Click here to watch the uStream version of the Sacramento Social Media Club presentation (Warning - video contains strong language)
SACRAMENTO - This past February, a Red Cross employee tweeted something though Hootsuite about beer and getting slizzerd. The tweet accidentally ended up on the Red Cross twitter account and read: "Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head's Midas Touch Beer...when we drink we do it right #GettingSlizzerd."
Tweeting you're having a beer doesn't seem wrong, but it's not something you'd expect from Red Cross especially when there are hurricanes and other natural disasters happening.
This could have been a social media nightmare, except the Red Cross had a plan. They stepped in quickly and owned the mistake. They were able to cover it up with a humorous follow up tweet that read: "We've deleted the rogue tweet, but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we've confiscated the keys."
From there Dogfish got involved. They responded with "@dogfish beer fans, donate 2 @redcross 2 day. Tweet with #gettingslizzerd. Donate here."
The rogue beer tweet went from bad to an impromptu fundraising campaign in a matter of hours. But not all social media blunders end that well.
THE RIGHT AND WRONG WAY TO DEAL WITH SOCIAL MEDIA BLUNDERS
Social media blunders happen all the time, but there are good and bad ways to dealing with them. Josh Morgan, Vice President of Edelman Digital, and Lori Bertelli, Public Relations Manager of Augustine Ideas, spoke at the Sacramento Social Media Club last week and shared some of the scarier sides of social media and how a little mistake can snowball into a nightmare.
One of these had do with a PR agency pitch to a blogger. The agency pitched a story on the Kardashians and pantyhose. The blogger wasn't interested - and that would have been fine, except one of the VPs of the PR agency hit "replied all" with his follow up message.
"The message said 'That [bleep...].' It went not only to his internal company, but it went to the blogger. That blogger had 164,000 twitter followers," said Lori Bertelli.
Bertelli says the blogger did go back to the VP and let him know what he had done. Instead of apologizing, he proceeded to tell her how wrong she was. This resulted in a posting to all her twitter followers. From there, the VP's reply went viral.
"The lesson learned is he could have stopped it. The agency could have handled it better. It turned into a nightmare because she let it go and now everyone knows about it," said Bertelli.
Companies and individuals make these kinds of mistakes all the time. This VP wasn't the first person to accidentally hit "reply all" or send an email to the wrong person - and he won't be the last. Mistakes happen, but with social media, mistakes like these are amplified instantly.
Morgan says an example of this was something that happened to Chrysler recently.
Last winter Chrysler launched their "Born in Detroit" ad campaign that was narrated by Eminem. It kicked off during the Super Bowl and was well received. But on March 9, 2011, a tweet was sent out that read: "I find it ironic that Detroit is known as #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to [bleep] drive."
This text might have been considered humorous to the tweeter's close friends, but it quickly turned into a PR horror story because the person who tweeted it worked for the media agency.
"[Imagine] the new media agency you work for does work for Chrysler. You happen to have access to the Chrysler twitter account with 1.5 million followers that you apparently checked before you sent that out. So Chrysler who has just spent $35 million telling everybody they were born from the fires of the Motor City just used that same hash tag to tell them they can't drive," Morgan said.
Even though the tweet was deleted minutes after it was posted, an automobile blogger (jalopnik.com) had already grabbed a screen shot of the tweet - and stuck it up on their website.
Chrysler didn't wait around for the tweet to get out of control. Within hours they had a response on their official blog using #motorcity in the title. Morgan says they were smart to do this. Not only did they admit the mistake happened, but this way if people did a search using the Motor City hash tag, the response to the tweet would come up as well.
"In the meantime, the person who had done it already had been fired. But Chrysler went out of their way to let them know that they didn't fire them. The agency they had hired fired them. And then Chrysler fired the agency," Morgan said. "But I think what's interesting here is that Chrysler didn't try to hide from the tweet itself. They owned, admitted, and tried to connect themselves to it so the response could be with it."
But the nightmare wasn't over yet. That night a discussion started among social networks questioning whether it was right to fire someone because they made a mistake - especially with the economy so depressed in Detroit.
Chrysler didn't ignore this either. Instead of letting the social media rumors get away from them, they took control of the discussion by posting a long response explaining why they fired them. Plus, they used a well-known automobile reporter who wrote for the Detroit Free Press for 25 years before coming to Chrysler to write the response.
"The point he [the writer] made was that the campaign Chrysler kicked off about being made from the fires of Detroit wasn't just a sales gimmick for them. It was serious. They were indelibly tied with the city and everything they did for their brand and everything they said was tied to the city. So when someone said this about the city, even if the person hadn't worked for Chrysler, they still would have been mad at them," Morgan said.
NOT HIDING FROM A SOCIAL MEDIA MISTAKE COULD SAVE YOU
In Chrysler's case, they embraced the crisis and used it as a way to refine and talk about what their brand represented. Southwest did something similar when they were faced with a social media nightmare in February 2010.
"Director Kevin Smith was sitting on the airplane. He's a larger fellow. He was actually asked by the airline to leave the airplane," said Bertelli. "Being that he is a popular person, he tweeted to his million followers that he's angry, and it started a firestorm."
The tweet went viral and made the news, but Southwest didn't try to hide what happened. They apologized and did not get defensive on what was a highly emotional topic. But what helped them was that they already had an active social media following to help them spread the word and get their voice across.
"What they did right was they got involved right away," Bertelli said. "They tried to handle the issue knowing they were going to take some hits."
In Southwest's case, the tweet ended up becoming a general airline issue and didn't damage the brand. But sometimes, bad news and mistakes travel too fast, and if companies don't respond quickly and correctly, they could cause irreparable damage to the brand.
TOP 10 WAYS TO SURVIVE A SOCIAL MEDIA BLUNDER
Morgan and Bertelli say there are steps you can take to help minimize the damage if you are faced with a social media nightmare:
1. Before you say anything on social media, take into account everyone who could be in your audience, not just the people you know for sure are in your audience. Remember, not everybody thinks exactly the same way you do.
2. Before you open up any type of social media forum, have a policy in place that lets people know that certain types of speech aren't going to be tolerated and that the platform is being moderated.
3. If you find yourself getting emotionally involved in something online, take a step back. Don't let commenters get you riled up as you could end up saying something you regret.
4. Think about who is doing your social media postings. An intern may be comfortable using Facebook and Twitter, but are they the right person to be representing your brand online? It is easier to teach someone who knows your brand/business about social media than it is to teach someone who only knows social media about your company.
5. Set up multiple administrators on all social media accounts just in case you can't get in touch with someone when you need to - or they leave the company.
6. Make it easy to do the right thing when you are setting up your policies.
7. Own a mistake and do it quickly. Don't try to hide from it. It's not going away.
8. Have a friend or an editor check things out. It might seem funny to you, but it may not be to everyone.
9. Understand that you can't control social media. Instead, be ready to react and take ownership when something does happen.
10. Don't be insulting or come off defensive. All it takes is one bad post to create a social media nightmare.
Follow News10's Michelle Ponto on Facebook