PRBC’s Social Media Guru On Kenneth Cole’s Twitter Fiasco

Kenneth Cole could really use my social media guru skills!

Today on PRBC, we launch a new series called “Ask the Overpriced Social Media Guru, “where self-professed social media experts will weigh in periodically with advice about hot-button PR, marketing and social media issues. We hope to charge $500 per hour for your reading time with this new service …”

Dear Overpriced Social Media Guru:
What does last week’s disastrous tweet from Kenneth Cole portend for the future of social media use by companies and executives? Will they ever learn the mistakes of their colleagues?

Twitterized in Tacoma

Dear Twitterized in Tacoma:
Great question! I’m glad you asked, as this has been a favorite topic of my 600 tweets, six blog posts, 14 Quora responses, six podcasts and countless Facebook wall posts over the past few days. There are six big PR and social media lessons you should glean from this incident. Where to begin?

First, the Kenneth Cole brand is clearly tarnished. No self-respecting company should ever get itself involved in an interational crisis by tying their messaging about an upcoming product launch to that situation. Had KC read my new ebook, “The Guru’s Guide to Explosive Online Brand Management,” he would now live the gospel of tip No. 36, which states, “Don’t piss off the bored digerati with your ill-timed, witty remarks.” Addendum: “Even if your eponymous brand has been built around a career of being provocative. Still, not cool.”

The real issue, however, is that KC made all of the classic old-media blunders in today’s rapid-fire, social-media ecosystem. He tried to cover up his initial controversial tweet by issuing a non-apology, apology with his lame excuse: “”Re Egypt tweet: we weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment -KC”

Dude! Just say you’re sorry and move on. That brings me to tip No. 16 of my new social media experts book, “How to Be a Social Media Guru … Like Me!,” which says: “When you’re wrong in social media, people will quickly let you know it. Forget about the old-media 24/7 news cycle. We’re now in a new era of 60-second news cycles.”

But the biggest mistake of all? KC didn’t engage his legions of fans enough before that big no-no tweet! I mean, the guy only has almost 11,000 followers on Twitter. I get that many new followers in a span of six hours! (Of course, I may only engage with 1 of those 11,000 … ever). But he’s not active enough on the more than 1,000 different social networks that now exist.

Here’s my really big tip: If you want your CEO to stand out – and in the digital age, CEOs can’t afford to not be huge online, unless they want to be overtaken be a competitor – he or she has to be everywhere, talking to everyone, across every platform. Build an iPad app just for them to engage with your dog-loving customers every time the CEO walks his dog. Have them blogging poolside at the next big prize fight in Vegas about which celebrities they just saw. It’s all about engagement, baby!

Hope that answered your question. Feel free to follow my every move, thought and experience every minute of the day on Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, Hi5, iLike, Dogster and, of course, my blog, Social Media Rocks!.

As always, keep your online engagement levels high and your tweets flowing 24/7!


The Overpriced Social Media Guru (TM)

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