It’s every social media manager’s nightmare. A tweet was misinterpreted. You included the wrong country’s flag. Or, an angry tweet storm is brewing because of a negative news story. It can happen to any brand. However, the issue does not have to end in embarrassment. In a number of cases, brands have made mistakes into opportunities to show that they are human, compassionate, clever and capable. With the help of a crisis consultant or a savvy social media director, a brand misstep doesn’t have to send you off a cliff.
Here are a few times that brands have recovered from their social media gaffes.
1. American Red Cross confiscates the car keys.
In 2011, American Red Cross made a surprising celebratory tweet: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.”
This tweet was accidentally sent by a social media specialist for the nonprofit who had forgotten to log into her personal profile.
However embarrassing the tweet, the Red Cross quickly turned it around. The tweet was deleted and replaced with one that said: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys”.
It might have ended there if Dogfish Head had been slower on the uptake. The microbrewery noticed the errant tweet and responded right away asking for donations of blood and cash for the Red Cross. This is a heartwarming example of using crisis management to forge an opportunity.
2. Gap works on being more inclusive.
When promoting their Gap Kids x Ed line, The Gap made a bit of an error in representation. They used a photo from the dance troupe Le Petit Cirque with the caption, “Meet the kids who are proving that girls can do anything.” In the image, two white dancers pose to show off flexibility while another uses an African American girl’s head as an armrest.
Twitter was quick to condemn the brand for what they described as passive racism.
Instead of letting it pass by, Gap responded quickly with an apology and a promise to do better.
In a post on Le Petit Cirque’s page they said, “We are replacing the image with a different shot from the campaign, which encourages girls (and boys) everywhere to be themselves and feel pride in what makes them unique.”
3. KitchenAid shows that sometimes all you need is a simple apology.
In the hours after the 2012 Presidential debate, a social media manager at KitchenAid apparently forgot to log into a personal account. The KitchenAid account’s comment on the debate included a joke about Barack Obama’s dead grandmother.
The brand responded by taking the tweet down immediately and added a new one saying “Deepest apologies for an irresponsible tweet that is in no way a representation of the brand’s opinion.” Later, KitchenAid’s senior director followed it up with a personal apology to the President and his family.
4. GM rebuilds its reputation by getting personal on social media.
The deaths of 12 customers and a recall of 1.6 million cars is a nightmare for any brand to manage. GM helped save their reputation by personally helping individual customers on Facebook and Twitter. After the recall, the brand’s Facebook page and Twitter mentions were full of negative comments. The brand’s response is a textbook case of excellent reputation management. A number of people left negative messages to GM after learning that their vehicles were part of the recall and possible too dangerous to drive. GM responded to each by publicly answering questions and then heading to private messages to hammer out resolutions for customers.
In one instance, a mother took to the GM page to tell them that her daughter was unable to get to work after spending all of her savings on a car that was later recalled. The company arranged a loaner car to keep their customer on the road.
In another instance, a frustrated Alaskan tweeted that, while her car was subject to the recall, she was on an island and unable to get her car to a dealership for the needed repairs. GM’s Twitter team worked with her in a series of private messages. In the end, the company worked out arrangements to pay the $600 cost of a round-trip ferry ride to the nearest dealer, which was 300 miles away in Juneau.
Many brands have ignored social media issues or responded with non-apologies. It is the ones who use the medium well that manage not only to survive the problems, but come out the other side with a stronger reputation.
Social media fails are practically inevitable. A joke will come out wrong, someone will fail to log out of a brand account or you may be a little slow on the cut and paste. It happens. The key to success in this sphere comes down to how you react. By handling your missteps well, you can recover gracefully and continue to build your brand’s reputation online.
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