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US Airways Twitter Scandal: Whoops, sorry about that

Whoops, sorry about that
Jenny Rudd, Head of Content at MOSH, New Zealand's leading social media agency comments on the pressure to be perfect for social media community managers following the pornographic image posted on the US Airways Twitter feed.

This week everyone had a good laugh at the expense of US Airways. An opinionated customer had made their feelings known on the US Airways Twitter site in fairly unorthodox fashion by posting a picture of a naked woman with a US Airline model aircraft inserted into her vagina. The picture was captured and flagged as inappropriate. In response to a separate query, a US Airline employee then reposted the picture by accident and it remained on their Twitter feed for just under an hour. One can only imagine the scene as that employee returned from a tea break and had a quick flick through their social media sites to check on any activity only to see his or her horrifying error.

There are a number of amusing elements to it, not least the imaginative self expression of the naked lady. Her point is unclear but loudly stated. Whenever a large company has to apologise, everyone has a good old smug giggle but often these kind of errors are made by one person. That person isn't a fat cat whose pockets are lined with plump bonuses but rather someone just like you and me who has a normal wage, works hard and is sometimes under pressure to perform a number of tasks simultaneously and so doesn't have the time to thoroughly check each task. Running social media definitely sits in this category. There is a great deal of planning involved as well as reacting to activity on each platform employed. It is heartening to see that US Airways apologised and then made it clear the employee wouldn't be fired for the error.

Social media specialists are often employed by companies who have much less experience in this area than the new employee. As such, processes and guidelines don't exist and are learnt along the way. There is immense pressure to respond in exactly the right way on social media platforms, maintaining the integrity of the company whilst placating the customer all in full view of the public. Some enterprises have fantastic social media guidelines such as Dell who have five main principles: 1. Protect information, 2. Be transparent and disclose, 3. Follow the law, follow the code of conduct, 4. Be responsible, 5. Be nice, have fun and connect. Intel's guidelines are similar, including encouragement to own up to mistakes quickly and to be upfront about it.

Continued support for community managers is paramount to encourage these employees to feel confident in their roles and that the company will support them should their be a glaring gaffe such as the US Airways mistake.


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