It’s the morning after the first presidential debate of 2012. Pundits everywhere are debating the obvious -- the left, the right, and of course, KitchenAid. Yes, KitchenAid.
For anyone who followed the debate via social media, you likely saw the Twitterstorm that erupted when an employee at KitchenAid sent a tweet on the brand’s handle, presumably while thinking they were sending it from their personal handle.
@KitchenAidUSA Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! 'She died 3 days b4 he became president'. #nbcpolitics
It’s safe to assume that individual is perusing the want ads this morning, and likely not the marketing section.
KitchenAid has since deleted the post and immediately apologized. They have actually done a nice job of managing this fiasco by addressing it immediately, refusing to hide from it, and working to correct the inappropriate content while apologizing to the President. And they are being transparent about the situation, with the head of the brand, Cynthia Soledad, now personally tweeting @KitchenAidUSA. However, they are going to continue to receive a hefty dose of negative backlash because most people will mistakenly assume this tweet actually represents the brand’s thoughts versus some (assumingly) inexperienced, immature entry-level employee, either within the brand itself or its agency that helps manage the community. This person made a colossally dumb error that in no way represents something the brand itself would likely ever engage in, or a conversation thread it would think to join. Cooking chats, absolutely, but politics -- no way.
While I don’t believe KitchenAid is at fault per se, for this individual tweet, here’s where they should be held accountable (and this applies to hundreds of other brands as well): for hiring and using inexperienced and immature folks to handle social marketing and act as a brand’s community manager.
Let’s be honest -- whoever sent out this tweet on the KitchenAid handle should not have even considered sending this out on their personal handle. It’s a completely inappropriate, offensive and rude comment to make. And when you work in the social space and represent a brand, you should know better. You should know that everything you post as an individual on your own personal pages can, and will, be tied back to your agency, your clients, and yes -- your employer. You can’t separate church and state in today’s socially connected world.
This person should have known better. We all have opinions, and of course, are going to share a good dose of personal stuff about us on our personal handles. But be smart about what you put out there. Would you want Mashable, AdAge and Today retweeting you within the hour?
Perhaps I am being naïve here, but I still can’t believe that so many organizations have such a passive approach to social media. Many assume that interns or recent grads can handle the task of community management -- real, full-on community management. A belief that they are young so they must be social media rock stars simply baffles me. A community manager is one of the most important and critical functions within an organization. He or she is your digital spokesperson. The power they have is not to be taken lightly. It takes someone who has not only the social skills and knowhow, but also the maturity to handle the awesome task of managing that voice and build those precious two-way relationships. It takes someone who understands PR, crisis communications and customer service, who respects the role and takes it incredibly seriously -- and not just until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
I personally believe that being a community manager is one of the most rewarding and exciting jobs. We engage with people like never before and genuinely build a community, based on more than impressions and likes -- based on what really matters to them. And when staffing for this function on behalf of clients, you better believe we are incredibly selective because we know exactly what is at stake and the opportunity at hand.
There will always be mistakes made within the digital space. No one is perfect, and we all know you can’t control this medium. But it’s how you address and learn from these mistakes that counts, and working to do whatever it takes to eliminate potential threats up front -- starting with making sure you have the right people at the front lines -- is vital.