There was a huge furore recently when an ad agency employee twittered about people’s bad driving habits in Detroit to over 8,000 followers. Why? It wasn’t necessarily because he dropped the F-bomb. It was because he tweeted accidentally on behalf of Chrysler, one of his clients, rather than from his own personal account.
Chrysler of course, who are based in Detroit. And who have spent considerable dollars on its current campaign supporting and celebrating the motorcity. This is the new marketing reality where professional and personal relationships are a Twitter account, a thumb press and the world away.
The issue of course was that Chrysler has worked damned hard to build up momentum and ‘goodwill’ for its current ‘celebrating Detroit’ campaign. And this tweet, however accidental, was seen as a major step backwards, an undoing of all that hard work. It wasn’t the profanity that was the issue, Chrysler themselves have even roped in Eminem for their current campaign - he himself a well-known user of the F-bomb and other unsavoury words – although not in this case thankfully.
Since the advent of Twitter, brands have embraced social networking in their droves, keen to start having ‘conversations’ with the masses. Twitter in particular is a fine art. You’ve only got 140 characters to engage. So as a brand, you’ve got to really think about what you’re going to say.
But if all it takes is an accidental press of a button to cause such a flurry, are brands ever really safe to social network on Twitter? Even the most well-meaning tweets can sometimes be taken the wrong way, just look at Microsoft and its Japan tweet. Is Twitter really the place to get your quick message across? Of course it is.
The whole point of Twitter is instant sharing, quick updates between friends and fans. Brands jumped in on the action to be part of that crowd, a way to engage with people already interested in them.
What we don’t want to see are ‘pre-approved’ tweets going out from brands, which have clearly been pre-written and approved before going live. It would remove any of the spontaneity that Twitter is built on, and we would be faced with boring, stilted brand messages rather than the relaxed, two-way conversation it’s meant to be. I know which way I would rather have it. We just have to check, check and check again. And obviously just pause for a minute before we hit ‘send’.