be a chance to improve your brand while helping diffuse the situation for the offending tweeter or poster. In the Red Cross example, the Dogfish Head brewery used the publicity of the tweet to help the Red Cross by asking people to donate blood and support the ARC. This was a brilliant move that also helped enhance their own brand. And I hesitate to use that word "move" because it makes what they did seem so calculated, yet I suspect that it was more of an honest, authentic response to the situation.
Do you have any embarrassing stories about social media gone bad? How would you or do you handle these gaffes when they present themselves? Let us know in our comments section
Kevin Duffy is the Creative Director for The Duffy Agency's Boston office.