Whether it is your favorite public relations account executive blindly tweeting, in the cab ride from the airport to your offices, that he can not understand how anyone could live in the city your company calls home or it’s a foreign based fashion apparel company tweeting a sales pitch attached to a trending topic that is a murderous horror story unfolding, the problem is not Twitter. Repeat the problem is not the channel, it is not the real time capability of communication, it is not the speed in which your message can be read-interpreted- and repeated. The problem is internal controls, sloppy due diligence, or a combination of the two.
Celeb Boutique “Aurora” Disaster
When Celeb Boutique, the UK based fashion apparel firm, tweeted a sales pitch for their Aurora dress and associated it with the trending topic #Aurora – the good folks at Celeb Boutique forever etched their names in Twitter infamy. Aurora, Colorado is the recent site of the horrific mass murder of 12 movie goers by a young mentally ill man.
Twitter Best Practices
Before assigning manpower to your Twitter account, companies must realize the implications of the power of Twitter, the importance of understanding the network, the reach of information (global), and inability to “take back” what is tweeted. With this much at stake, brand and reputation in the balance, companies should have steps in place if they create a scandalous disaster. The following are before and after steps:
- Check Research: if you are going to attach a sales pitch to a trending topic on Twitter you must understand what that topic is about and how it started.
- Due Diligence: in Celeb Boutique’s case, the next step would be to read the stream of tweets about #Aurora. If they had done this they never would have tweeted anything associated to this tragedy
- Apologies: if you are going to apologize- please make it genuine! Celeb Boutique’s tweet blaming the time zone difference between the UK and US served only to inflame the already angry “mob” see below
- Responsibility: the only step to take is to take full responsibility immediately which Celeb Boutique failed to do. Even worse was their follow-up tweet explaining why they made this terrible mistake. Stating the obvious that they were unaware was an excuse for poor due diligence practices
- Enterprise Voice: in what may be as damaging as the message itself is the excuse that “social media was totally UNAWARE of the situation. . . ” Blaming “social media” or the people in the marketing department who run Celeb Boutique’s social media program was a big mistake. It’s as if the person tweeting the explanation is saying it’s this one tiny facet of our company that screwed up not the company as a brand or enterprise. Your social “voice” represents the entire enterprise. When are companies going to get this simple but painful rule?
The Price of Unpreparedness
In a great post, “Twitter, tragic events and the price of stupidity” on GigaOm.com, writer Jeff John Roberts sums up the situation all companies are faced with today in our digital information-now world:
“While public anger at a time of tragedy is not new, the speed at which it is expressed is new. Social media means not just that a company like Celeb Boutique can damage its brand more quickly and broadly than ever before, but that it has far less time to undo that damage. In the past, a company could detect a bad news story early on and work with professionals to spin the story. In the case of Celeb Boutique, its chance to fix the damage has already come and gone.”