Errant Chrysler tweeter fired–overreaction?

I read recently where well over half of companies are now using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Clearly social media marketing has gone mainstream. But, this doesn’t come without some challenges. Knowing this, companies and organizations are almost all struggling with social media policies–how should their social media outlets be managed, and what to do when they are mismanaged. And, of course, what do you allow or not allow your employees to do with their own social media sites?

Chrysler ran into a problem with their Twitter account @ChryslerAutos, the official Chrysler Twitter voice. According to this article in PRdaily, a tweet saying that motor city drivers did not know “how to f***king drive.” Chrysler promptly deleted the tweet and issued an apology saying their account was “compromised.”

Hmmm, that kind of response only raises more questions. How compromised? By whom? For what purpose? What is being done to prevent such compromising? And of course, when questions are raised without adequate answers being provided, someone is going to dig into it. According to the above post, it was the bloggers at the autophile site Jalopnik who discovered how the site was compromised. Turns out it was one of the staff of Chrysler’s social media agency who apparently inadvertently tweeted using Chrysler’s official Twitter account instead of his own. Jalopnik reported on this and Chrysler responded by issuing a more detailed explanation on its blog:

“This morning an inappropriate comment was issued from the Chrysler brand Twitter handle, @ChryslerAutos, via our social media agency of record, New Media Strategies (NMS). After further investigation, it was discovered that the statement was issued by an NMS employee, who has since been terminated.”

OK, not a big deal overall but raises some interesting questions overall.

1) Every company using social media should send the PRdaily story around (or this blog if you prefer) to their social media staff including their agency representatives. The risks of this kind of accident happening are considerable, it is easy to understand how it could happen, and this kind of event should raise the awareness of everyone as to how it could happen and the damage it can cause.

2) Chrysler would have been better off being a little more forthcoming in their original apology about it. Being fast is important so it is likely they didn’t have the answer as to how it happened when it was first noticed and they deleted it and tweeted about it. Rather than saying their account was “compromised” which suggests sinister motives and loss of security, they should have said (assuming they didn’t have the facts yet), “we don’t know exactly what happened, but we’re sorry it did and when we find out, we’ll let you know.” Major principle here: if you try to be coy, others will dig. If you would prefer others not dig, don’t be coy, be forthcoming, complete and honest.

3) Chrysler named the agency. I have mixed feelings about this. Sounds to me like they are a little ticked at their agency–understandably. But punishing them this way seems a little harsh. Yet, to not name them might be considered a violation of the above principle of full and open disclosure. Overall I think I would have opted to say “our social media agency” rather than naming them even if it meant others would dig it out. On the other hand, if I was New Media Strategies, I’d be loud about apologizing to Chrysler and saying what they are doing to prevent such things from happening again.

4) Firing the perpetrator. I have a hard time with this one. I do think it is important when trying to enforce social media policies and guidelines to be firm and fast in responding to violations. But an accidental post by a penitent low-level staff person (assuming that is the case) is something that should be apologized for, laughed about it, used as a reminder for everyone else, and perhaps good naturedly dismissed (not the person, the issue). By promptly firing this person there is a strong suggestion that more is going on here than is being mentioned. I don’t know about you, but it kind of makes me want to dig into it to see what is really going on. I don’t have the time, but I’ll bet some bloggers do. The point again is that the harshness of the response suggests a bigger story, and a bigger story unrevealed calls for a Watergate-inspired investigative response.

(PS–I changed the original headline to this post because it is not clear who caused the firing, Chrysler or NMS.)

4 thoughts on “Errant Chrysler tweeter fired–overreaction?”

  1. I agree with you about being unsure about the firing, Gerald. As a counterpoint, I really appreciated how the #gettngslizzered Red Cross episode was handled. They apologized, made light of the situation and moved on. And so did the public. Dogfish Head Beer actually ended up asking folks to donate to the ARC because of it. And now @riaglio gets to get ribbed about the situation for the rest of her life. No harm, no foul.

    (http://philanthropy.com/blogs/social-philanthropy/from-gettngslizzerd-to-getting-donations-red-cross-capitalizes-on-twitter-gaff/27936)

    Certainly does make you wonder why they pulled out the big guns on such a minor thing.

    -Jim

  2. I think the firing was ultimately a good thing for the industry. It’s a clear sign that social media marketing is important and taken seriously. An organization like Chrysler would fire anyone issuing a press release with inappropriate language, so why not someone issuing offical tweets on their behalf? The firing shows they aren’t playing around, they get and respect the power of social media. That’s a good thing.

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