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Learn from Big-Business Mistakes in Social Media Commerce

Mistakes or gaffes made on social media can haunt you or your business for a long time. Both Google and Microsoft's Bing integrate social data from Twitter and Facebook into their search results. In addition, since March 2006, the Library of Congress has been permanently archiving all public Tweets on Twitter.

Make it difficult for you or someone who posts for your company to accidentally send a post from the wrong social media account. Keep your personal Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts on one app or platform and the business side on another. This setup makes posting a little more inconvenient but can save you from embarrassing mix-ups.

Here are some true stories that will illustrate some pitfalls of hiring someone to Tweet for your business.

A Chrysler social media gaffe

Traffic can be a challenge for the best of us. People often use their smartphones to make voice-to-Tweet comments about the crummy traffic they have to deal with daily. Every major city has its challenges when driving, and Detroit, home of America's automobile manufacturers, is no exception.

During a particularly tough drive to work one day, an employee of New Media Strategies (the social media agency for Chrysler) dropped the f-bomb in a Tweet, below. He likely thought he was Tweeting from his personal account — but he wasn't. He was Tweeting from the official @ChryslerAutos brand account.

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The Tweet was deleted as soon as it was discovered, but not before it was reTweeted by many others.

The Chrysler account bounced back with an apology, assuming their account had been compromised (a fairly safe assumption on first blush). But after a swift investigation, they learned the truth. The agency staffer lost his job, and Chrysler ended their contract with the agency.

By 3 p.m. that day, Chrysler posted a blog entry stating that the employee who sent out the vulgar Tweet had been terminated. They also wrote an apology: "Chrysler Group and its brands do not tolerate inappropriate language or behavior, and apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this communication."

The lesson to be learned: Keep your private accounts separate from your personal accounts.

The way a mis-Tweet is handled publicly can go a long way in a positive or a negative direction for a brand's reputation. A creative response can turn a gaffe into a blessing.

Red Cross social media gaffe

Late one February night in 2011, a slip of the finger sent a mis-Tweet from the American Red Cross Twitter account. As shown in this image, someone named Ryan was doing it right with some beer. Within a half hour, Wendy Harman, director of social strategy, was awoken from her sleep and was on the case.

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An hour later, the Tweet was deleted and replaced with self-deprecating humor and an endearing Tweet that diffused the situation:

"We've deleted the rogue Tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we've confiscated the keys."

However, enough people had seen the Tweet that #gettngslizzered became a trending topic on Twitter. Dogfish Head Brewery (the brand of beer mentioned in the Tweet) started reTweeting, asking for donations to the Red Cross.

The next day, the Red Cross posted the following to their blog:

"While we're a 130-year-old humanitarian organization, we're also made of up human beings. Thanks for not only getting that but for turning our faux pas into something good."

The lesson to be learned: Not every brand is lucky enough to have someone like Wendy Harman to handle their social media. Your social media responses need to be posted by someone invested in her job and your business. Immediate response with a mea culpa shows you're human, and humor can make an impropriety endearing.

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