“It happens to the best of us.” You’ve heard this old saying, right? Unfortunately, it proved all too true for JCPenney during this year’s Superbowl. The well-known brand inadvertently let (more than one) drunken tweet slip out on their Twitter feed.
The problem? Most people and even other companies thought that their SMM was tweeting drunk behind the J.C. Penney Twitter handle, @jcpenney. After tore up tweets like “Who kkmew theis was ghoing tob e a baweball ghamle,” Kia Motors America wrote, “Hey @jcpenney need a designated driver?”
Who kkmew theis was ghiong tob e a baweball ghamle. #lowsscorinh 5_0
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 2, 2014
Toughdown Seadawks!! Is sSeattle going toa runaway wit h this???
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014
Let’s be honest: it hasn’t NOT happened before. After all, if you type “how to handle drunk tweets” into a search engine, you’ll see some interesting links topping the results page. No matter how big you or your brand is this can happen to you. What would your reaction be if it did? Would you ignore the mishap? Would you scramble to delete the evidence? It might seem like the best solution, but is it really?
Fixing a Bad Social Media Post: Resisting Your Initial Reaction
According to Hubspot, you can delete a drunk tweet or social media post and keep it quiet, if you catch it very quickly. And by “very quickly,” we mean practically immediately. If you catch the post within seconds of it going up, you’ll likely be able to delete it and pretend that it never happened. Deletion of a mistake ridden, unfavorable tweet or social media post is certainly the first reaction most of us would have, but is it really the best action? What if leaving the unfortunate post and tackling it head on could result in something positive, like building a more trusting relationship with your clientele or strengthening your reputation?
If there’s a chance your tweet or post has already hit the feeds of your followers or was quickly seen by a vast audience, deletion is not the best option! It’s like Hubspot says, “Once something is out there in cyberspace, it’s usually there forever. Someone, somewhere probably got a screenshot of it – especially when you’re a brand with a large audience and a lot of eyes on you.”
Keep in mind that anyone receiving direct e-mail or app notifications will likely have a copy of whatever you’re trying to get rid of. Deleting the post and pretending like it never happened could open you up to some hard-hitting and reputation-damaging attacks; attacks that could prove more destructive than a drunken tweet. After all, if a brand you trust, love and respect deleted a saucy tweet, social media post or blog comment with no comment, wouldn’t you wonder why?
However, it is possible to delete a drunken tweet and handle it with class—if you know how to do it! We turn to none other than the American Red Cross for a stunning example. In 2011, Geekosystem.com reported on a drunken tweet accidentally sent from the American Red Cross Twitter account. The questionable and embarrassing tweet came from an individual who had access to the organization’s account. The individual in question allegedly made a mistake while using HootSuite and their embarrassing tweet showed up on the Red Cross’s Twitter feed. The Red Cross deleted the embarrassing tweet and followed up by tweeting, “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”
The Red Cross did more than delete the unfavorable tweet and pretend it didn’t happen. They acknowledged the tweet and found a way to spin it into a positive. According to Geekosystem.com, “The best part about all of this, other than the calm (or cold, calculating and secretly terrifying?) poise of the Red Cross, is that the Red Cross managed to turn this digital faux pas into receiving donations (which further solidifies the calculating and terrifying theory), as Dogfish Head Brewery, whose beer was mentioned in the accidental tweet, encouraged donations.”
What Geekosystem called “cold, calculating and secretly terrifying” is what we call good business sense. This situation could easily have turned into a media nightmare, but the Red Cross handled it with class and turned it into a positive—all by tackling the problem head on!
How to Handle Unfavorable Tweets, Drunk or Otherwise
What is an unfavorable social media post, tweet or otherwise? It’s bad publicity. Marketers have been handling bad publicity for years. It’s no surprise then that their tactics work just as well in the land of social media. Let’s consider six ways to handle those embarrassing, unfavorable and even scary social media disasters:
- Respond quickly, honestly and decisively. Customer complaints are a real possibility in the social media world. It’s easy and fast for a disgruntled customer, employee or third party to throw out an unfavorable, perhaps even evil, post. The best course of reaction is to respond quickly and be both honest and decisive in your reply.
- Acknowledge errors and mistakes. Acknowledging the bad publicity and being honest about it is vital. If you, your brand or someone within your company made a mistake, own up to it and apologize. Current and potential customers will appreciate your openness.
- Never say, “No comment.” When a negative post hits the cyber waves, it’s easy to feel blind sighted. When your public is calling for your comment, avoid retreating by saying, “No comment.” It will instantly cast question regarding your position and open you to the perfect storm of amplified attacks as your followers dig for dirt. If you’re unsure of how to respond and feel like you’re short on information, consider saying something like, “I’m aware of the situation and am currently looking into it.”
- According to an NFIB.com article on how to handle negative publicity, “confront the source.” Mark Grimm, the president of Mark Grimm Communications, points out that you need to pinpoint “the source of the problem in order to deal with it.” If the unfavorable tweet came from within your brand, then you’ll need to decide how to deal with it. If it came from an unhappy customer or third party, you’ll need to respond quickly, honestly and decisively.
- Enlist backup. Never underestimate the power of satisfied customers. When negative publicity hits your social media channels, a great way to respond is to hit your loyal supporters up for some quality support. Says Mark Grimm, “Train [your satisfied customers] on what to say, because you want them to be specific and positive.”
- Look at it as an opportunity. According to the Technori.com rules on dealing with bad publicity, “you can build better customer relations by solving problems.” When your social media pops a negative comment or drunken display, look at it as an opportunity to solve a problem and spin a positive. The American Red Cross did just this, and look at their results! Not only did they handle the questionable publicity with class, but they raised donations in the process.
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014
So, how did JCPenney handle their supposedly “drunk” tweet? They decided to do what HubSpot calls “pivot and deny.” You might call this the method of plausible deniability. JCPenney chose to deny that the tweets were drunk at all. Instead, they used Twitter to state that it was all part of a planned campaign designed to promote mittens by saying, “Oops…Sorry for the typos. We were #TweetingWithMittens. Wasn’t it supposed to be colder? Enjoy the game! #GoTeamUSA.”
Quick save or bold truth? That’s for you, and every other reader, to decide. Either way, they smoothed the “drunken” mishap over quickly and decisively. Not only did the big, well-known brand tackle the situation head on via a decisive response, but Sean Ryan—the man supposedly responsible for the brand’s social media strategies and accounts—tweeted, “For the record, I am stone-cold-sober.” The brand also chose to show internal unity, which made it apparent that everyone was on the same page. People like to see a company that “has it together.”
According to Hubspot, “Whether a purposeful strategy or a drunken mistake, it has honestly worked out pretty well for JC Penney.” The big oops livened up a rather uneventful Superbowl and spurred a flurry of media publicity, which all seems to have culminated in the successful exposure of JCPenney’s mittens.
The Lesson to Take Away
We live in a world driven by technology. News hits social platforms and spreads faster than we catch the nightly news report on our television set. It’s important to be ready for the mishaps that can crop up.
Is it advisable to downgrade your social media presence in an attempt to lessen the chances (or blow) of a drunk or unfavorable social media post? Not really. Establishing and maintaining your search engine rankings in 2014 demands the use of social media profiles. You need to continually post to and use your social media channels. Bad publicity, angry tweets and even drunken posts can (and probably will) pop up from time to time. How you decide to handle these situations will greatly affect your brand’s reputation.
If you haven’t already, hire a social media team. Keeping up with social media is a full time job. A trained team will be able to keep you quickly informed of what’s happening, ensuring you are not caught off guard. Train your social media team members on how to best react and respond to negative posts, and use them as a means of responding quickly, honestly and decisively.