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Don't Take the Twitter Joke Too Far

March 1, 2011  
On February 3, Kenneth Cole used Twitter to send the following message: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at –KC" (According to @kennethcole's bio, the initials KC denote personal tweets.) Unfortunately for the designer—famous for his progressive politics—the joke didn't go over so well.

Cole's perceived insensitivity to Egypt's political turmoil lit up Twitter timelines with harsh criticism—and spawned a satirical @kennethcolepr account with tweets like these:

  • "People of Australia: Water up to your ankles? We've got your Kenneth Cole capris right here!"
  • "Our Tucson store is locked and loaded with Spring looks!"
  • "People in Moscow are EXPLODING once they hear about our Fall sales"

In response, @kennethcole tweeted: "Re Egypt tweet: we weren't intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment –KC" A few hours later, when the story had gone far beyond his audience of 9,000+ followers, this message appeared: "I have removed this morning's tweet. Please visit this link to see my apology. –KC"

Writing at Mediabistro, Tonya Garcia notes, "Response on the Facebook page (and continued nonstop tweets), however, show it will take more than an apology to reverse this PR catastrophe. As one popular tweet puts it, we’re watching a brand reputation get destroyed in real-time."

So why did Cole's joke appear so unseemly when Twitter had been inundated with Egypt-related humor for much of the previous week? It probably had something to do with the fact that his joke was being used to sell his products.

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  • by Nick Stamoulis Wed Mar 2, 2011 via web

    Managing your online reputation is more important than ever, mostly due to social media. An off-hand or off-color comment can spread like wildfire in a matter of moments and once it's out there, it can't be taken back. Employees who manage social networking accounts have to remember that they are talking on behalf of the brand, not themselves.

  • by Shanna Cramer Wed Mar 2, 2011 via web

    I would really like to see what this does to sales. You never know, this just may lead to an increase from all the publicity.

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