Ready, Set, Social Media Crisis!

By Cat Thoreson Oh, the life of a Community Manager. It has its ups, downs and all arounds and a hefty responsibility to go with it. Cue in KitchenAid’s mistweet at the beginning of this month.

While most of us (including myself) were relieved that we weren’t the culprits, the fact of the matter is, we very well could have been. Just yesterday I was reading Kashmir Hill’s “Social Media Idiocy of the Day: How I Got Forbes Featured On Buzzfeed.” In a nutshell, Buzzfeed noticed Forbes’ Twitter account had ‘favorited’ a collection of weird photos accompanied by the hashtag #EmbarrassYourBestFriend. Think a woman passed out on a bathroom floor wearing only what you’d see in a lingerie ad.

As it turns out, Hill was doing research for an article about the foolishness of exposing dirt on a public, semi-permanent forum like Twitter. She used the favorites feature to bookmark some prime examples of why, but mistakenly bookmarked them from the Forbes Twitter account rather than from her own personal one.

And so, in that brief oops, Hill joined the ranks of community managers who’ve fallen prey to mixing their personal and professional tweets. These ranks include Gloria Huang who tweeted about #gettingslizzard from the American Red Cross account, Chrysler’s (former) social media firm who’s employee tweeted that people in #MotorCity don’t know how to {expletive} drive and, most recently, KitchenAid’s Community Manager who aired their personal and derogatory political views on the company’s account.

While I could suggest to you ways to prevent tweets like “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he came president.’ #nbcpolitics” (think separate personal and corporate accounts or quite simply double check your work) the reality is that it’s not a matter of if, but when. Care to debate me on this one? Note the above.

While many companies would crumble at the mention of a crisis like this, KitchenAid serves as the perfect example of what to do when your community faces a similar dilemma. So, take out your pen and paper and start taking notes.

After deleting the offending tweet, Cynthia Soledad, the head of the KitchenAid brand, took over the corporate Twitter account.

She then apologized

and took responsibility for the actions of her team.

When all was said and done, she made herself available to discuss.

If you breezed through the above, here are the five crisis lessons every brand can learn from Cynthia Soledad.

  1. Plan for the worst. No, it’s not doomsday, but it very well could be. Make sure that you and your team are ready to address a scenario of crisis’ and are prepared to respond to them immediately. Not a day later, not after consulting your PR team, as soon as the crisis happens.
  2. Set a protocol. More importantly than simply planning, you must have an established protocol and policy in place. You and your organization should know what to do without skipping a beat. What is the hierarchy for addressing the issue? How do you alert those individuals? Is there a standard response?
  3. Apologize. Directly and without excuses.
  4. Take responsibility. Regardless of whether you played a part in the misstep or not, take full responsibility.  Leave deflections out of the equation.
  5. Talk about it. Don’t wait for the storm to calm, it can and will only get worse. Be a part of the conversation and the solution. Your brand and your community will thank you.

Handling the Twitter crisis as nimbly as Soledad did ensured the difference between KitchenAid’s community success and failure. If and when you too fall prey to such social media crisis’, make sure to take a page out of Soledad’s book.

Did you take away any other lessons from Cynthia Soledad? How else, if any, could she or KitchenAid have handled the situation better? Share your thoughts in the comments!