Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 15 seconds

American-Red-CrossMany nonprofit organizations are learning the importance of harnessing the power of social media to spread the word about their causes, to encourage “buy in” from their constituents, and to solicit ideas for change. Unfortunately, mistakes do happen in the social media realm. The American Red Cross experienced just this last week, and other nonprofits can learn from the positive way that they handled what could have been a public relations nightmare.

The problem occurred when an individual from the Red Cross posted to the wrong Twitter account. Instead of posting to her own, she accidentally posted a personal message to the official Red Cross account. The message read:

“Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzered”

Obviously, the Red Cross doesn’t want to be associated with getting drunk, and the backlash from such a post could have been disasterous. But, it wasn’t. The reason is because they handled the faux pas gracefully and with humor. Once alerted to the mistake, they Tweeted the following:

“We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”

The fact that the organization owned up to the mistake immediately and did so with humor gave their audience a bit of a chuckle while also putting a human face on their organization. Rather than being upset that the people they give money to were drinking (theoretically on the job), their Twitter followers were instead impressed by the handling of the situation. In fact, it turned into a bit of a boost, with many people Tweeting that they planned to give blood or donate to the Red Cross as a result of the graceful handling of the situation.

The brewery they mentioned even got in the act, asking their fans to make donations to the organization, as well.

What can the nonprofit professional learn from what happened?

  • The social media manager for every organization needs to be very careful if they have their own account on these sites, so that “rogue posts” like this don’t happen in the first place.
  • Admit the mistake, preferably in a way that allows others to relate without actually begging for forgiveness.
  • It’s not the end of the world. When mistakes do happen, remember that they can sometimes work out OK in the end. Some organizations would have made a scapegoat of the employee, instead, the organization as a whole took responsibility and got a boost in donations that day!
  • Engage your followers and fans. As the situation unfolded, the Red Cross blogged about it and left the comments open. Most of them were positive.
Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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