Chrysler Group & Social Media

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The Chrysler Group’s foray into social media has been a rocky one, but the company seems (at least, recently) to have gotten the idea.

But let’s start with an oops — for the exemplary purposes and because it’s funny. In 2011, Scott Bartosiewicz of New Media Strategies, a social media marketing firm out of Detroit, accidentally tweeted an expletive from the Chrysler Group’s Twitter account. Bartosiewicz thought he was logged in to his personal account and wrote, just in case you hadn’t heard by now, “I find it ironic that Detriot is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f*cking drive.” Chrysler’s mistake? Sacking New Media Strategies, which, in turn, sacked Bartosiewicz. Although Bartosiewicz should have been paying closer attention, and perhaps not have tweeted such language from either account, Chrysler missed a huge opportunity to show consumers just how hip the brand has become. Social media is not traditional outreach. It is human, and tweeting the f-bomb is a human mistake. Chysler could have taken the error in stride and used it to its advantage — sponsor a driving school, promote safety features in its vehicle lineup, etc. Frankly, this incident wasn’t nearly the PR nightmare that Chysler turned it into. I wasn’t as if Bartosiewicz tweeted that Chryslers are heaps of f*cking junk. THAT would have been a PR nightmare.

The Chrysler Group took a few risks when it entered the social media sphere, particularly on the heels of its 2009 bankruptcy. Such a move could have earned the company some serious negative publicity, raising questions as to how the company could afford social media advertising and the third-party firm hired to manage its online reputation — and whether the funds were coming from Chrysler or the US government. How did Chrysler adapt? It was transparent and tweeted frequently and honestly about the decision to file for chapter 11.

In addition, the company also took some risk when it chose to outsource its social media campaigns, instead of hiring experts in house and implementing a social media policy. Similarly, partnering with Fiat and becoming involved in Fiat’s social media campaigns was also risky, as Fiat was in the process of re-introducing its Italian autos to the American market. Despite the Twitter profanity incident, Chrysler and Fiat have used social media wisely and are better off financially in the end.

So, how would you have handled the Twitter f-bomb incident?

Szczesny, J. (2012, March 8). Chrysler scores big with social media. The Detroit Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2012/03/chrysler-scores-big-with-social-media/.

Falls, J. (2011, March 28). What Chrysler did wrong: Remembering the human side of social. Social Media Explorer. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/online-public-relations/what-chrysler-did-wrong-remembering-the-human-side-of-social/.

Elliott, S. (2011, March 15). When the marketing reach of social media backfires. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/business/media/16adco.html.

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6 responses »

  1. I feel sorry for Scott B. — while I’ve avoided the f-bomb, I have to admit to hitting the “Reply All” button to more private response to an email. Ouch. For Chrysler to sack the agency for the pithy observation of Detroit drivers seems overly harsh. I wonder what else was brewing. (By the way, I’ve lived there for most of my life and agree with Scott’s assessment and would probably include the expletive deleted when talking about the condition of the roads. )

    • I agree – there must have been something else going on. Otherwise, Chrysler demonstrated that it doesn’t really understand the “social” aspect of social media. Mistakes happen! Issue an apology and move on.

  2. I think it was crazy for them to turn into into the PR mess that they did. I have seen many times community managers make small mistakes. I think the way the company handles the situation reflects more then the actual mistake. We had an incident once where a community manager wrote a really insensitive post after the Haiti earthquake. The comment was immediately taken down and she was let go. She was not let go from this one incident though. She is suppose to get prior approval for posts. She added this one in ad hoc. In the past she has posted without approval. This was not the case of making an accidental mistake, but repeatedly making a mistake that she was given warning on.

    • Your example, in my opinion, makes more sense than Chryler’s response to the misused expletive. It was a mistake. Perhaps they’d already been having other trouble with their social media marketing firm.

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