Social media has provided an incredible platform for businesses to interact with consumers; however, this new form of communication has caused several complications. Social media networks facilitation of rapid interaction between customers and companies leaves room for errors made viewable by millions in a matter of seconds. In particular, Twitter is a powerful tool for brands to directly communicate with fans, build relationships with consumers and circulate knowledge about their business. With over 100 million monthly global active users, half of whom log in daily according to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s “State Of The Union Address,” Twitter’s incredible influence can be seen.
With 230 million micro-blogging tweets sent out each day, marketing campaigns can be stormed by consumers, tweets perceived as improper can receive backlash, and customer service is put under heavy scrutiny. Every single tweet that a business sends out can make a large impact due to the intrinsically viral nature of Twitter. On February 15, 2011, the American Red Cross showcased a problematic feature of social media with their Twitter account.
The above tweet appeared on the Twitter account of the American Red Cross, demonstrating an incident viewed by the public as inappropriate for the emergency assistance humanitarian organization. An employee of the American Red Cross, Gloria Huang, accidentally tweeted the personal message on the nonprofit’s official Twitter account. This mistake resulted from her use of an online application called HootSuite, which can support more than one Twitter account at the same time.
Although the tweet was harmless, it was unprofessional and could have potentially damaging side effects for the brand as a whole. More than 268,000 people who followed the American Red Cross’s Twitter account at the time were able to view this error due to the nature of social media. However, the response by Red Cross to the incident serves to exhibit how an organization can turn a social media mistake into something good. Quelling potential public relations issues, the company tweeted a humorous follow-up after deleting the original post.
The Red Cross followed the tweet with an explanatory blog post titled “Twitter Faux Pas” just a day later. Utilizing self-depreciating humor, the blog post states “While we’re a 130 year old humanitarian organization, we’re also made up of human beings. Thanks for not only getting that but turning our faux pas into something good.” This statement was referencing the positive effects of the company addressing the issue. The phrase #gettngslizzered was a trending topic on Twitter at one point during Wednesday of the incident. Dogfish Head Brewery, the beer brand referenced in the original mistaken tweet, encouraged people to donate to the Red Cross.
Reacting to the beer brand’s request, several donors responded with tweets stating they donated funds or blood. Even more people were impressed with the company’s calm response, and this turned the accidental tweet into a cause to rally behind. Breweries and pubs in many of the states that distribute Dogfish beer started offers giving beer for blood. A bar in Austin called Flying Saucer tweeted, “Show us you donated a pint @redcross today & we’ll buy you a pint of @dogfishbeer #gettngslizzered.”
The blog post by the Red Cross further goes on to thank the Dogfish Head Brewery and the micro brew community for encouraging donations. Ending their post with a touch more humor, the humanitarian organization urges users to exercise caution by recommending waiting to give blood after drinking a beer for health reasons and to be careful of HootSuite. By addressing their honest mistake and realizing that they couldn’t hush the incident under the rug due to social media’s ability to make something viral, the American Red Cross turned the incident into a positive event.
Social media networks provide the opportunity for interaction with consumers on a highly viewed platform, and sometimes this can lead to errors. Keeping accounts updated with proper information through multi-network platforms such as Tweetdeck or HootSuite can sometimes go awry, and the misfired along with ill-considered tweets resulting can cause powerful backlashes. However, keeping in mind a good social media policy that reacts to these situations with a calm and professional response can turn these mishaps around.