One small business found itself at the center of a media storm spun by a national tragedy Friday, thanks to a misinformed tweet.
Celeb Boutique, an online clothing store, sent out this message Friday, after the movie massacre in Aurora, Colo.: “ #Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress ;).” When in reality, the town name was trending on the social media site due to the horrific shooting-spree tragedy that had occurred that morning at a local theatre during a Batman film premier.
Celeb Boutique then backtracked, deleting the tweet and writing this message in a series of tweets: “We are incredibly sorry for our tweet about Aurora- Our PR is NOT US based and had not checked the reason for the trend, at that time our social media was total UNAWARE of the situation and simply thought it was a trending topic- we have removed the very insensitive tweet and will of course take more care in the future to look into what we say in our tweets. Again we do apologise for any offense caused this was not intential & will not occur again. Our most sincere apologies for the tweet and situation.-CB” (sic).
Marketing consultant Peter Shankman said this mistake should have never occurred in the first place, had the social media team been more diligent before posting.
“One simple click onto Aurora would have showed what happened and why it was trending,” Shankman said. “People should realize social is another marketing channel and just because it’s the quickest doesn’t mean you can run in with your eyes closed.”
Many small businesses bring on social media ‘experts’ to handle their tweets and Facebook posts, Shankman said, without vetting the applicants properly. Those who outsource in particular should be more on top of the messages being sent out promoting their brands, he said.
“You can’t allow some 22-year-old PR intern to craft these messages,” he said. “I’m not being ageist or saying they have to be older, but I don’t want someone whose biggest claim to fame was that he or she was on Facebook in college.”
Cliff Stein, CEO of Reputation Changer, said Celeb Boutique’s blunder is one major reason he isn’t a huge supporter of outsourcing this kind of marketing.
“It all depends on who you are outsourcing it to,” he said. “If you are working with a company you trust, and one that knows what kind of things to put out there then it can be ok.”
One option small businesses have is approving messages before they go live online, he said.
“Ask for content approval before anything is published,” he said. “Make sure [messages] are positive and have no way of being misconstrued.”
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Shankman and Stein agreed Celeb Boutique handled the situation as best they could by removing the tweet and apologizing. When something like this happens, owning up to your mistake will only benefit the brand, Shankman said.
“You need to be smarter, and admit you messed up,” he said.
Stein said he feels the apology was sincere and issued correctly, and the best thing the business can do is move on.
“They took accountability and first and foremost apologized,” he said. “Now they need to move on and create positive content in the aftermath of this to bury that colossal mistake."
Shankman said he often advises small business clients to monitor other social media channels and conversations, take in what is going on and then send out a message. This can be done in just 15 minutes, he argues, and is hardly the vast undertaking many believe it to be.
“It’s short-burst down time,” he said. “You can simply go on and listen—95% of social media is listening. It takes five minutes to respond in a positive way. If you still think you don’t have the time, hire someone you trust.”
Use social media as a recruitment tool and ask other small businesses to suggest potential hires for social media management jobs at your business, in order to find a qualified applicant you trust, he said. And no matter what, keep an eye on your online reputation, especially what you are posting on major outlets like Twitter and Facebook.
And stay away from “scheduled” tweets and posts, as anything can happen in the time between you writing your message and when it is actually posted, altering its context.
“Monitor the monitors,” Shankman said. “If we give control to other people, who is monitoring them? Keep an eye on what your agency is putting out. Just be smarter.”