What Chrysler Did Wrong: Remembering the Human Side of Social

by Jason Falls |

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.

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About the Author

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).