It’s not uncommon for those of us in new media marketing to manage several Twitter accounts for various clients. Having been at it awhile, it’s not that we’re immune to mis-Tweets, it’s just that we made our mistakes back in 2008 or 2009, before anyone really noticed. The most common problem is posting a tweet meant for one client to another client’s account. That can be remedied by logging out of Twitter whenever you are done working for one client and re-logging in when you start work for the next, logging out after each Tweet and/or always making sure when you use TweetMeme or any other share device that what you are about to Tweet goes to the right account. (If you’re not sure, don’t click on the button!)
The possibility of colliding Twitter accounts gets more difficult to manage when more than one person from the company has permission to Tweet and/or you and those other company Tweet-ers also have your own personal Twitter accounts. While you, as a new media marketer, have trained yourself to manage multiple accounts and understand the essentials of brand promotion and messaging (even when that brand is you and the message is yours), it can be difficult to get clients to understand this game.
Two recent high-profile incidents are profiled in the New York Times today. Both Chrysler and Aflac have had to fire employees/spokespeople over crossing the line between personal beliefs and corporate brand. The Aflac case is an easy one to sort. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried has long provided the company with the voice of its mascot – the Aflac duck. Because of this nice payday Gottfried was receiving from Aflac, he had a responsibility to represent the company not only in its promotions, but also all the time. Whether this was written in his contract or merely implied by common sense, Gottfried was probably sensible enough to not get on stage and make untoward jokes about Aflac or its duck – but when he Tweeted jokes about last week’s earthquake in Japan on his personal Twitter account he was fired. The jokes didn’t mention Aflac (which has big business in Japan), but they were in poor taste. And whether people who follow Gottfried on Twitter immediately associate him with Aflac or not – that’s beside the point. The point is, eventually someone out there in the Twitterverse will connect the dots. Spokesperson Gottfried made fun of a tragedy and if Aflac stood by and did nothing, then, in the minds of some customers at some point, Aflac is complicit in that behavior. Sayonara, Gilbert!
In the Chrysler case, an employee for a new media marketing firm Tweeted on the @Chryslerautos account:
“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to drive.”
According to the New York Times, “between “to” and “drive” was a vulgarity.”
This employee was fired, and Chrysler canned the marketing firm. Double-ouch.
We’ll have to assume that this was not an accident of the employee confusing the corporate account with his/her own personal account or the case of a hapless comedian left alone with Twitter. Instead, this may have been more of a misguided attempt by the marketing firm to deliver what Chrysler had asked for to “promot[e] Detroit and its hard-working people.”
Last time I checked, hard-working people had a sense of humor and probably would have found this funny (think Roseanne and Dan back in the day laughing if little Darlene or DJ posted this). But a tweet like this might have been more appropriate for the promoters of a local bowling alley or a sub shop – not a prestigious brand like Chrysler. In the Twitterverse this is known as a #fail. Forget the #winning.
Source: New York Times, “When the Marketing Reach of Social Media Backfires,” by Stuart Elliott.
Photo of Gilbert Gotfried and the Aflac duck, property of Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency.