Twitter has forever changed the way that brands interact with their customers, and, conversely, how customers interact with brands. In fact, before Twitter and similar social media options, there weren’t reliable ways to get near-immediate or public feedback from a company.
Despite the value of these tools, mismanagement of them can be a disaster that requires time and big PR efforts to put out. It’s a publicity nightmare in 140 characters or less. These following brands and organizations know the hardships of Twitter mismanagement from firsthand experience.
NYPD – The New York Police Department encouraged people from throughout the city to post positive pictures with police officers and use the hashtag #myNYPD. The program was designed to bolster confidence in the organization, but it was hijacked when citizens began tweeting pictures of possible police brutality and undue force with the hashtag.
McDonalds – A 2012 attempt by the Golden Arches encouraged Twitter users to share their stories about the chain with the hashtag #McDStories. Plenty of stories were shared, but they were not the family-oriented tales that were requested. Instead, many of the tweets included stories of illness, vile bodily functions and inappropriate activities. McDonalds was not lovin’ it.
Entenmann’s – Sometimes, the error is a matter of coincidence, but it’s still bad for business. Entenmann’s is a bakery that fills American shelves with plenty of delicious, sweet treats, but they were also responsible for a few or more awkward tweets. They launched a campaign the encouraged customers to tweet about their Entenmann’s deliciousness with the hashtag #NotGuilty.
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Unfortunately, the campaign went live just before Casey Anthony, the mother accused of killing her 4-year-old daughter, was acquitted of murder. While they had no way to predict what would happen, it still did not bode well for their social media image.
Think Before You Tweet
Kenneth Cole – Sharp dresser or not, Mr. Cole (or the person responsible for his account) is a repeat offender when it comes to sending out tweets that co-opt tragedies for personal gain. The account has come under fire several times for using natural disasters or humanitarian issues for self-promotion. Tweets like, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at bit.ly/KCairo -KC,” have generated plenty of negative buzz for the brand.
Chrysler – Most companies try to keep their Twitter accounts professional. Occasional problems arise when the account is run by a person who also has a personal Twitter account and doesn’t realize where the Tweets are posted. Chrysler fell victim to this when an advertising firm who was responsible for the carmaker’s tweets dropped the F-bomb on the Chrysler Twitter account. How the error happened has yet to be disclosed, but Chrysler determined where it came from and has since severed ties with that agency.
Tweet For Tat
Bing – After tsunamis hit Japan in 2010, Bing let their best intentions get away from them. They used Twitter to offer contributions to tsunami relief – in exchange for traffic to their search engine. The tactic was panned as inappropriate, and the general feeling was that Microsoft, the owner of Bing and a corporation worth billions, should donate because it’s the right thing to do and not for something in return.
While these were, for the most part, unintentional gaffs, the repercussions of the misplaced messages took plenty of work to correct. It’s easy to destroy a brand’s image with just 140 characters. So what can a small business or a time-poor blogger in a hurry learn from this? The message is this: Think before you tweet. Then think again. Then ask someone’s opinion, and make sure it’s still a good idea. Then think one more time. If it still seems like valuable information, you may not be risking your brand’s reputation by posting it.