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Your Twitter Marketing Strategy Just Went Horribly Wrong: Part 1

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Uh oh... you just made a huge mistake on Twitter. #EpicFail. #WorstTweetEver. #Doh. You may have deleted the message, but it has already been retweeted and commented on and spread around. You can't just sweep this one under the rug. So what do you do now? Begin the damage control and ensure that the same mistake is not repeated in the future. If you have ever made a mistake with your Twitter marketing strategy, rest assured that you're not alone! We've included a few famous Twitter flubs by big brands and celebrities to show what can go wrong and how it can be fixed.

1. One of your employees just sent out a terrible unauthorized tweet.

And now you have to deal with the consequences of their actions. Of course apologize and of course delete the tweet. Let your followers know it was not an approved tweet and it was not up to your company's standards. But there's another secret marketing weapon you can sometimes use in this situation: humor. While it's not always a good strategy, Twitter humor is a great tool if you know when and how to use it wisely.

This situation doesn't always have to be a huge marketing nightmare. If it's just one foolish out of character tweet, your followers will probably understand that it was a rogue staff member. Depending on the severity of the tweet, using humour is sometimes an appropriate and effective way to handle the situation. When an American Red Cross employee accidentally tweeted from the organization's official Twitter account about drinking and "#gettngslizzerd" the Red Cross handled it admirably. After deleting the tweet, the Red Cross tweeted that it was "sober and [had] confiscated the keys."

On a side note, the tweet eventually helped generate some positive publicity as well. The brand of beer that the offending tweet had mentioned, Dogfish Head, played on the Twitter buzz. It encouraged followers to donate to the Red Cross with a Twitter marketing campaign that used the hashtag #gettngslizzerd. Now that's turning something potentially damaging into something relevant and positive. It was a funny and classy way to comment on the situation.

By the way, it goes without saying that you should put someone trusted and professional in charge of your Twitter account. Don't simply select a random employee who has just started at the company, because you never know what could end up on your Twitter feed.

2. You used a disaster or other really questionable event for marketing purposes.

Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe a few people on the team thought it was funny and you ran with it. Maybe, as with the infamous Kenneth Cole Cairo riot tweet, the topic was trending at the time. Whatever the reason, using things like plane crashes, riots or natural disasters for marketing is guaranteed to backfire. Don't risk it. There are so many other ways to grab attention and be relevant on Twitter! Follow the news, play on good news stories, address seasonal trends and common customer issues, use appropriate hashtags to make your content searchable and so on.

If you have sent out a tweet that somehow uses a negative event for self promotion, you really need to apologize. It's not enough to just delete the tweet. It is essential to address how insensitive the message was and assure followers that you will not do anything similar in the future. It also helps you make amends when you show your support for the affected people or area, such as with a donation. This shows people that you do care and that you are trying to make up for any harm you may have done.

For example: "We deeply regret tweeting about the California earthquake during this difficult time. We strive to be aware of current events but we do not ever want to be insensitive to those affected by natural disasters. We will be donating $5,000 to the Red Cross for disaster relief."

If you want to express your sympathy or concern for people affected by the event, keep it very simple and don't mention anything promotional: "Our thoughts are with the people of Boston at this scary and uncertain time." Don't use the situation to push your products (like Epicurious and its cranberry scones) or add a promotional hashtag (like Kmart and its Newtown shooting tweet mentioning #Fab15Toys).

3. Your tweet was really poorly timed.

Normally the tweet in question may not have caused any alarm, but timing is everything. Always stay up to date with what's happening in the news and be sure that your Twitter marketing strategy is appropriate. If you just had a highly publicized customer service nightmare, if your product is in the midst of a recall or if you are having other well known problems with your service, it's probably not a great time to run a new promotional marketing campaign.

Qantas Airways, for example, asked Twitter users to share their best experience stories from flying with them. Cool! What an awesome way to gain personal interaction from followers. Except the airline's flights had all been grounded the previous day due to a labor dispute. Customers were still upset and used the Qantas hashtag to publicly complain about the airline.

Another notorious example of bad timing was Bill Cosby asking Twitter users to turn him into a meme. The only problem is that he is currently embroiled in a scandal and is being accused of assaulting multiple women. Twitter users seized the opportunity to share their outrage and opinions, creating mocking memes of Cosby. Good idea, terrible timing.

If you have made this Twitter marketing mistake, apologize and promptly explain what action you are taking to resolve the issue. Keep people up to date with whats happening and tell them what steps you're taking to ensure that this problem doesn't arise again in the future.

4. You didn't double check your content and your tweet went out with a huge mistake.

To say that grammar and spelling mistakes are common on Twitter is quite an understatement. They happen to everyone. However, businesses are held to a high standard and should strive to be professional and proper in all social media marketing and activity. And sometimes mispelled tweets spiral out of control and become fodder for people looking to mock the brand.

Mary J. Blige, for example, tweeted her frustration about people questioning her "intelligents." The reaction was swift and predictable. A simple spell-check would have avoided this unfortunate tweet. Another particularly vulgar example was Sephora's misspelled Countdown to Beauty campaign. Once again, just check the spelling before you tweet.

Most people will realize this is just a mistake. Delete the tweet, apologize if necessary (but typo tweets are usually not a big deal) and move on.

The solution to this one is so simple: proofread before tweeting! That is all.

Share the best and worst brand tweets that you've seen!

Part 2 is coming soon... See if you can make us laugh or cringe by posting your favorite examples of terrible Twitter marketing fails by brands!

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