In case you missed it, during the first debate last night some social media genius at KitchenAid -- yes, the kitchen appliance maker -- tweeted an offensive comment about Barack Obama’s dead grandmother. The tweet read: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president.”
Hilarious! There’s no need to bore you with the profuse apologies that followed from KitchenAid, since we’ve been through this exercise countless times already; needless to say, they apologized. I’m more interested in a couple questions which I genuinely cannot answer.
First of all, why is KitchenAid’s Twitter account in the hands of a drunk 20-year-old frat boy, or some jackass with a similar sense of humor? Is this the same person who handles KitchenAid’s Twitter account on a regular, day-to-day basis? If so, how did he get this job (I’m guessing this is a guy)? And while we’re on the subject, what are the qualifications for tweeting for KitchenAid? A lot of Facebook pics with your collection of blenders?
More importantly, why was KitchenAid tweeting during the presidential debates in the first place? I find this completely mystifying, since politics is controversial and most brands avoid controversy like the plague -- and since as a maker of kitchen appliances KitchenAid has, you know, absolutely nothing to do with politics. At all.
But I think this gets back to something I’m seeing more and more of on social media (and which I find more and more annoying): the belief among marketers or social media practitioners that a brand has to be “always on,” meaning it must always have something to say about everything. It’s like those people who never stop talking because if they did, they’re afraid they might cease to exist. I hate those people.
This is lunacy. For one thing, even a brand’s most devoted followers will eventually feel overwhelmed (and bored and irritated) by the constant stream of tweets for tweets’ sake, and any real, substantive messages will get lost in the clutter. And if a lot of other brands do the same thing, it risks making the social channel less effective overall, as people tune out the cacophony of meaningless opinion, irrelevant comments and stupid jokes from corporate Twitter accounts, or stop following brands in the first place because they no longer expect anything useful from them. Finally, by attempting to engage with subjects that are not connected to the brand, you increase the risk of making a serious misstep. Stick to what you know and you (probably) won’t look dumb. Just ask KitchenAid.