It’s the nightmare every C-suite exec envisioned back when talk of doing social media first started…what happens if the brand makes a catastrophic and very public social media mistake? Don’t people realize how much money has been spent on marketing and PR to make sure every syllable the brand puts out is soft, safe and sanitized?
Social is 24/7, real-time, revealing, and involves interaction between humans. That is not a recipe corporations seek out. But it’s the one they’re now forced to deal with. And just as they feared, mistakes are going to be made.
Case in point, this week’s disastrous tweet on the US Airways account containing a photo I really can’t describe without getting into trouble myself. To its credit, the airline is not firing the social manager who made the mistake. Skift.com found US Airways sends over 400 reply tweets a day, with an average response time of 38 minutes. Despite the horror of the mistake, that’s a solid record. An organization dispensing with the “off with their heads” mentality when it’s not warranted is quite mature and refreshing.
They are hardly alone in taking a social media stumble. Sometimes it’s innocent error. Sometimes it’s being greatly disconnected from how the public feels about you and what they’re likely to do, such as a financial firm’s cancelled Q&A after followers seized the solicitation for questions as a chance to mock the brand and industry mercilessly.
All too often, it’s a lack of judgment or a lack of awareness to make good judgment calls. Far too many brands have piggybacked on trending current events for marketing purposes, only to meet with blowback from followers for being exploitative. Light events like the Super Bowl, fine. Tragedies & anniversaries of tragedies, not fine.
Sometimes, it’s rogue employees such as the live-tweeting of a mass firing at HMV on the brand account, made worse by the marketing director then publicly asking followers, “How do I shut down Twitter?”
And sometimes, bad things even happen from what you don’t do. British Airways lost Hasan Syed's luggage and didn’t respond to his Twitter inquiry, so he simply bought a promoted tweet and amplified what happened, which was his right. British Airways later admitted its Twitter feed was only open during the day.
So here are a few things to keep in mind about when bad tweets happen: