Chicago Tribune: Lessons from KitchenAid: Even the worst social media mistakes are preventable (for those who cannot access via this link, the whole article is posted following the Facebook comments below.)
KitchenAid made the worst social media mistake of all Wednesday night during the presidential debate. In this column, you’ll learn how to make sure it never happens to you or to a brand you manage.
This is well written post and has good advice. The only point I want to make is in reference to the last statement… “Sad, really. All of it was so easily preventable.”

These kind of mistakes are not easily preventable. They will happen again and again, whether by low-level employees helping to scale messaging and response or by C-level executives who think they can say what they want. They are part of the “new” media landscape that is only going to evolve and make more content available and presentable within seconds. Mistakes will be made, abuse will occur, and we will all survive.

Put valuable training, methods, and rules in place to do your best before the fact… and crisis management and contingency plans for when they do happen. It is now all about transparency and authenticity. Be prepared.

Chicago Tribune social media editor Scott Kleinberg on lessons to learn from the KitchenAid incident. (Posted: Oct 4, 2012) ( Source: Chicago Tribune)

By Scott Kleinberg, Tribune NewspapersOctober 4, 2012

KitchenAid made the worst social media mistake of all Wednesday night during the presidential debate. In this column, you’ll learn how to make sure it never happens to you or to a brand you manage.

Actually two mistakes, if you count insulting the President of the United States and his dead grandmother.

In case you missed it, what you see in this screenshot is the actual tweet posted from the official @KitchenAidUSA account.

This much is clear:

1. The person tweeting for the KitchenAid brand mistakenly tweeted from the company account instead of their personal account.

2. The person tweeting for the KitchenAid brand sure sounds like a 12 year old who likes to text. (gma? b4?)

3. The person who tweeted it quickly realized it – or someone on the team did – because the tweet wasn’t up for long.

But the Internet is fast and unforgiving. In what seemed like seconds, Twitter pounced on the brand. Some people were angry and publicly swore off the brand for life. Others were sympathetic. Some tweeted ridiculous things including calling the company racist.

But the best thing that happened is what happened next.

The person who leads the KitchenAid brand, Cynthia Soledad, immediately took to Twitter to apologize. She apologized to Obama and his family and to customers. She even tweeted to journalists and websites to ask for an opportunity to tell her side of the story.

This was Soledad’s statement to Mashable in an email: “During the debate tonight, a member of our Twitter team mistakenly posted an offensive tweet from the KitchenAid handle instead of a personal handle. The tasteless joke in no way represents our values at KitchenAid, and that person won’t be tweeting for us anymore. That said, I lead the KitchenAid brand, and I take responsibility for the whole team. I am deeply sorry to President Obama, his family, and the Twitter community for this careless error. Thanks for hearing me out.”

As someone who does this for a living, I applaud Soledad for her quick and calm response. She was professional and humble. And while the damage was already done, she didn’t make it worse by hiding anything. We’ve all seen brands that have said they were hacked, but Soledad admitted guilt right away and took responsibility as the leader of her team.

There’s an ongoing conversation in the social media world about whether or not tweets should be deleted. I am an advocate of not erasing and being as transparent as possible because no matter how fast you are to erase something, screengrabs live forever. And there are people online who always have their finger on the capture button specifically for moments like this. I’m overlooking the deletion because of Soledad’s quick apology and crisis management plan.

So how could something like this have been prevented in the first place?

•First, brands should consider making sure their employees use two separate Twitter applications, one for personal, one for business. It seems pretty obvious the person was typing on a mobile device and likely clicked the wrong icon. While it’s more work to keep them separated, it’s certainly safer.

•Second, have a clear social media rulebook so your employees know how they should tweet and what they should tweet. And make sure this policy doesn’t just cover you from 9 to 5.

•Third, have a social media crisis management plan. If you can handle what happened half as well as Soledad did, you’ll probably be in good shape. But don’t wait until the worst happens to figure out what to do.

And here’s something that might be a bit more controversial: If you don’t work for a political brand, maybe you shouldn’t be tweeting about politics. You can argue that there should be a distinction between personal and work, but I don’t subscribe to that. As an employee of the Chicago Tribune, I wouldn’t tweet anything on my personal account that I wouldn’t put in the paper. If KitchenAid had a similar rule, this probably could have been avoided.

As was stated on Twitter, this will eventually blow over. But the KitchenAid debacle or social media screw-up or whatever it ends up being called will live on. It will live on in top 10 lists of worst social media mistakes. It will live on in top 10 lists of well-handled social media mistakes. And it will creep back in when people are buying kitchen appliances.

Sad, really. All of it was so easily preventable.

So Social is a social media tips column by The Tribune Media Group’s Amy Guth and Scott Kleinberg. Tweet them at @amyguth and @scottkleinberg.

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