Recovering From Mistakes on Twitter

Learn How F*****n' to Tweet - The Anti-Social MediaOne of my favorite stories of last month was the Red Cross’ reaction to a mistake tweeted by one of the people with access to their account. The person accidentally tweeted about getting excited about finding an extra case of beer, which naturally, looked weird and crazy coming frm the official Red Cross account.

The Red Cross handled the mistake flawlessly. They removed the tweet, updated that they “took the keys away,” and told everyone to calm down because it’s just a tweet and not a real disaster, a scenario they deal with every single day. Dogfish Head Beer, the brewing company that was tweeted about from the Red Cross account, even started a beer for blood program.

The outcome: The Red Cross looks human. Dogfish Head Beer raises their profile and Red Crosses through social good. Everyone comes out of the mistake feeling better than before hand, and the story is much more memorable because of the awesome outcome.

Compare that with Chrysler.

Yesterday, an employee at the new media firm Chrysler uses to run their @ChryslerAutos twitter account was fired for dropping the f-bomb. The offending tweet read:

“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive.”

Yeah, definitely not a nice tweet, and not as easy to write off like in the Red Cross example. Still, this whole incident leaves me with a lot of questions about how this could have turned into a more positive experience. What if Chrysler then partnered with driving schools in Detroit to provide a bunch of driving tips in tweets and videos? What if they made a bunch of tips to learn how to “f—-n drive?”

I get Chrysler is trying to save face by having that employee fired, but I think they could have saved face and turned the whole incident into something positive. Maybe I’m naive with this thinking, but we all make mistakes. It’s how we recover from them that we are judged.

What do you think? Was the firing overkill? Was there a way to turn this around for a positive experience? I want to know what you think in the fucking comments.

Update: Chrysler posted on their blog with some nonsense about how they were sensitive about the tweets context in their overall positioning and brand campaign about rebuilding Detroit. Again, instead of playing the insulted and sensitive card, they could do something to show how awesome the drivers in Detroit are compared to the rest of the US. There are so many ways to have turned this into a positive it makes my head spin how poorly a job Chrysler did.

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42 Responses to “Recovering From Mistakes on Twitter”

  1. Pat Kent March 10, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Not too surprising that in a company as large as Chrysler someone would get fired over that. I think companies need to stop giving idiots the “keys” to their social media accounts. A story like this seems to crop up every month. That being said, firing the employee doesn’t really fix anything and definitely does not raise their image out of the dirt. If anything it just makes them look bad for giving someone access to their account who clearly shouldn’t have had it. I think a simple apology as well as a donation to some driving school related cause would have been appreciated and would have been funny enough to have people let the issue go.

    • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

      The more I think about the firing, I get that. It sucks, but I get it. I just think the overall reaction could have been much more graceful and giving the whole incident a better aftertaste.

  2. Maggie March 10, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    I think the firing was overkill. It drew much more negative attention to this than the original Tweet. Check out the comments on the Chysler blog post about this: People seem more upset over the firing than they were over the Tweet in question. Seems like Chrysler damaged their own image more than someone dropping the f-bomb. Even if the agency was the one doing the firing (or maybe Chrysler told them they’d still have the account if they fired the employee, who knows), Chrysler is getting all the negative attention.

    There was one good idea left in the comments of the Chrysler blog post for how this could have been handled: Sueanne Shirzay, Killer Social, suggested posting “If we let the cars tweet for us, this never would have happened. We apologize.” And Mashable (and all the bloggers) could post about how witty and nice Chrysler is. Missed opportunity.

    • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

      The missed opportunity here is screaming for attention.

  3. Chris Moody March 10, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Totally agree with you Jay.

    There are a million ways they could have handled this better and taken the human stance with a “washing my mouth out with soap” kind of thing. The fact that this became such a big story could have been about what they’re doing right (cough cough Red Cross)…

    Instead, now there are tons of posts about if the firing was justified and more folks focus on the firing than what actually happened.

    I’ve accidentally tweeted from a business account before, but luckily it wasn’t during a fit of road rage or a beer frenzy.

    Good stuff buddy.

    • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

      People also forget this is all so forgettable in a few days. The Red Cross story is memorable because it was awesome how they handled it. I remember seeing the f-bomb dropped on the official @Twitter account and the world survived. The vast majority of people don’t even remember these things two weeks later.

  4. A. Coward (mail is real) March 10, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Well, Sergio Marchonne, Chrysler CEO is not exactly known to be someone who has a fucking clue about “corporate image” either.

    • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

      Yeah, I’ve read about this “rebuilding Detroit” campaign and a part of me wonders if they actually build cars.

  5. Meg March 10, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    As Pat stated, obviously the employee had no reason to be using the account in the first place. What it seems like is a case of a poor, possibly lazy, marketing strategy implemented by someone who was not trained properly. The point is, the whole thing could have been avoided. And THAT is Chrysler’s fault. As far as the Tweep getting fired, does it solve anything, no. But look what’s happening with NPR. The CEO resigns because of a comment (who was also “let go”) made. Apparently “corporate image” is worth firing over. Wouldn’t it have been better if Chrysler had a sense of humor about it? Like the Red Cross did?

    • Ashley Sue March 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

      Great tie in to the NPR controversy right now, Meg. Indeed, “corporate image” is worth firing over, and frankly, I’m with Pat Kent (first comment) that more than the tweet being bad, more than the firing being the now center of attention, where Chrysler really looks bad is they hired a firm to handle their social media and gave “the keys” (good pun, Pat!) to someone who also obviously couldn’t fucking drive… he drove his career with them right off the cliff (which is fine, but he should have known better).

      I like a post I saw yesterday (via a @JeffTippett tweet) about “do not hire a social media specialist”. Instead, everyone withing the company, particularly at the top, should empower themselves to engage. It’s more genuine and appealing anyhow, whether or not you like their style. Just look at @KennethCole.

    • Jerome Pineau March 10, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

      @Meg - sense of humor…great big corp? Come onnnnn :)

    • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

      There’s merit in the firing decision with this and the NPR fiasco. More than ever, people have stopped being individuals and started becoming part of their corporations.

  6. Lisa Sullivan March 10, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    I absolutely LOVE this post and completely agree! Win-win for The Red Cross and Dog Fish Head beer (think I might like to go find some now).

    My favorite part about social media is the partnerships created for social good and I don’t care how that happens either. I subscribe to the philosophy - do good and the rewards (that includes revenue) will follow.

    Chrysler has absolutely NO clue how to manage their brand and I speak from first-hand experience there (don’t get me started). Thus, I am not surprised at their &*#! up.

    GREAT post, Jay! Did I get in under the 10 comments? ;)

    • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

      I close comments after the post has been live for ten days, not ten comments. :)

      I’m getting the feeling from this incident Chrysler really has no idea what they are doing.

  7. Morgan March 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    There definitely is a way to turn this into a positive experience, I really like the examples you gave here. They still can turn it into a positive experience, as far as I’m concerned.

    However, at the same time, a good social media manager will know the type of company they’re tweeting for and know when to say ‘freaking’ instead of ‘fucking’. I think if the F word were not in there, it could have easily been converted into a positive experience.

    The person managing that account should have clearly known if that were appropriate language or not. And for a company such as Chrysler, I would have not have added the F bomb.

    I’ve certainly worked for companies where the F bomb is appropriate, but Chrysler is not one of them.

    They can still make it a positive experience, but I would have fired the guy too.

    • Morgan March 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

      Also, I don’t completely put the blame on the social media manager, if there wasn’t a clear social media policy, then I could see that the firing was overkill on Chrysler’s part. However, it also seems like common sense not to say or do certain things on a company twitter account, don’t ya think?

      • Morgan March 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

        Stupid enter key! Ok, and I wanted to end it with:

        Mistakes are great and all, and we all make them and yadda yadda, but Chrysler’s tweet obviously wasn’t a mistake like The Red Cross tweet was.

        • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

          Yeah, I can see it wasn’t as innocent as the Red Cross tweet. Still, with al of this convergence of technology, incidents like this are going to happen more and more.

          Recovering from them gracefully is what will be remembered by the public, not a cold hard line of corporate communication.

        • Ashley Sue March 11, 2011 at 12:28 am #

          Morgan, you rock. Everything you said - you nailed it.

  8. Timi Stoop-Alcala March 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Good point, Jay. I agree that firing the employee was an overkill. We’re all still learning how to deal with openness and managing identities in the social web. Would’ve been more in keeping with the social web culture (getting second chances, being open) to have done something constructive and creative.

    • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

      I don’t know if the firing was overkill, but I think the negative attitude and protectionism is what has left a sour taste in my mouth. Brands aren’t want you say you are, it’s what other people say about you.

  9. Mandy March 10, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    Now let’s not be so hasty to hold this employee over the fire. Was what they did extremely unfortunate? Yes. Have any of you ever done this or made a similar mistake? Yep.

    Anyone using a twitter platform like Tweetdeck knows how easy it is to click the wrong “account” button, and suddenly you’ve posted something personal on your professional account.

    The correct way to handle this is to delete the post immediately, pray to GOD that very few people saw it, and develop a strategy of remaining calm and stoic should a crisis arise from it.

    Yes, driving a company’s social media accounts carries a great deal of responsibly and someone needs to answer for problems that arise. Is firing an employee the best solution? Not likely. Now you’ve got an angry audience, controversy and you’ve got to find a replacement for your SM account manager. I agree that apologies and punishments should be doled out accordingly, but to rush into firing an individual for an honest mistake seems like serious overkill. Simply take away the keys, find a creative solution to dealing with the social media situation and move on with your day. Firing an employee won’t solve your bigger problem.

    • Ashley Sue March 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

      I think it’s imperative, when you have been entrusted to an account of this magnitude, to take all social media presence control away from said employee. If s/he worked primarily to control social media, s/he should then be fired. If s/he cannot be trusted not to blow a gasket on behalf of the entire company (which is the case for Chrysler - this is not a case of someone who accidentally tweeted to the wrong account - which also may be completely unforgivable on behalf of the company), but that was their job, then what use does keeping the employee serve.

      Simply because social media has turned corporations into our online “friends” and made the courtesy of spelling out words, proper grammar, and consideration to the message nothing more than mere inconvenient formalities is no reason to blow off the importance and severity of a slip of that magnitude.

      I agree with Jay. Chrysler had a golden opportunity here to cash in on the blunder and make themselves far more likable, but this employee needed more than a slap on the wrist. Peace out, Homes, take the lesson you learned and use it at the next company you work for. To me, saying a slip like this is an (ultimately) excusable slip (which I am not saying those are your words, Mandy - just is a sentiment I’m seeing online) is like saying it’s OK to get angry as a PR rep giving a press conference and drop a one-liner like that. Such mistakes cannot be tolerated, though Chrysler still could have handled it with more grace, for sure.

    • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

      If anything, I think this whole incident has shown much bigger issues than a rogue tweet.

  10. Lizzie March 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    That’s getting to be a trickier situation with the multiple profile platforms - it’s easier than ever to accidentally send out something meant for your personal profile to the corporate accounts you manage. I’m not sure the firing was overkill, only for the “family-oriented” reputation of Chrysler. If they were any other less-family-friendly company, it would have been. The Red Cross though, man, they owned that mistake!

    • Jay March 11, 2011 at 12:25 am #

      I think the Red Cross is #gettinslizzerd more than they want us to know.

      • Ashley Sue March 11, 2011 at 12:31 am #

        Made all the easier with the headrush from donating blood.

  11. Danny Brown March 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    I always find it’s interesting that it’s the employee and not the boss that gets censured for this. If there wasn’t a corporate policy in place by NMS, the Chrysler agency, then that needs addressed. Is there a guideline for what to say and what not to say between Chrysler and NMS?

    So yeah, they screwed up, but let’s look at who’s really to blame - the employee, or the structure/management above that hasn’t made it clear enough what the client culture is?

    • Ashley Sue March 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

      Do we know for sure Chrysler didn’t have something like this in place, and it was simply violated? Hmm… great point though. Something to consider. All the same, the employee in this case should have a question as to the appropriateness of this, and when in doubt, ask. This was big, and it was a stupid mistake to make.

    • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

      I blame drivers in Detroit. If they were doing their job better, none of this would have happened.

      • Danny Brown March 10, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

        I blame ALL you N. American types. If you drove properly on the correct side of the road - like these good folks in the U.K. and Australia - you’d be far better off.

        • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

          And if only we spelled color with a u the world would be perfect.

          • Danny Brown March 10, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

            It’d be a start. And reverting back to “s” instead of “z” in words like “emphasise” ;-)

  12. Jerome Pineau March 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    Funny I tweeted about just that yesterday, on the Chrysler thing - to the effect of “is this really the end of the world?” - no of course not - I bet no one would have cared, they just went ape shit - This whole social media thing is supposed to be about being open and *human* - Humans use the F bomb - yeah, imagine that! Shocking isn’t it.
    This holier-than-thou attitude is ridiculous at best and most normal people see right through it. Chrysler should focus on supporting their US worker, making good product and getting us out of the economic hole instead of worrying about some stupid tweet among 1000s of others!

    • Jay March 10, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

      If they focused on that though, their marketing and PR departments would have nothing to do!

  13. Jami Dix March 10, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    Hi Jay!
    Overkill? Yes. But, on the other hand…I don’t get why everyone’s making such a big deal about how the Red Cross handled the tweet. Pretty common sense if you ask me. If that conversation would have happened in real life, you would have tried to make light of it and moved on. Seems fairly simple to me!

    • Jay March 11, 2011 at 12:02 am #

      It’s how graceful the whole thing played out. Not only did Red Cross show that the incident didn’t phase them, they also were able to find good in the incident. It was a win for everyone.

  14. yepper March 15, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    I’m 100% for the firing of the tweeter (or at least a very substantial demotion) There are far too many “social media experts” and if you do a bone head move like this, then you need to go. Sorry mate. we are not in school anymore.

    Chrysler on the other hand should STFU, and either make it funny or let it die.
    I mean eminem is their new poster boy, so what do they expect?

    • Jerome Pineau March 15, 2011 at 11:29 am #

      @yepper - the person was likely an unpaid or minimum wage intern so I don’t think either punishment likely applies :) - I do agree on the proliferation of experts, ninjas and gurus. +1 on that indeed.

      I think all of us have at one point or another twitted from a wrong account - I know it’s happened to me once in the last 3 years - of course I don’t typically use this kind of language on the job but still - at the very least, you realize the error immediately and delete the darn thing I would imagine :) But hey, no one is perfect. It’s easy to throw the 1st stone and everyone deserves a 2nd chance IMHO.

      From the Chrysler side, I totally agree with you - who’s kiddin who? This is exactly what I meant by this post:

      Be genuine or be gone…

  15. Suzanne Tennant March 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    Great post and some really useful comments and ideas, thanks. I do understand it but I also think the firing was overkill. Mistakes are made by everyone but it’s how we deal with them and learn from them that’s most important. It’s just a shame we’ve all been given the opportunity to learn from this mistake - and that the tweeter in question wasn’t!

  16. Melinda March 18, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    It would have been great to see Chrysler do as you say - sponsor a round of Youtube videos called Learn How to effin’ Drive. The missed opportunity is huge.