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3/10/2011
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Chrysler Addresses Twitter Foul-Up

Automaker takes steps to protect its brand after a social media agency employee -- since fired -- posted an offensive tweet on its feed.

Underscoring the fine line corporations tread when using social media to communicate with customers and partners, Chrysler on Wednesday said its social media agency fired an employee who posted a message containing an expletive on the automaker's Twitter account.

"The embarrassing flap is a look into the dangers that can come with having official corporate profiles across a bevy of social networks -- many of which are handled by third-party marketing agencies," wrote Mark W. Smith of the Detroit Free Press.

The post -- retweeted by several Twitter users -- appeared under the ChryslerAuto Twitter handle. In a blog posting on Wednesday afternoon, Chrysler addressed the issue, citing an employee at its social media agency, New Media Strategies, as the source of the tweet.

"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 blog said. "Furthermore, the company has set in place appropriate steps to ensure that this does not happen again."

Chrysler's Twitter account had 8,072 followers this morning, and had posted 1,488 tweets. Not surprisingly, the company immediately removed the offensive post. "Our apologies -- our account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it," the company's Twitter account said early on Wednesday morning, after the original tweet was removed.

Some people -- many of whom say they work in social media -- who responded to Chrysler's blog were critical of New Media Strategies' removal of the employee, citing it as an overly heavy-handed response to a rookie error of mistakenly posting a personal tweet to a client's account.

"Reprimand the guy/girl for sure, but firing is a bit extreme. You missed the opportunity to turn it into good. 'Wow, sorry about that errant tweet -- we're getting to the bottom of it.' 'Hey, but are we really that bad of drivers here? Submit your story here {link} and you might win a {insert prize here}' Involve your followers. Yes apologize, but this reaction was so predictably corporate!" suggested EyeOnAnnapolis.

Those working in social media should not post negative tweets on their own accounts because potential employers and clients review these sites as part of their due diligence, said blog commenter Margaret.

"As someone who is in a similar position of managing several accounts for an agency while managing my own account, I would honestly never even think of posting something like that! This person is basically working for Chrysler... Why on earth would you post something to your own account that's so negative and counter-productive to your client's campaign and image? When you're in the field of social media, I think it's best to think twice about your personal social media image and what that can portray, whether you mention who your company and clients are or not. Companies looking to hire someone in social media generally will look at your personal Twitter account! At the end of the day, I say be careful what you post on any account," she said.

Others thought Chrysler did do enough and should, instead, have dropped the entire agency. "I would have gone further and sacked NMS and employed an agency that could do their job," said Plastik.

It is not the first time a corporate Twitter account has run afoul. In February, the Red Cross tweeted "when we drink we do it right" under the hashtag #gettingslizzered, and designer Kenneth Cole used the unrelated hashtag #Cairo to generate interest for his spring clothing line, generating anger, the Huffington Post said.

Brands should carefully consider who is overseeing their social media campaigns: After all, 60% of consumers polled follow at least one brand via a social network, according to a December 2010 study by Empathica, a developer of customer experience management solutions.

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