Code Red: Social Media Crisis

Social media disasters happen every day. Yet, some prove more memorable than others.

In 2011 the American Red Cross tweeted about drinking, accidentally. The tweet, which read, “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”, caused an uproar.

In recognizing that even organizations with incredible resources fall prey to mistakes, we can see the benefits of establishing a crisis management plan.

The key steps for crisis management include:

  • Acknowledge the problem;
  • Fight fire with water;
  • Be genuinely sorry;
  • Have a crisis FAQ ready;
  • Build a pressure release valve when necessary to keep things from boiling over;
  • Know when to take it offline;
  • Arm your army by paying attention to your community so they will support you; and
  • Learn your lessons, always.

The 2011 Red Cross tweet was apparently intended for the personal twitter of social media manager Gloria Huang. Instead, Huang posted it to the Red Cross account. Wendy Harman, the social media director, received calls during the night, leading her to take the tweet down in the middle of the night. The Red Cross acknowledged the rogue tweet the following day by using humor, and Huang took ownership for her mistake.

Overall, a truly serious crisis was averted. Some key takeaways from this incident are that i) taking ownership is important, ii) acting fast can contain the crisis, iii) fighting fire with water (or humor) is often a good tactic, and iv) the problem should always be acknowledged.

This incident was actually rather well contained. In fact, Dogfish Head beer turned it into a fundraising opportunity.

In case you are wondering, Ms. Huang has since improved her social media management skills.


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