To many of us tweeting might just be a case of posting 140 character updates but if not done right, to many companies out there, it can be a matter of lawsuits, leaked trade secrets and/or outraged customers. It is incredibly easy for brands to screw up on Twitter. To be honest, if you’re going to screw up on social media, Twitter is probably the worst place to do it. The Twitter audience is brutal, at best. From McDonald’s hijacked hashtag, to Kenneth Cole’s insensitive joke about the revolution in Egypt, to Home Depot’s racist tweet– and the list goes on and on, Twitter gaffes happen to far too many.
Hijacking a hashtag for Domestic Violence to sell frozen pizza
DiGiorno Pizza is the most recent brand to join the list of some of the most cringe worthy Twitter screw ups of all times. The famous pizza brand got into hot water recently when it sent out an insensitive tweet using a trending sensitive hashtag. It all began when news broke out about NFL player Ray Rice who was suspended because he had physically abused his wife. After the incident, women took to Twitter to share emotional stories of their abusive relationships using the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. Without checking out the context, DiGiorno jumped on the trending hashtag and tweeted:
“#whyistayed You had pizza.”
Soon enough, outraged Twitter users started calling out the brand for making light of domestic violence which is not a laughing matter at all. The brand soon deleted the initial tweet and posted a basic apology.
After the first basic apology, the brand did something different. It took a vastly different approach to crisis communication. The person managing the Twitter handle began apologizing to as many people as possible, individually and in some cases, even addressing each user by name.
To err is Human
Generally, when brands make such blunders on social media, they send out a general apology, and then attempt to contain the damage. Apologizing individually has never been done before as it is believed that apologizing repeatedly can simply make the situation worse because of the increased publicity that it receives. But maybe brands have to think about it now because the people’s response towards DiGiorno has been very forgiving, understanding and lot of empathy that people can make mistakes.
A lesson in crisis communication- The Social Clinic’s way
Even though the take on crisis management was interesting to observe, there is no doubt that it was a boneheaded mistake. Had DiGiorno taken the 10 seconds to do a risk analysis (or simply understand the use of the hashtag), “a million apologies” wouldn’t have been necessary.
As a social media consultancy well experienced in dealing with social media crisis in Saudi Arabia, we believe that although DiGiorno’s response to its blunder was truly apologetic, it didn’t need to happen at all. Brands who want to take advantage of a trending hashtag must do their homework. This involves researching the tag (follow the discussion trail), understanding the audience using it and then drafting an appropriate post that is relevant to that audience.
It’s better for brands to take an extra 10 seconds to understand what they’re posting, than to make a mistake that gets written about for days to come – and makes them look insensitive and foolish. Staff must be trained to reflect and investigate before assuming and posting. Establishing a few basic social media etiquette/guidelines for the company to follow could have ruled out the possibility of this being written in the first place, but to go a step further, there should be a system of checks and balances in place for companies publishing social media posts. It never hurts to have content approved (and even just for the basic purpose of getting material proofread) by another member of your staff before it is published for the world to see.
DiGiorno Pizza isn’t the first to screw up royally on twitter, and it definitely won’t be the last. Mistakes happen and when you’re managing a social media account for your company, you need to be prepared for it, if and when they do.