Twitter Blunders – The Fine Line Between PR Nightmares and Humanizing a Brand

Twitter is one of the largest social networking sites on the Internet, boasting over 200 million users shortly after its fifth birthday on March 21st. Many people check their Twitter accounts constantly, which is easy thanks to smartphones and mobile apps. The micro-blogging tool has become a central source of news for many users in part because they can follow many news sources at once, receiving updates simultaneously from news outlets, friends, and even celebrities. It is hard to find a company these days that doesn’t have its own Twitter account through which loyal customers can feel connected to their favorite brands and stay up-to-date on recent developments. But, what happens when a company has a Twitter mishap?

With the increase in Twitter use comes an increase in Twitter misuse. The more frequently companies use Twitter, the greater the risk for mistakes to be made. For instance, a couple of months ago, tweets were sent out on the official Red Cross and Chrysler accounts that were meant to come from employees’ personal accounts.  This also occurred with Marc Jacobs where an intern mistakenly tweeted from the official account about how much he hated the job.

Corporate twitter blunders bring up the age-old debate of whether or not any publicity is good publicity. For Chrysler, when an employee accidentally sent out a negative tweet about the city of Detroit, although the tweeter was fired, it actually generated more buzz around the brand than many of us can remember. In case you missed it:

In the case of the Red Cross, an employee tweeted about being excited to find Dogfish Head beer on the company twitter instead of a personal one.

The Red Cross  removed the tweet and responded with humor.

and Dogfish Head Brewery ended up tweeting back and a conversation evolved around a common hashtag, resulting in people making donations to the Red Cross.

These accidental tweets did not have much negative impact on the brand as initially anticipated.  In fact, in the case of the Red Cross, there were positive effects –  their Social Media Director blogging that “many of you immediately embraced this mix-up, and many of you have pledged donations to the Red Cross.”

Twitter mix-ups seem inevitable these days, with so many users and so many people managing multiple accounts. For the most part, followers are pretty forgiving, recognizing that even though they may follow a brand religiously, the account is being updated by actual human beings. Fortunately, while it’s easy to make a mistake, it can just as easily be taken back down and, as long as it’s handled honestly (and maybe with a little bit of humor), it most likely won’t destroy the brand. People feel closer to companies when they feel that they always know what is going on with them. Perhaps, for this reason, people find it is easier to let it slide when a company they follow makes a mistake, just as someone would not hold it against their friend if they accidentally tweeted misinformation. It makes the brand more human, and really, it’s hard to be mad at them for that. At the same time, it seems obvious that just maybe companies should be a little more careful in their tweeting too.

Do you look badly upon a company or lose trust in them if they make a mistake on their Twitter account?

-Guest post by Alessandra Pollina, a PR intern at 451 Marketing. Alessandra is a senior majoring in Public Relations at Boston University.

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One thought on “Twitter Blunders – The Fine Line Between PR Nightmares and Humanizing a Brand

  1. Nice post. Companies make mistakes and humans make mistakes. These are great examples of recovery, although I’m not sure about the firing of the tweeter. The company that pretends never to make mistakes will be less trusted in social… and I believe those who apologize and recover from that will be more trusted. Great point about fans staying with the brand, I have seen them stick up for the brand in touchy situations.

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