#GettngSlizzerd

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“Poppin bottles in the ice, like a blizzard
When we drink we do it right gettin slizzard
Sippin sizzurp in my ride, in my ride, like Three 6
Now I’m feelin so fly like a G6.”
-Like a G6, Far East Movement

I can only imagine this is the theme song of the week for the National Red Cross.

On February 15th, the @RedCross sent out an unusual tweet at 11:24PM with the hashtag #gettngslizzerd. No—there wasn’t a new emergency at hand although I’m pretty sure there are a few safety tips that the organization could offer to prepare the country for #gettngslizzerd. The only problem at hand was an accidental tweet that was meant to come from a staff member’s personal account.

We’ve all been there. If you have control over more than one Twitter account, you know how difficult it can be to keep your tweets, audiences and mentions separate. Whether you use Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or another multi-network platform, keeping more than one account updated and conversational takes skill.

Any company should take note of how the Red Cross handled this small social media fiasco. When Wendy Harman, Director of Social Media, received calls about the tweet in the middle of the night she immediately took it down. However, everyone knows that when you delete a tweet, it still lives on in the Twitterverse and when you have the reach of the Red Cross, word spreads fast. Not only did the Red Cross apologize for the “rogue tweet” but they handled the situation with humor.

The Red Cross took their mistake a step further by writing a quick blog post that acknowledged their mistake. In it they recognized that while they are “a 130 year old humanitarian organization”, they are still “made of up human beings”. This Twitter faux pas is a valuable lesson to all companies who believe that deleting a tweet or Facebook post is enough to hide the damage. The social media world understands that no one is perfect but they will notice if you are not responsible for your mistakes.

Dog Fish Beer has also been a huge help to the Red Cross by actually encouraging donations. The online beer community has been rapid to comment with light-hearted jokes about the situation.

This is a great lesson in crisis communications—Don’t make a problem bigger than it needs to be. Tweeting about drinking beer from the Red Cross account was a simple mistake that could happen to anyone. Granted, it was unfortunate that it happened on an account that has significant reach and is seen as a news source to the public. But we are only human.

I can see how this example could scare some companies away from embracing social media. There is no control on the direction dialogue takes after a tweet is posted. However, this example shows that if handled correctly, a mistake can actually turn into a blessing in disguise. The social media community is forgiving by nature if they believe that the company/organization has good intentions. And now there is further awareness to the fact that the Red Cross needs blood donations. See how a mistake can turn into good?

Now that the largest humanitarian organization in the world has mistweeted, its time to own up.  Have you ever tweeted from a client/organizations account when you meant to keep it personal? Share your story because let’s be honest, it really is funny.

My biggest mistake? As a Red Cross communicator for the Chicago chapter, I checked into Popeyes from the Chicago Red Cross account with the caption: “In a cab. In the drive through. With Rob & Trifon.” And yes, this went to both Twitter and Facebook and unlike the National Red Cross, I did not put out an apology for my mistake. I’m sure there are still some followers who are confused as to why the Chicago Red Cross was being completely lazy by picking up fried chicken in a cab. And for that, I am truly sorry.

Lauren Snyder is a sophomore at DePaul University in Chicago with a major in Public Relations. She currently is the Communications and Marketing intern for the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago where she is working to advance digital efforts and promote the Holiday campaign. She is graduating college a year early to jump into the industry and move to New York City to completely destroy any evidence of her former “Maryland farm girl” background. Connect with her on her blogTwitter or email.

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  • Anonymous

    Lauren,

    At the end of the day what this instance and yours at Popeye’s show is that while we are people and make mistakes, we need to be smarter. Sure using a common tool to link business and professional accounts is convenient, it is also reckless for this reason. With the amount of technology and platforms out there it is just as easy to have a TweetDeck running alongside a HootSuite or other platform.

    Now that Facebook has changed the feature to allow you to use the platform as a brand, I am sure more of these slip-ups will happen.

    While I am very happy that your company reacted to this and garnered positive response to your actions, it could have been worse. As PR and SM folks its our job to keep the company out of slip-ups in the news and keep a positive image.

    We can’t use convenience of a tool and a slip-up because we are human be a crutch to lean on. Taking an extra step or two, even if it means not having your personal and business accounts on one tool, is worth it if avoids something going out wrong or tarnishing the brand we’re paid to represent.

    Who knows if the tweet or checkin was something worse or included a pic of something less than reputable the folks may get fired for a mistake. To me that’s just not worth a convenience charge.

    • Lauren Snyder

      Hey Jeff–

      I agree that after a point, using the “we are only human” excuse just isn’t acceptable anymore. However, I think that after a slip-up like this rogue tweet, the Red Cross is going to double and triple check before they post a message, whether it is from a personal account or the organizations. If there is one thing I learned from my mistake of checking into Popeyes, it is that I needed to start tightening my grip on my social media accounts. When you handle five accounts, using different platforms can be just as tricky as using the same one. I find that most of my mistakes happen via mobile especially when you can post/retweet from multiple accounts at the same time.

      To go off Ashley’s post above, she has a point about the differences in agencies and non-profits. The Red Cross is unique in the fact that many PR/Comm agencies are willing to help out with pro-bono work towards development and strategy with marketing and technology. Many non-profits do not have this luxury.

      You might be interested in learning how the Red Cross is working towards finding a unified way of using social media in emergency situations. The Twitter hashtag is #crisisdata and I posted a link below that will provide more insight. However, the link to the Emergency Social Data Summit white pages seems to be down… It will probably be up in a few days. Great read.

      http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.1a019a978f421296e81ec89e43181aa0/?vgnextoid=fa532b019666a210VgnVCM10000089f0870aRCRD

      • Anonymous

        Lauren, that is good, but would think that there would be a checks and balances system put in place after a mishap like yours. Again I know we’re human, but when it happens more than once a pattern emerges.

        While I don’t walk in your shoes I feel that it is something that could be avoided, I’d offer looking at CoTweet for your Twitter accounts. It is a service similar to HS that allows multiple users to man accounts and track the history of conversations with users. That way it is also not tied to specific phones or additional accounts.

        • http://twitter.com/riaglo Gloria Huang

          Jeff- your point is very valid, and I’m sure none of us would disagree with you when you say that we need to be more careful to avoid a situation like this happening in the first place. Hindsight is 20-20, so while I regret the fact that I slipped up (after over a year of not having any problems), I’m taking it as a chance to learn something and to improve the way I manage all of my accounts.

          Cheers!

  • fleuredeflorida

    I definitely think that we all have to remember, people are behind social media, and in most cases, we want to know that! That’s the point! People will make mistakes. How a company/organization/entity handles those mistakes is what audiences will judge most, in the end. So bravo to the Red Cross for being quick, transparent, and humble; it reinforced one of the positive aspects of social media- that real people exist out there!

    And to respond to jeffespo- I agree that it would be ideal for PR/Comm. employees to have separate tools if they are managing both personal and work accounts- but in a non-profit environment sometimes this is just not fiscally possible. In an agency, I can see that happening, but as a nonprofit comm. manager, I’m definitely not about to be handed a separate phone solely to stay on top of our social media presence and avoid mishaps.

    My mishaps are more often that I post work/org. tweets to my personal account on accident! I’m sure many people follow me because I work in disabilities services and regularly talk about my specific experiences as they relate to my job responsibilities (PR & Development), so I guess they don’t mind, but I am always quick to delete and retweet under the correct account. Bottom line: mistakes happen. If you handle them with grace, you’ll likely receive grace in return.

    • Lauren Snyder

      Hey Ashley–

      I love your point on non-profit and agencies having different resources because it is completely true. Luckily the Red Cross receives pro-bono work and platforms from companies and agencies so it can expand its efforts to code a unified way to help respond to emergencies through social media.

      I feel like this rogue tweet was more of a wake-up call if anything. It shows that even a high-influence organization like the Red Cross is capable of making mistakes. Thankfully it resulted in positive media and donations because of the way they handled it but it could have become a mini disaster. Companies need to keep their human personalities without making the human error. And we all know that can be tricky at times!

      You are lucky your mishaps happen on your personal account! Less panic ensues when you know that the company/brand image is not being tarnished. When I checked into Popeyes I basically had a heart attack.

      Also, I am now following you on Twitter so we can talk non-profit love :)

    • Anonymous

      @fleuredeflorida You can use free tools so it is fiscally possible. It is just a matter of using separate tools to avoid headaches. I work for a large company and we use many free tools and platforms still.

  • http://sarasteffan.wordpress.com/ Sara Steffan

    The Red Cross handled this tweet mistake really well, I thought, and managed to make light of the situation. It could have caused a lot more criticism because “getting slizzerd” doesn’t exactly go with the Red Cross’s mission. People that have a good handle on Twitter and social media should take note – covering up mistakes isn’t always the best option. I like how they made it humorous by saying they “took away the keys.” The one thing that often frustrates me about PR is that crisis communications often involved some sort of cover up, but the Red Cross did a nice job of owning up to their mistake. It’s not always about looking good – we’re all capable of learning from a slip-up.

    To prevent this, I would definitely work on using different platforms for each account. Having all of your accounts on HootSuite, for example, can lead to a mispost if you’re in a hurry. I often use the actual Twitter website for one of my accounts and a Twitter client for another.

    • Lauren Snyder

      Hey Sara–

      I definitely agree with you on the platform issue. I handle five accounts and prefer to use Tweetdeck to monitor but I find it easier to login individually to post and interact with the community. However, I find most on the confusion happens via mobile when I use HootSuite to handle all of my accounts and it can easily lead to accidental posts. Ever since the Popeyes incident, I always triple check before posting!

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  • Jackie Mitchell

    Lauren, I sometimes wonder if your Popeye’s check-in at the Red Cross wasn’t my “practice round.” It certainly got me thinking how we’d handle a bigger issue. You couldn’t be at the Red Cross at a better time, and we are so lucky to have you as a volunteer.

  • karen

    Great example of handling a crisis. This shows that responding quickly to this type of situation, and admitting the mistake, is the right way to handle a faux pas that can happen to anyone in the era of social media. It was smart to use humor, and it definitely worked out for the best.

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Just another example of how careful you need to be when tweeting on behalf of a business. Twitter is obviously a less formal way to communicate, but it’s still being used for business purposes. There’s sometimes a fine line between what’s appropriate and what’s not, and it often depends on the brand.

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