Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Megan Hannay, the Social Media Director for CarWoo.com.

Today I sent out a tweet about the psychology behind the purchase of a BMW. My bit.ly was a YouTube video about glow-in-the-dark dogs.

I didn’t realize the error until two followers messaged me wondering what the freak Beamers have to do with the furry products of a Japanese science experiment. Once I realized the source of my mistake – I left the “c” off the end of the bit.ly when I copied it to CoTweet – I thanked the social media gods that my accidental link hadn’t been more racy.

We can all laugh off glow-in-the-dark dogs, but what if my carelessly copied bit.ly had led @carwoo followers to explicit or offensive content? And did I mention that one of the followers who mentioned something works directly for one of our principal investors?

Yeah. Ouch.

I got lucky, for sure, but I still had a minor version of that “oh #$%^” moment. That moment Scott Bartosiewicz and Gloria Huang surely both felt when they tweeted out personal messages on the Chrysler and American Red Cross accounts, respectively.

NOTE: Image borrowed from Jalopnik, which recreated the redacted original. See their original story.

In case you haven’t heard the stories – Bartosiewicz of New Media Strategies accidentally tweeted out an expletive on the Chrysler Twitter account earlier this month, thinking he was tweeting from his own. In an oddly similar mistake, Huang recently tweeted out on the American Red Cross account about her intentions to get slizzerd with Dogfish Head beer that evening. In the former case, both Bartosiewicz and his agency got sacked. In the latter, everyone laughed off the gaffe, and The Red Cross even earned some donations from the beer company.

These two examples perfectly demonstrate the two unspoken schools of social media – the brands that mistakenly treat it like traditional outreach, and the brands that get it.

And Chrysler clearly doesn’t get it.

Correct me (and you will) if I’m wrong, but isn’t the whole point of social media that customers have the opportunity to interact with human representatives of brands? And humans, well, we mess up. After 5000+ tweets and updates and blog posts, etc. it’s to be expected that most humans would make a mistake or two – especially if an error is as easy as forgetting a single click-over to a separate twitter handle.

And clearly Chrysler isn’t that concerned with a family-friendly vibe. The star of their SuperBowl commercial is guilty of dropping content that is far more offensive than an f-bomb during rush hour. The reactionary explanation of the event on Chrysler’s corporate blog did not touch on this issue.

Why, then, did Chrysler react so harshly to the accidental tweet? If it’s not about a single swear word (which, again, considering their relationship with Eminem, is probably not a huge concern for Chrysler execs), it’s more likely the fact that they had no control over its use.

Social media is so human that the line between a thought and a tweet doesn’t have much of a shadow, whereas traditional campaigns are groomed and clipped and edited a thousand times over before making it to the public sphere.

This fear is understandable, but it’s not enough. If you’re afraid to show your human side, if you can’t be spontaneous and humorous and actually support the employees who spend day after day supporting your brand, then your brand should not be using social media.

Now I’m going to go have a Dogfish Head. And I might even get slizzerd.

Megan Hannay lives in SF and is the Social Media Director for CarWoo.com. You find more of her musings on the CarWoo! blog, or on facebook.com/carwoo.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, then why not:Leave Comment Below | Subscribe To This Blog | Sign Up For Our Newsletter |

About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

Other posts by

Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirk.hazlett Kirk Hazlett

    Food for thought here. When using social…or any other…media, THINK before hitting “send.”

  • http://url.assistnz.com/jess-who jezzieann

    you inspired my own post with my recent “social media consultant” f**k up hehe
    http://sites.google.com/a/assistnz.com/members/members/jess-maher/bewareofsocialmediaexperts-thereisnosuchthing

  • http://www.experiate.net Paul Flanigan

    Chrysler’s reaction was utter knee-jerk PR. They were completely overwhelmed with the fear that they were insulting the very market that uses their product: drivers. The f-bomb turned the tweet from insulting to nuclear.

    The Red Cross did not face such a situation because the tweet was not about their brand and the tweet did not potentially insult their direct customers or providers (blood donors or blood givers).

    The lesson is in the aftermath. Chrysler fired the agency. So what? No one cares about that. Really. Red Cross? They took it in stride and tweeted that they “took away the keys.” Ms. Huang followed up with her own message of apology.

    The difference? Chrysler shoved it under the rug and ran. The Red Cross faced it and moved forward.

    Perhaps Chrysler should have Red Cross consult on social media.

    • http://twitter.com/mahannay Megan Hannay

      I totally agree, Paul. I’m very impressed by the way the Red Cross handled this error, especially considering that, as an organization that depends on sympathetic donations as opposed to product sales for their bread and butter, the Red Cross had a lot more to lose if the wrong people took offense to the accidental tweet.

  • http://www.experiate.net Paul Flanigan

    Chrysler’s reaction was utter knee-jerk PR. They were completely overwhelmed with the fear that they were insulting the very market that uses their product: drivers. The f-bomb turned the tweet from insulting to nuclear.

    The Red Cross did not face such a situation because the tweet was not about their brand and the tweet did not potentially insult their direct customers or providers (blood donors or blood givers).

    The lesson is in the aftermath. Chrysler fired the agency. So what? No one cares about that. Really. Red Cross? They took it in stride and tweeted that they “took away the keys.” Ms. Huang followed up with her own message of apology.

    The difference? Chrysler shoved it under the rug and ran. The Red Cross faced it and moved forward.

    Perhaps Chrysler should have Red Cross consult on social media.

  • http://sylvanmedia.com Michael

    Thanks Jason for your insight. I think you have a legitimate argument; however, I think you should think about where the company is coming from as well.

    What if your employees were talking to your customers (face-to-face) about the night “they got totally trashed”. This may be an experience the customer and employee shared but reflects poorly on the company’s value of responsible adult actions. I think there should be some type of regulation of how we interact through social media. Acting recklessly and not using the media responsibly can curate a whole host of unforeseeable problems. Check out this blog post, http://bit.ly/hcGXpS and tell me what you think.

    Mike

  • Anonymous

    This is a great post–but I’m not so sure that Chrysler was as worried about the expletive that was tweeted as it was the generally negative message that was broadcast. Chrysler is a Detroit-based car company. That message is a great way to alienate Detroiters who own cars–a large market share for the auto giant no doubt. By contrast, there wasn’t anything negative, per se, in the Red Cross example. Poor judgment, sure, but it wasn’t mean. The two cases are like apples and oranges.

    As far as the axing goes: The company entrusted its online brand equity to an agency where an account manager’s oversight stood to upend the company’s brand and profits. That’s a serious gaffe and many other companies could’ve (would’ve?) held the AM/firm legally responsible for any lost profits.

    • http://twitter.com/mahannay Megan Hannay

      I completely agree that the negative sentiment towards Detroit was part of the reason Chrysler found the tweet so offensive – they even explained as much in their blog post about the incident. At the same time, I still think that an honest explanation and apology to the citizens of Detroit from all involved parties could have had the same effect in minimizing profit losses. After all, what who doesn’t get irritated at their fellow rush hour drivers every once in a while? In my opinion, the comment makes the brand even more human, even if it wasn’t intended to come from Chrysler.

  • http://jalopnik.com/ Ray Wert

    The image above in your story isn’t from Ad Age or from Twitter. It’s an image we created over at Jalopnik to recreate the tweet in our story breaking the news a full day before the AdAge story (note the shading at the top and bottom of the image and the fact it says “from the web” when Bartosiewicz even admits he used Tweetdeck). Can you give us some credit on that — as it’s clear it’s where you really got the story from.

    http://jalopnik.com/5780113/chrysler-loses-control-of-twitter-account-drops-f+bomb

    And if you’d like to link to the exclusive we ran revealing the Chrysler F-bomber was Bartosiewicz, feel free to link to that too:

    http://jalopnik.com/5780841/this-guy-was-unnecessarily-fired-for-f+ing-up-chryslers-twitter-account

    Although David Kiley and AdAge weren’t able to link to us, I expect better from a website with “Social Media” in its name.

    Thanks,

    Ray Wert
    Editor-in-chief, Jalopnik.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Sorry about that Ray. I’m sure Megan had no intention of nabbing your
      content uncredited. I’ll go back and credit appropriately.

  • http://twitter.com/drbret Bret L Simmons

    Jason, I usually love the advice at your blog, but I strongly disagree with this one. Being human is a LAME excuse for being irresponsible. Chrysler was right to fire the agency, and the agency was right to fire the employee that did not give his account the consummate professional attention it deserved. But Chrysler’s biggest mistake was hiring this out in the first place. They should be doing this in-house. No one cares more about your brand and its value than your employees, and if you are not unleashing the power and passion of their voices you are making a strategic error. http://www.bretlsimmons.com/2011-03/chrysler-f-up-follow-up/

    With respect, Bret

    • http://twitter.com/mahannay Megan Hannay

      Hey Bret,
      While I disagree with your stance on Chrysler’s firing of the agency, I completely agree that in-house social media marketers are the way to go if a brand truly wants to connect with their customers. (As an in-house marketer myself, I can speak to that fact personally).

      At the same time, no matter who is in control of your messaging, there are going to be occasional mistakes in the content that goes out. I’m sure if you polled hundreds of social media marketers, you’d be hardpressed to find one frequent Tweeter or Facebook poster who doesn’t have a story of an embarrassing slip-up on a social network. Some of us get lucky and accidentally post about glow-in-the-dark dogs, and others of us (like Bartosiewicz) royally eff up. But I truly believe that consumers, who are the ultimate judges of social media mistakes, are capable of understanding occasional errors (especially if they’re followed up by an honest explanation and apology) than Chrysler seems to give them credit for.

    • http://twitter.com/mahannay Megan Hannay

      Hey Bret,
      While I disagree with your stance on Chrysler’s firing of the agency, I completely agree that in-house social media marketers are the way to go if a brand truly wants to connect with their customers. (As an in-house marketer myself, I can speak to that fact personally).

      At the same time, no matter who is in control of your messaging, there are going to be occasional mistakes in the content that goes out. I’m sure if you polled hundreds of social media marketers, you’d be hardpressed to find one frequent Tweeter or Facebook poster who doesn’t have a story of an embarrassing slip-up on a social network. Some of us get lucky and accidentally post about glow-in-the-dark dogs, and others of us (like Bartosiewicz) royally eff up. But I truly believe that consumers, who are the ultimate judges of social media mistakes, are capable of understanding occasional errors (especially if they’re followed up by an honest explanation and apology) than Chrysler seems to give them credit for.

    • Anonymous

      I agree, people must be responsible for their mistakes. I still cant understand why Chrysler hired this out in the first place, however I decided to download YouTube video http://downloadyoutubevideo.net/ which Jason mentioned in his post.
      But it was a slice of good luck that there were only Japanese dogs:)

  • http://twitter.com/csalomonlee Cece Salomon-Lee

    Hi Megan,

    I’m torn by the premise of your post.

    While I agree that it was a “human” mistake, the context of the tweet directly related to Chrysler’s recent ad campaign – they are Detroit, they’re proud of it, and they want others to be proud as well. The tweet demonstrated the person’s insensitivity to a key part of their client’s brand and messaging.

    Furthermore, if we (agencies and practitioners) want to be seen as an integral member of our client’s team, then comments about a client, it’s product, and even its location – whether meant for personal or client attribution – should be void of personal opinions. On that front, I think we’re all agreed on.

    Now did Chrysler overact? Maybe. Scott seems to be jr. member of the account and Chrysler could’ve asked for Scott to be replaced and an apology issued. Furthermore, as your premise suggests, Chrysler could’ve demonstrated a human face by tweeting a humorous response which is what Red Cross did. But in Red Cross’ case, the comment was not directly related to the organization.

    Overall, this provides a learning lesson for Chrysler on the pros/cons of using an outside agency for their social media efforts. As Bret commented, an in-house social media guru may have avoided this situation from the get go.

    Thanks,
    Cece

  • Sarah Tebbe

    Currently my company is transitioning our social media from company to human, after learning the hard way people want to interact with humans. I couldn’t agree more that mistakes happen as we are human, but I also feel that such a negative tweet (human or not) could not be good for a company. However, today I was watching The Today Show and they were talking about companies sending the wrong message. More specifically they were talking about Abercrombie Kids racey swimwear and the very end finally someone send it might be racey but we have now shown their swimwear line 9 times and it is only 8:30am.

    I have seen the tweet posted several times today, and knowing they have fired the culprit, makes we wonder what this human mistake is going to do to this company.

  • http://profiles.google.com/2cksyme Chris Syme

    To err is human, to forgive…divine? Clearly Chrysler is not divine, nor can they afford to be. Right now, they don’t have enough cred in the reputation bank to afford to be forgiving. While I get totally what you are saying (and agree @ possible Eminem double standard), I do think Chrylser did the right thing. They fired the company on behalf of Detroit–not Chrysler. They had to boost their own credibility and, unfortunately, their agency got caught in their lack of reputation. Also, in context, if I work for the Red Cross, I am going to be careful not to put out tweets like Gilbert Gottfried did (even as a joke?)Hello Kenneth Cole. The American people, even on social media, are a fickle lot. Difference:the Red Cross had money in the reputation bank to use and Wendy Harman got on that tweet like flies on $#&@ and cashed in some of it.

    • http://twitter.com/mahannay Megan Hannay

      Chris, you make some great points. One day (in an ideal social media world!), I hope that even companies who are trying to build credibility will be able to trust that their public will understand honest mistakes. And I think that the better a brand relates to their customers, the more likely their customers are to understand when s*** hits the fan.

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Megan

    So I guess what we learned here is that an f-bomb is less accepted than getting sloshed. The Chrysler tweet had more damaging potential as it was not the f-bomb but the talking of the people of Detroit and their inability to drive correctly. I think the firing of the agency was a bit much. The person who tweeted I guess but the entire agency? Sure, sure, they take responsibility for each an every employee and “watch” what they do but we know that this is not always the case and terminating a contract for an f-bomb that was from an individual and not representative of the agency as a whole that they had built a relationship with seems drastic. Then again the commitment the community and the rebuilding of Detroit from the agency probably played more into this than the situation at hand. Saving face.

    The Red Cross handled it beautifully and received a donation. Well played and something to learn from. Sometimes when we eff up, we make lemonade out of lemons.

  • Pingback: Is your Agency Social? You better find out soon! | Social Media Explorer

  • Pingback: Is your Agency Social? You better find out soon! | Social Media Explorer

  • http://www.mikespoints.com MikeDriehorst

    Looks like there are a lot of good views and takes on the situation from mid March over the f-bomb tweet from the @ChryslerAutos account.

    First, let me go up front and say that I’m part of Chrysler’s PR/Communications team, and help work on the more “corporate” SM accounts, like @Chrysler.

    As many of you smartly pointed out, the incident is not over a simple f-bomb. It is more about another insult on a city many, many people and companies are trying to build up and strengthen. Ed Garsten (my boss & head of Electronic Communications) made that clear in his post — thanks for the link. Just because the response was quick doesn’t mean it was reactionary.

    As Ed noted, Chrysler did not fire the employee. The agency did. We did later dismiss the agency, and for some back channel insight on why, see this post from Forbes: http://blogs.forbes.com/joannmuller/2011/03/11/say-nice-things-about-the-motor-city-or-else/.

    Also, while the commentary about Eminem’s music is expected, it is not why he was chosen for the two-minute Chrysler brand Super Bowl commercial. He, along with other qualities of the commercial, were chosen to portray a gritty, hard-working determination that exemplifies much of the Detroit spirit, and what we at Chrysler Group are working to prove.

    Yes, we all make mistakes…and, we also all should know that very few actions and decisions are made within a vacuum.

    -Mike
    Editorial Director-Online Media
    Chrysler Group LLC

  • Pingback: The One Media Rule You Cannot Afford to Ignore — Experiate

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MLXCUNLMIJNJCUUMTAYL6AWTWA Nicole

    I have to disagree with your argument. I believe that there is a clear line between using social media for personal use and for business use. If the Twitter or Facebook account is clearly marked for business use then it must be appropriate. The content generated must reflect the company’s mission and standards. The tweet by Chrysler did not. 

  • Kimberly Neville

    I agree with you Nicole but up to a point.. I believe that every social media pull people into it…
    Thanks for the article | convert flv to avi http://flvtoaviconverter.org/

  • http://headkarla.wordpress.com/ HeadKarla

     Oh boy, big companies behave like little kids. But biusiness is business and everything is a weapon. Social media is a very storng one, indeed!

    Anthony, image editor
    http://fineimageeditor.com/

  • AlaneJewel

    Great post. We def have to carefully assess how our statements can be interpreted, gotta take some time to think before posting. http://www.real.com/resources/find-free-mp4-videos

  • Pingback: Chrysler Group & Social Media « upside down

  • Pingback: Here are three … | iovik

  • Pingback: Watch what you say.. Or Tweet. | iovik

  • Kegorma

    I agree with Nicole, and believe that Chrysler had less of an issue with the swear word than with the fact that the tweet was insulting the city where their company is based; a company just getting back on their feet after almost total collapse. It also doesn’t help that the company’s slogan was “Imported from Detroit”, making any insult about the city more prevailent than if the slogan didn’t exist and that’s simply where they were based. 

  • Pingback: Social Security bei HootSuite – 5 Tipps um Ihre Social Media Präsenz zu schützen - HootSuite Social Media Management - HootSuite Social Media Management

  • Pingback: A Reputation Management Battle: How to (and not to) handle a social media crisis « Aubia Communications Aubia Communications

  • Pingback: transformer

  • Pingback: abs