How to Avoid a Corporate Social Media Brand Gaffe

Last night marked the first presidential debate of three. The debate was televised, and about 40 million people tuned in. What differed this year, versus 2008, was that an enormous number of people talked about the debate in real-time on Twitter. In the space of the 90-minute debate, over 10 million tweets were sent. As we’ve discussed before, people still tune into television, but the location of the conversation is shifting.

Background: The jaw dropping brand gaffe

In the midst of the debate, a terrible tweet appeared in our thread. It was as follows:

As far as we can tell, the tweet was pulled within 30 seconds and the following apology was issued:

In the hours that passed, over 36,619 mentions of KitchenAid occurred. 93% of those mentions were on Twitter. (Radian6) Ad Week covered it. Mashable covered it. USA Today covered it. Huffington Post covered it. Many other outlets did too. Of the 10 million debate tweets, one deleted post by a brand generated 36,619 mentions. Let that sink in.

Lessons brands and Community Managers should learn from this mistake

This could happen to you

This blog isn’t about KitchenAid. We are citing KitchenAid as an example, but truthfully, these types of mistakes happen often. Put precautions into place to make sure this kind of error doesn’t happen to you. Idea: Remove brand accounts from your mobile phone during events you know you’ll be passionate about so you can’t Tweet from the wrong account.

Manage your brand and personal Twitter accounts with different tools

It was confirmed that this particular tweet was a result of an individual accidentally posting to their brand page when they thought the tweet would post on their personal account. Mistakes happen, and this could happen to any brand manager in a quick and careless moment. If you tweet for a brand and for yourself, do so on separate platforms to avoid this kind of error. Here at BRG we tweet for brands on Hootsuite and we use Twitter.com and TweetDeck for personal accounts.

Slow down

Yes, Twitter moves in real-time. If you take an extra 30 seconds to read your post and confirm which account it is being sent from, you won’t be late to the party. Take your time. It’s better to be 30 seconds late than wrong.

You represent your company at all times

What you say online doesn’t just reflect on you; it reflects on your company. Rule of thumb: don’t say anything on your personal account that would horrify you if it accidentally showed up on your brand page.

Just because a post has been deleted doesn’t mean it’s gone

KitchenAid deleted the offending post in record time, but since they have a large number of followers, the tweet had already been re-tweeted. While people couldn’t see the post on the brand stream, others were sharing screen shots of the post via photo sharing.

Be prepared to address a social media mistake

Two hours after the offending tweet, Cynthia Soledad, head of the KitchenAid brand went on Twitter and apologized on behalf of her team. She even issued a personal apology stating: “I take full responsibility for my team.” She then spent the next three hours sending tweets to media outlets offering to speak on the record. What lessons would you add? Come tell us on Twitter @BRGLiving.