Corporate social media, as a rule, is a dicey enterprise. The bigger the corporation, the dicier the enterprise. With small start-ups, companies can afford to be off-color with humor and even brusque to the point of rude, but legacy brands–in this case, auto giant Chrysler–have minted their entire livelihood off of presenting themselves as the pinnacle of the American experience. So what happens when such a brand hires a social media AOR to handle their Twitter account and the account manager in charge of said Twitter commits a huge gaffe?
Let’s recap the events. Two days ago, an account manager from New Media Strategies in charge of manning Chrysler’s Twitter account tweeted:
I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to [expletive] drive.
That tweet led to Chrysler–understandably–canceling the rest of their contract with NMS, which in turn led to NMS firing the account manager. Auto-blog Jalopnik’s Ray Wert says that was wrong and too harsh but a legacy brand like Chrysler hasn’t minted its reputation on off-color humor and snide remarks; for decades, it’s been a mild, family-friendly brand.
And even that Super Bowl ad underscored by an Eminem-assisted soundtrack–part of Chrysler’s Imported from Detroit campaign–doesn’t make sense of the reckless account manager’s actions. Chrysler was leveraging Eminem’s image and his proclivity towards profanity. They licensed the rights to play his song during their 0:30+ TV spot.
The flippant tweet from an account manager who may have been issuing an outburst meant for his personal Twitter account? Definitely not part of Chrysler’s pro-Detroit narrative. There was no agency or committee behind that move and most of all, it’s the type of tweet that would alienate much of Chrysler’s consumer base.
While anyone could blame Chrysler for being too stodgy to smooth over this wrinkle with some quick wit, their response–corporate or otherwise–is theirs alone to make. And with social media such an emerging industry, there isn’t much wiggle room for error.