Sunday, February 27, 2011

Handling Social Media Mishaps - the Good, Bad & the Ugly

A scary part of social media sites dominating communication channels today is that brands no longer have control over their products or the messages surrounding them. There are 2 fantastic examples of brand faux pas’s within social media recently - one the good and one the bad & very very ugly. @BPglobalPR is a twitter account mocking BP through very ‘official like’ messages. This handle has 177, 360 followers and is listed over 8,000 times meaning that the reach and WOM of this handle is out of control and yet BP has no control over the messages released by this handle. On the other hand, there’s the recent Red Cross Twitter faux pas, which is an excellent example of how a brand successful handled an ‘oops’ moment online.

Let’s talk about these examples and hopefully you will learn some things NOT to do with your brand online & then a few tips on what to DO when something goes wrong (which is bound to happen when this many people are talking about you online).

@BPglobalPR is a twitter handle created on May 19, 2010 mocking BP’s handling of the gulf oil crisis. In my opinion, it is the most professional case of newsjacking to date. BP tried to have the account shut down but twitter essentially quoted freedom of speech and took no action. As a result, the account turned up the mock factor by 10 as seen in this response. “BP wants Twitter to shut down a fake account mocking the oil company. Twitter wants BP to shut down the oil leak that’s ruining the ocean.”  BP had no control over its message and the ‘fake’ account soon had greater reach than BP’s official news releases. People were drawn to the satirical comments and the ‘real’ truths being shared mocking BP’s efforts versus the canned message BP was offering. It’s a pretty scary place for a company when a handle is set up on a social media site and you have absolutely no authority to shut it down or influence the message.

Let’s talk about a good example of a brand owning up to a mistake. Recently the @RedCross account mistakenly tweeted something that should have come from the tweeter’s personal account via a mishap on hootsuite. The tweet read:
Oops – not exactly the message you expect from a 130 year old humanitarian organization. What the American Red Cross did well was own the issue, apologize and move forward. The discussions across twitter no longer mocked the mistake but complimented the Red Cross for owning it.  The Red Cross responded on their website with: “We realized our honest mistake (the Tweeter was not drunk) and deleted the above Tweet. We all know that it’s impossible to really delete a tweet like this, so we acknowledged our mistake:”

They turned this blooper into a powerful social media moment showcasing that the organization is run by “real” people. The twitterverse’s respect only increased for the organization. If only more companies were like the Red Cross and confident to show their human side and have a little laugh at their expense.

Ensure you don’t wait for messages about your brand to go through a thousand and one PR official channels; remember you have to be timely in using social media as if you aren’t someone else will!

Red Cross Twitter Faux Pas:
@BPglobalPR on Twitter:
Read more about BP asking twitter to shut down the “fake” BPglobalPR account:
Interesting article about the man claiming to be behind the @BPglobalPR handle and his motives:

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