Thursday, October 4, 2012

Two Ways to Avoid Repeating KitchenAid's Blunder

Perhaps I've been a blogger for too long now (four and a half years and 416 posts between this blog and my blog on The social media news may change day to day, but I find myself wanting to repeat former blog posts to address the issues we continue to see repeated.

Take, for example, the latest social media blunder, this time courtesy of KitchenAid. You can read the sordid details on Mashable, but it is a story we have seen before--an employee intended a tweet for his or her personal account but instead posted it on a  corporate account. This tweet happened to rank high on the offensiveness scale, making it an even more egregious mistake: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics”

(On a side note, it is ironic this was posted just days after I encouraged people to post more about politics within their personal social networks. Let the record show that I stated that "mocking candidates or supporters" was out of bounds. And, in any event, a joke about a person's deceased grandmother is neither political nor in good taste.)

KitchenAid is handling this unpleasant event well. And, as could be expected, this situation has launched a thousands blog posts offering advice to brands on how to avoid this blunder.  Rather than offer my own new take, I am going to refer you back to the advice I shared in May 2011. This was when I came close to being one of those cautionary tales; I posted a personal status update on my employer's Facebook profile.

I have read lengthy lists of tips on how to avoid making the same mistake we've now seen with Chrysler, Red Cross and KitchenAid. The tips are fine, but as I said almost a year and a half ago, there are just two things you need to do to avoid making the same error:

  • Have a personal filter:  The fact you are responsible for a company's social media profile doesn't mean everything you say personally has to reflect the brand's personality, but you must consider the implications of your posts. First, once you are officially associated with a brand, anything you say in your Twitter or other social media streams can reflect upon your employer. Plus, there's always the chance you pull a KitchenAid (or an Augie) and mix your personal thoughts into the company's channel. 

  • Keep them separated:  As The Offspring said, you gotta keep 'em separated--your personal and professional social media tools, that is.  For Twitter management, it is too easy to set up both your personal and professional accounts in a single Twitter client such as HootSuite. Doing so is a recipe for danger. Use different Twitter clients for different purposes, and you'll greatly reduce the risk.

Someone at KitchenAid made a career-altering mistake. Do not let this happen to you. Consider whether the content you post is the sort of thing with which you (and your employer) wish to be associated, and use different tools for business and personal posting to avoid making a silly but painful error.


Joe said...

Augie. I was just giving my team the same reminder today. Another suggestion would be when selecting people to be stewards of your or your client's social properties, you use their personal streams as an indicator whether they might be careless (no filter) or volatile public personalities. Although you can separate them through tools and they have the right to say whatever they want on their personal channels, it might bubble up internal bias's or tendencies in the person responsible for managing the account. Just like you want interpersonal skills when hiring a sales rep.

Just a thought.

Augie Ray said...

Good point, Joe. I certainly struggle with the whole idea of employee's right to be themselves, but you make a good point. The person with their finger on the tweet button for brand better be someone who has demonstrated you can trust them--both inside and outside of work!

Thanks for the comment.

Unknown said...

Employees, if identifiable as such, are, whether they like it or not, brand representatives. They should be taught to be brand advocates.

Augie Ray said...

Ken, While I support the sentiment in your comment, the reality is something different. Employees are told to "be themselves," and frankly, they want to be. No one wants to be completely constrained by the brand rules of their employer (not even me.)

I think good employees engage in ways that reflect positively on the brand, but that doesn't mean every person has to turn their person social stream into brand-appropriate messaging, IMO.

Reff said...

Ditto on keeping it separated. As many I expect also do, I take it to the hardware level. Separate systems and devices for corp & personal.

-John Refford

Augie Ray said...


Your extra step is very wise and may be good advice--different software AND hardware for corporate and private accounts. Thanks for the tip!