During the Twitter conversation about the Obama-Romney debate last night, one tweet out of millions stood out — for all the wrong reasons.
KitchenAidUSA: Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics
Yikes! Did @KitchenAidUSA mean to make a joke about the passing of President Obama’s grandmother? Was the company ready to take a partisan stance on the presidential election? The answer to both questions: Unlikely.
The person who posted to @KitchenAidUSA actually sent a personal tweet over the brand’s account. It’s a mistake that can easily happen to any of us who manage our organization’s social media conversation. Tweets are flying. Facebook posts are blowing up. Instagram is going wild. Everything is coming up roses until … Whoops?! You just shared an off-color remark about the president with your company’s 25,000+ Twitter followers and the infinite number of people following #nbcpolitics.
When PR professionals use the same social media dashboard or smartphone application to engage both in personal social conversations and those on behalf of their organizations, they run a very high risk of accidentally cross-posting content — as happened here. Even if you delete the message quickly and apologize — as @KitchenAidUSA did last night — the Internet has a long memory. Quick-thinking people can capture a screenshot of your mistake, which can live forever in Mashable articles, Tumblr blogs and your followers’ memories.
If you haven’t already done so, create a hard line TODAY between your social media accounts and your organization’s accounts. Do the following as quickly as possible:
- Create separate logins for your personal accounts and your organization’s accounts if you use only one type of social media dashboard.
- Consider using different dashboards for your personal and your organization’s social media engagement. For example, use TweetDeck for personal profiles and HootSuite for posting your organization’s messages.
- Disconnect multiple accounts on smartphone applications for social media networks or dashboards to avoid posting mistakes on the road.
If, like KitchenAid and its parent company Whirlpool, your organization finds itself in similar waters, don’t despair. Quick apologetic action to correct the mistake can reaffirm your organization’s position and prevent lasting damage to your brand and reputation. Cynthia Soledad, marketing director for KitchenAid, was quick to take responsibility for the tweet and respond publicly and privately to potential critics last night. Soledad’s swift action minimized the fallout and controlled the story. Here are a few tips to note from her playbook:
- Monitor your social media profiles 24/7. The reason KitchenAid was able to delete the offensive tweet so quickly and post an apology was because the company’s social presence was closely monitored.
- Provide social media team members the training and autonomy to react and respond to issues without stopping for approvals first. Ensure that team members designated to be on your social media watch are trained and given the authority to react and respond quickly when these occasions arise. Collaboration is usually the name of the game in strong communications, but in this case, collaboration and review-seeking could have caused an unnecessary delay in response. Any delay would have increased the number of screenshots and retweets in circulation, allowing the story to snowball and making it difficult to protect the brand.
- Remove the message in question immediately and post an apology in its place. No one is perfect, and your followers don’t expect perfection. However, they do expect transparency and apologies when errors are made. Make sure to post your sincere, simple apology as quickly as possible to get in front of the story.
- If a hashtag was included in your original message, add it to your apology message too. KitchenAid recognized that not only did they need to apologize to their followers, but they needed to extend that apology to the people following the #nbcpolitics hashtag that was included in the original message. This will allows your organization to get your response to as many of the people who may have seen the original message as possible.
- Own your responsibility and be direct with media. Soledad personally took responsibility for the mistake as the head of her communications team and publicly stated so on Twitter. She personally posted a series of Twitter messages and then orchestrated a formal email to the KitchenAid media list with a formal statement apologizing for the error, including USA Today.
According to MSNBC:
In general, branding experts say that one-off gaffes like this, while embarrassing in the short term, don’t do lasting damage to a brand. A swift, contrite apology like Soledad’s is the best response to offensive employee behavior. The incident does illustrate the perils companies face as they try to juggle an increasing number of communication channels, some of which must be managed in real time, while maintaining a consistent brand voice.
While KitchenAid is known for selling devices that mix up food, they are going to pay for “mixing up” their social media profiles. Blending personal and business social media profiles is a recipe for disaster.