Social Media Marketing Mistakes – Corporate Tweets Gone Wild

Posted On: Apr. 7, 2011  |  Author: synnd

Sometimes Twitter Can Create a Social Media Marketing Twitstorm

As social media marketing blossoms and expands and becomes ever more popular, there are an increasing number of companies social media marketing mistakesthat are jumping into the same boat as customers in order to improve engagement and brand visibility.  With that social media marketing however there is the potential for companies to self-destruct.  It doesn’t have to be as intense as a couch-jump or rant on voicemail.  It can be as simple as a self-destructive tweet that slips by the corporate mega-filter.

It’s not a matter of whether or not it will happen to your company – it’s more a matter of what kind of tweet will upset people and who will be the culprit.

You can place those public relations tweet-time-bombs into three different categories

Social Media Marketing Twitstorm #1 – Gettin Slizzerd

There are a lot of people on Twitter – million really.  It stands to reason that the individual or team managing corporate Twitter accounts more than like have accounts of their own.  Mix in mobile computing where personal laptops or phones are used in the corporate environment in favor of a ball&chain desktop PC -and- the use of multiple account tools like Hootsuite?  Well… the result is a good chance that someone handling the corporate Twitter account is going to send something out through the corporate feed that was meant for a personal account.

The most famous social media marketing incident via Twitter happened recently with the American Red Cross when one of their employees sent out a rather humorous tweet clearly intended for a personal account.

The Red Cross handled the situation with grace and a laughable response because they recognized that a simple mistake like this can and does happen.  Their reaction to the incident was swift and their followers loved it.  So much in fact that the #gettngslizzerd spread far and wide over Twitter as folks pledged donations to American Red Cross.  A great outcome… but unfortunately not all of them work out so well.

Want to avoid sending information down the wrong pipe?  Avoid a potential social media marketing fiasco by using different software for different accounts.  Likewise – directly logging into the site and forcing a login can help avoid this error.

Social Media Marketing Twitstorm #2 – Stuffy Bugger

While it can sometimes be humorous to watch a stuffy bumbling corporation attempt to engage their audience, and the resulting public relations explosion in their face teaches lessons we can only chuckle so long.  Sometimes the “stuffy” isn’t on the leading end, it comes as a response.  We’ve likely all seen handfuls of organizations and even Congressman make a mistweet and then try to cover it by making some disconnected, stuffy response or no response at all – the result of being a stuffy bugger is that those stuffy responses tend to fuel the fire and greater humiliation ensues.

If you mistweet, misfire and misrepresent then take the time to think of an appropriate response.  Acknowledge, Apologize and be Authentic.  Don’t just fire off a stuffy response right away.  Quickly own it and apologize and go from there.

Social Media Marketing Twitstorm #3 – Can You Hear Me Now?

We frequently talk about how important it is to listen and many corporations are involved in social media to use those social platforms a listen dashboard.  Being tuned in to customers gives you insight into thoughts, feelings, feedback, issues and more – but only if you’re really listening and staying engaged.

United Airlines found out the hard way when a customer tweeted “Thanks to @unitedairlines I can finally watch that Frasier episode I missed in 1994″.  The tone was obviously sarcastic but the social media managers over at United didn’t quite get it… and decided instead to tweet the lyrics to the theme song of the show.

They later apologized, but not until after an angry uproar from a large customer following.  United Airlines pulled off the “Acknowledge, Apologize and Authentic” response well enough to quell the storm.

In some cases in the past, employees have been terminated for errors like those above, while others were reprimanded for oversharing or crossing boundaries even on their personal twitter accounts when acting as representatives for a company.

To avoid the social media marketing explosions, companies should work diligently to put guidelines in place for how representatives and employees handle social media and Twitter accounts.  Good structure and clear direction can help to avoid these types of issues.  Important still however is taking the time to plan how a company will react when these issues occur – not just the response that will give the public relations of the company a winning chance but social media marketing responses that will shore up the credibility of a company and ensure that trust is not lost.


  1. Amber says:

    Great overview of some recent mishaps. We reference your article in our new series on social media and their connection to corporate values. Let me know if you have any feedback.

    • admin says:

      You are absolutely correct. Companies have to be careful, but they also have to be humble. Nobody expects them to be perfect, after all they are made up of humans. When they make a mistake, the best thing to do is acknowledge the blunder so they can move on. I believe that Jet Blue is an example of this. They kept people on the tarmac at JFK for hours. They had to make a big apology, but people recognized that they wanted to make amends.

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