Social Media SNAFUs: When Tweets Go Bad


Social media is a great way to deliver a human response in real-time. But that doesn’t make it immune to human error. When it comes to social media, accidents can happen – and can go viral in seconds. While the thought of making headlines with an off-color mis-tweet from your brand might send a chill down any local business owner’s back, don’t despair! Shifting the tone is possible if you’re willing to demonstrate the right attitude in the face of a social media faux pas.

Road Rage from @ChryslerAutos

As a general rule, profanity has no place coming from a business Twitter account under any circumstance. Perhaps that’s why a tweet containing a certain four-letter word from Chrysler’s twitter account in March made waves seconds after going live.

What happened next? The tweet was deleted and an apology was issued, stating that the “account was compromised.” The person responsible for the profane tweet was fired, then sought to pursue legal action against the Twitter application he blamed for the social media snafu.

Frank Opinions from @SecretService

The verified Twitter account from the Secret Service let loose with a tweet this month that set off a spark in political blogs all over the web. While many high-profile public servants like senators, congressmen and the President himself broadcast their political views on Twitter regularly, government agencies usually don’t, which is why the @SecretService tweet criticizing Fox News was especially noteworthy.

Naturally, the tweet was taken down almost immediately, but its legacy lived on through many retweets. As might be expected from a government agency with “Secret” in the title, not much else has been discovered as far as who may have been responsible and what actions may have been taken as a result.

Boozy Slang from @RedCross

Finally, this third case of a personal tweet being published accidentally from a professional brand took  the social media world by storm back in February, when the American Red Cross published a tweet about, well, beer. Citing the brewery, Dogfish Head, by name meant the tweet would get picked up on the beer brand’s radar. But if that weren’t enough, the tweet also contained a hashtag containing a slang synonym for intoxication: #gettngslizzerd.

For a humanitarian aid organization with tens of thousands of followers, this could have been a real disaster. But the Red Cross handled the situation professionally – and with a great deal of humor. They took it down, replacing it with: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.

That forgiving, good-humored attitude did not go unnoticed by Twitter fans following the real-time debacle. As CNN reported, “Impressed by the Red Cross’ calm and humane response, other tweeters – especially @dogfishbeer’s fans – launched a fundraising and blood donation drive. Its hashtag: #gettngslizzerd.”

Lesson Learned?

When it comes to a social media slip-up on behalf of your brand, it’s not a matter of if – but when. Mistakes happen, and most people (including your customers) understand this. One way to prevent mis-tweets like these is to encourage the people in charge of your brand’s Twitter account to use one Twitter app for their personal account(s), and a different Twitter app for their professional accounts. Switching between two separate apps is a small price to pay in the long run if it can mean avoiding a social media snafu on behalf of your brand.

But if a bad tweet does come from your corporate account, try to have a sense of humor about it as much as you can. Of course, some mis-tweets will be worse than others, but anytime you can make light of the situation instead of treating it like it’s a doomsday scenario, your brand personality will come across as more friendly than fearsome. And in the online social sphere, friendliness gets you much further in the long run.

Angela Epley writes about online advertising & web presence for the ReachLocal blog, which focuses on small business online marketing strategies.


The ReachLocal online marketing blog shares practical tips and advice for those who want to reach local customers online. Learn about online marketing from our in-house experts and thought leaders.

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