Lessons From the Chrysler Tweet Disaster

Never underestimate the potential damage that one Tweet can do. One must look no further than the recent Chrysler fiasco for proof. This past week an employee of New Media Strategies, a social media marketing agency, sent out this Tweet on behalf of the official Chrysler Twitter account.

It’s a real Tweet and this really did happen. The message this Tweet sends is a complete 180 of how Chrysler wants to represent its brand name and its city. The Tweet was deleted promptly, but irreversible damage was already done. Enough people captured a screenshot of the Tweet and New Media Strategies quickly had a PR disaster on its hands. The employee confessed that he meant to Tweet on his own personal account, but accidentally did so on the Chrysler account. Needless to say, he was quickly fired from the company. Imagine how brutal that exit interview must have been…

Chrysler quickly made the choice to end its contract with NMS and for good reason. No costs were disclosed, but one can only imagine that NMS will suffer great financial loss after losing one of (possible its largest) accounts.

Check out the statements regarding the incident from both Chrysler and New Media Strategies

Although it’s difficult to not sympathize with the employee who lost his job and the agency that lost its contract, there is little excuse for what happened. At face value it’s just an unfortunate accident, however let it serve as a lesson that any agency or brand is vulnerable if they fail to live up to the high level of responsibility that they yield.

The big question here is how do we prevent accidents like this? What can we do to make sure that we never have to experience a similar tragedy?

1. Have a strict and clear social media policy

Both agencies and brands should have a social media policy that outlines acceptable behavior and best practices for communicating across social networks. Employees who are granted access to branded accounts should be fully aware of company guidelines and the responsibility that they hold.

2. Be careful who you work with.

Brands should perform due diligence when delegating social media to an inside employee or an outside agency. Agencies should hire smart. If a person is disrespectful or irresponsible on personal accounts, what makes you believe that they’ll act differently on non-personal accounts?

3. Have checks and balances in place

Large brands and agencies should have someone extremely trustworthy at the helm or at least resort to a process of checks and balances. Don’t let a single message or status update pass by without being approved by another person.

In the end this is a question of preparedness. NMS simply wasn’t prepared to take on the responsibility they had been given. Take it for what it’s worth, but let this serve as a sign of caution to all of us. If the appropriate steps aren’t taken beforehand, this could happen to anyone.

Read more about the story in AdvertisingAge.


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