A Single Tweet Can Cause A lot of Damage


A rampaging serial killer or Kenneth Cole? You decide.

We want companies to freely use social media.

We demand honesty, transparency and authenticity from them on those channels.

And then punish them accordingly when they do so.

The latest example of this great social hypocrisy happened to Kenneth Cole, the chairman and chief creative officer of a shoe company of the same name.  Cole’s offense?  A badly timed joke on Twitter to promote a new line of shoes:

“Millions are in an uproar in (hashtag) Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”

He used the hashtag associated with the civilian uprising in Egypt that has already claimed the lives of 10 people and left hundreds injured.

Cole deleted the offending tweet several hours later and issued an apology on Facebook.  But it was too late.  The backlash started and tipped late yesterday afternoon.  The punishment for Cole’s gaffe has been more than 400 news articles, broadcast coverage on major networks and cable TV, condemnation on Twitter and Facebook, and scores of breathless blog posts lecturing him about everything from global politics to best practices on social media channels.

The first comment of 346 (and growing) on his Facebook apology reads as follows:

“You are an a*****e. No excuses.”

The rest don’t get any better.

An opportunistic comedian has opened a parody Twitter account about Mr. Cole called @KennethColePR.  The account has more than 5,000 followers and is tweeting out vicious nuggets like:

“Twitterverse: Off to Chinatown elementary school for recruiting event, that spring line won’t sew itself!”

I can feel Cole’s headache from here.

The punishment, of course, does not fit the crime.  Making light of a deadly serious situation that can change the course of history in Africa and the Middle East to promote leather loafers is not a good idea.  But likely Cole did want many of us do – fired off a tweet that he thought was funny.  In hindsight, he realized that he had stepped over the line and deleted it and apologized.

If we want transparency.  If we want honesty.  And if we want authenticity then we need to take the good with the bad.  And we need to forgive and move on when people – even CEOs – make mistakes.

Disclosure: Since writing this post, I’ve learned that Kenneth Cole is a client of Weber Shandwick, where I work. I do not work on the account, but obviously my colleagues do.  I was not aware of this association when I wrote the post.

Links:

Kenneth Cole on Twitter

Kenneth Cole’s apology on Facebook

AP story on Kenneth Cole

Fake Kenneth Cole Twitter account

Photo by katsamaniego (via Flickr)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A Single Tweet Can Cause A lot of Damage (via HighTalk) | cmiller237's resource guide - February 13, 2011

    [...] We want companies to freely use social media. We demand honesty, transparency and authenticity from them on those channels. And then punish them accordingly when they do so. The latest example of this great social hypocrisy happened to Kenneth Cole, the chairman and chief creative officer of a shoe company of the … Read More [...]

  2. 10 big mistakes brands make with social media « Mariamz - March 6, 2011

    [...] all seen, and perhaps smirked at, social media mistakes. (Kenneth Cole’s recent tweet containing the #Libya hashtag springs to mind). But which ones are we guity of? Mindy Joyce’s [...]

  3. 4 Myths of Social Media Authenticity - May 6, 2013

    [...] A Single Tweet Can Cause A lot of Damage [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,400 other followers

%d bloggers like this: