In case this tweet from @KennethCole is later deleted, I took the above screenshot. This is the next tweet the account made.
That next tweet missed two key words: We apologize.
Look, I am not going to completely throw KC under the bus here. We are constantly telling companies to ‘be human’ with social media. It could be argued that whatever person behind KC’s account was trying to do that, and just made an extremely bad choice in what they tweeted.
But there’s a key lesson here for all companies: You don’t attempt to leverage an online conversation you aren’t participating in. Especially not one that so many people have such a deep and emotional investment in and when people are dying. The backlash has already started, just follow the #KennethCole hashtag.
And now we have a fake KennethColePR account created that’s making them look even worse.
This should be a huge warning for companies everywhere: Just because many social media tools are ‘free’ to use doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in learning how to use them properly.
UPDATE: Look at the 1st page of Google search results for “Kenneth Cole”. It’s dominated by news items about this tweet and actual tweets from customers slamming the company for being so insensitive. The majority of the content on the 1st page is negative, and it’s all been created within the past 6 hours.
SECOND UPDATE: @KennethCole has now deleted the tweet in the screenshot, and has apologized via Facebook.
Beth Harte says
Mack, I had someone last night totally jump into our IMC chat with a self-promotional tweet for their Career Board. While not on the same scale as this blunder, it does make me wonder who is training these people.
Kenneth Cole is know for being political, but I think their use humor and politics together was a bad decision and was the wrong thing at the wrong time. Obviously, they thought so as well or they wouldn’t have deleted the tweet.
Thanks for sharing this situation.
Mack Collier says
Funny Beth, I saw your comment here right after I tweeted to you and Marc Meyer about how people try to leverage Twitter hashtags for their own use. This happens constantly at #Blogchat, and for the most part the community there ignores these people, because they can easily see what they are trying to do.
Katrina Olsen says
All I can say is, wow! This is a prime example of why companies need to have rules of engagement in terms of social media BEFORE they launch. This is also why you don’t necessarily want your social media accounts ran by the marketing intern. I’m sure this will be a case study in Social Media 101 (if they ever get that class created). Nice post!
Shonali Burke says
Mack, yes, we say “be human,” but we don’t say, “be stupid.”
It’s one thing if the mistake is made by someone with a tiny company, very few resources, just learning, etc. For a brand like Kenneth Cole to do it tells me that they’re either extremely arrogant in thinking something like this would fly, or that they’re not devoting enough resources to internal training, management and supervision – or both.
Mack Collier says
“Mack, yes, we say “be human,” but we don’t say, “be stupid.””
Thanks Shonali, I think that sums it up perfectly 😉
Leigh Fazzina says
@Mack, thx for sharing this. Very good example to showcase.
@Beth, what you mentioned happens all the time. During chats people will just “jump” in with promo stuff because they know a good strong targeted audience is listening and watching in real time. Most of these peeps don’t know right from wrong on here. But then that also raises a good question, in that what is right from wrong? I think us marketing communication pros may feel we know best, but do we? I think we do… because these are marketing communications tools. But a lay person may beg to differ.
I agree with @Katrina, social media activities should not be run by interns (or those without deep tactical and strategy development experience I should say). I had a client hire a gal right out of college to run their social media b/c she was all they could afford in-house. She was calling me every day for 6 days straight b/c she didn’t know what to do and how to do it. Big problem here. And if I hear one more person tell me that their junior level staff members or interns are running their social media, I am going to ask what type of experience those people have in strategy development.
Unfortunately, lots of folks still think social media tools are for child’s play.
Heather Whaling says
What I find most interesting about this is that the offending (and subsequent) tweets are from Kenneth Cole himself. The account’s Twitter bio notes that tweets ending in “-KC” are from Kenneth Cole. Other tweets are from staffers. We say we want CEOs to be more present on Twitter, but I bet this is an example that will be used of why communicators prefer to manage the accounts themselves. Kenneth Cole probably had no idea how Twitter would respond — and all the negativity that would result from his ill-fated attempt at humor. Someone more in tune with networks probably (hopefully!) could have foreseen how this would quickly go from bad to worse. Wonder who had to have that conversation: “Um, Mr. Cole, check out our first page of Google results. Seems you’ve created a bit of a problem …”
Katrina Olsen says
@Leigh & @Shonali – Exactly! It’s a text book case of what not to do. I’m assuming the tweeter was fired…? A part of me sympathizes with the company for the backlash they’re having to deal with – when it was spawned by one foolish tweet…but like Shonali said, they shot themselves in the foot by not properly training their communications/marketing staffers.
Katrina Olsen says
@prTini – Wow, I missed that the tweet came from “KC.” I suppose you can’t fire yourself!
Yes, KC was insensitive.
But people are just too willing to throw anger around.
I think it’s a bit misplaced to go after someone for something as minor and isolated as this – if you’re concerned about Egypt, direct your concern there and not at random people/companies who temporarily distract you.
Mack Collier says
Michael I think that by responding within an hour, and then another hour or so later apologizing on Facebook, that really took a lot of the steam out of the ‘uprising’ on Twitter.
Remember when we had Motrin Moms, it really took off after a few hours cause they never responded. THAT became a big part of the story.
While the initial tweet was very insensitive, the response they’ve had so far to that tweet is better than a lot of companies and people that have found themselves in similar situations.
Justin Goldsborough says
I am continuously baffled by how many people — well-respected people that have built big brands — lose any inkling of common sense when they sit down in front of a computer. People say things they’d never say F2F. Or they throw business cards and message points online that they would never use at an in-person networking event. Act online as you would offline. That won’t work in every situation, but it’s a good starting point.
One of the barriers I think we have with CEOs is they feel like they should know everything. So if Kenneth Cole had/has any questions about Twitter, I’m not guessing he’s running to ask someone on his PR team. He probably feels like he should know the answers. Maybe today will change his mind and if so, that’s a good thing.
Duong Sheahan says
I saw this tweet, and thought it was tasteless and thoughtless, yes. But since the tweet, he has apologize. I’m bet he learned a very valuable lesson and what the power of 140 characters can do in a few short hours.
I think people need to move on now. Everyone makes mistakes even the best of the best and most well respected people.
lanka news, lanka newspapers says
nice post, looks really good!Thanks for it.
I like how you spoke your truth about this WITHOUT throwing KC under the bus.
I think many of us (definitely myself included) have made mistakes on SM and Twitter.
It is a great reminder that we’re all learning together and that we should LISTEN and LEARN as much as we tweet — listen to and learn regarding “the overall conversation” (SM and how to leverage) as well as having a certain level of understanding re. the topics or #’s we are tweeting about.
Kelly (@Twylah and @itskellykim)
Mack Collier says
Thank you Kelly. KC screwed up, and has attempted to make amends for it. This will likely be a non-issue by Monday, as it should be.
I purposely did NOT want to go overboard on slamming KC because we as SM consultants and agencies need to be VERY mindful of not sending mixed signals to companies. We can’t tell companies to be human with social media, then crucify them when they make a human mistake. All that leads to is them having their lawyers approve everything they blog/tweet, then we go back to slamming them for not sounding human.
There has to be a tradeoff. KC made a mistake yesterday, but then again every consultant that has written about this topic has as well, including me. As with much in life, it’s not about the mistake, but how you HANDLE it that counts. KC did better than most in handling the controversy yesterday.