We've been mistweeted!

March 18, 2011

The twitterati were all abuzz last week when Chrysler’s social marketing agency dropped the F-bomb on a Chrysler Twitter account. But why the schoolmarm reaction? Detroit ain’t Disneyworld.

The twitterati were all abuzz last week when Chrysler’s social marketing agency dropped the F-bomb (directed at the citizens of Motor City) on a Chrysler Twitter account. The agency has since been fired; the tweeter-gone-awry has, too. But for a gritty brand built in a hard-working American town — boldly proclaiming “Made it Detroit” and sporting Eminem as its spokesperson — why the schoolmarm reaction? Detroit ain’t Disney World.

In case you missed it, a social marketing rep posted this on the Chrysler Twitter feed (@ChryslerAutos): “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f**king drive."

(The person at fault apparently thought they were logged into their own Twitter account at the time — and probably realized his/her error just moments after hitting the Tweet button.)

And then, let the trending begin. The tweets were flying. Unfortunately, Chrysler missed the bus. This could have been a great opportunity to humanize the Chrysler brand. They could have jumped right in to talk about being in business long enough to know that mistakes happen. They could have used it to plug the luxury of the 300 as the antidote to road rage, or to build a whole discussion around road rage. They could have channeled Eminem to put this rogue tweeter in his place because that’s how it’s done in the Motor City. Something. But they chickened out.

Chrysler was at the heart of a vibrant and compelling discussion and then they just shut everybody up. @ChryslerAutos: “Our apologies — our account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it.”

Not too ominous and uninviting.

On the other hand, we’ve got The American Red Cross. Last month, when faced with a similar incident, the Red Cross took the exact opposite approach — and made some proverbial lemonade.

“…we found so many of you to be sympathetic and understanding. While we’re a 130 year old humanitarian organization, we’re also made of up human beings. Thanks for not only getting that but for turning our faux pas into something good.”

Responses included these: “Hey @redcross — If more companies acted like you, the Internet would be a better place. Well handled, bravo. http://bit.ly/fZ6K0n

“The reaction is wonderful and I’m going to donate too. Thing is, we’re all human — we’re all people. You owned it, and also proved that things are changing.”

Despite all of the corporate-owned Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, most brands are not built to speak in real time. With little time to ponder and analyze and consult, the knee-jerk defensive reaction (à la Chrysler) may be considered the “safer” move. Traditional thinking might have it that you are less likely to get fired for making someone accountable, and then having them sacked.

But social media is a dialogue (or, rather, a multilogue). Erasing errant tweets is not an option. As with most of the “new rules” demanded by our changing communications landscape, your brand is better equipped to guide your approach than your legal or compliance office. You want employees (and agency partners) to “get” your brand, to think like your brand and to speak, act, react accordingly.

Kudos to the Red Cross for harnessing their human spirit — and for showing how you can live the brand in real time.

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