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4 Brand Twitter Fails and 4 Ways to Prevent Them
By: Don McLean
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Capitalizing on trending topics can give businesses the reach that they need on Twitter — if used correctly. Sometimes the tweets do not work and just come back to haunt the business. This is particularly true when it relates to political and social events. While tweeting about a trending topic can be a great way to advertise your company, it can also have harmful effects. Hashtags can be friend and foe to large corporations. Here are four examples of Twitter fails in relation to political events:
  1. #DreamDay: The Martin Luther King Jr. "I Have a Dream" speech is one of the most revered speeches in history. It holds the actual dreams of an entire generation of people who went through unnecessary evils. The Golf Channel decided to capitalize on the 50th anniversary of the speech with this tweet: @GolfChannel Tweet your ‘golf’ dream on the 50th anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech using: #DreamDay: I have a dream that ___________.
  2. #frankenstorm: Hurricane Sandy was a national disaster for all those on the East coast of the United States. Lives were taken, worlds crushed and changed forever. Urban Outfitters decided to make light of the situation tweeting this #fail: @UrbanOutfitters This storm blows (but free shipping doesn’t)! Today only… bit.ly/S8fADV #frankenstorm #ALLSOGGY
  3. #Cairo: Kenneth Cole received tons of backlash for sharing a very insensitive tweet regarding political issues in Egypt. The designer himself signed the tweet and tried to add some humor tweeting: @KennethCole Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC.
  4. #nbcpolitics: In 2012, an associate at KitchenAid thought they were tweeting to their personal followers, not those of their employer. These sorts of things happen more often that one would hope. This tweet caused quite an disturbance for the company: @KitchenAidUSA Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics
Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning on advertising your business through trending tweets:
  1. Develop a social media policy: Yes, it is as simple as that. No policy leaves your company open to many unnecessary errors.
  2. Understand: Make sure to understand why a topic is trending before you tweet. There are many other examples of corporate Twitter fails where the company simply did not understand why something was trending first.
  3. Sensitivity: Know the sensitivity of the situation. #DreamDay, #Sandy, and #Cairo are all very sensitive topics to very large groups of people. These are topics that should be respected. If you were to tweet about one of these topics, it would be okay to tweet something respectful such as “Our hearts go out to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.”
  4. Review: If you are uncertain about a tweet, get another opinion. Not every tweet should have to be reviewed, but if you plan tweet on a major political or social event it would be a wise choice.
Social and political events are better left unmentioned at the corporate level. When companies take a stance, especially on something as fast-moving as Twitter, it can leave lasting harmful effects to the bottom line. The key to staying out of disaster is a useful social media policy. All of your employees should read and understand its contents and review it bi-yearly at the very least. Which corporate Twitter fail disturbs you the most? 

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About the Author
Don McLean, MBA is an account supervisor at Airfoil Group, an independent marketing and public relations firm serving tech companies and innovation-centric brands with offices in Detroit, New York and Silicon Valley. Follow Don on twitter at@mclean_don.  
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