Ok, ok. Someone probably DID stuff up over at Carat Australia when they made Virgin Australia call out Kanye West by suggesting he vary his diet somewhat: "EAD you douche". Not really the best look for a brand like Virgin Australia (to its nearly 250,000 followers), even if the majority of people wholeheartedly agree with the errant tweet. But in my opinion, it's not a hangable offence either. In fact, had the tweet been a little less icky and a little more creative, I would have definitely believed that Virgin Australia endorsed it.
Which is why I asked some astute PR pros and communication experts how something like this happens and what this really means for Virgin Australia. Here's what they came up with.
Founder and Managing Director of WordStorm Public Relations Monica Rosenfeld lays the bulk of the blame on the practice of using social media on a handheld device. She said this drastically increases the risk of just this type of accident.
"For this reason, many social media agencies will use a separate work mobile to be logged in to work accounts at all times. In this instance I think a Carat employee was using twitter on their iPhone and didn’t check that they were logged in to their personal account."
But Rosenfeld doesn't feel the Virgin Australia brand has been damaged as much as Carat's.
"Funnily enough, the response to Virgin on social media has been quite positive, with many people saying they will fly Virgin more often after this," she said. (Aren't we a fickle bunch?)
"Luckily a brand like Virgin is more likely to get away with something like this than, say a bank, or university or even any other airline. Brands should look to inject some personality into their social media presence, but this has to be carefully executed.
"If the comments were deliberate and left on their account I think more people would consider the language used offensive."
But what about Carat and their reaction? Rosenfeld said she thought that perhaps the agency's reaction was a little on the slow side.
"The agency responded about 24 hours after the incident occurred. In this time it had already made global headlines and national media speculated that the account had been hacked.
"In a situation like this where something has gone wrong it is of the utmost importance for the agency to apologise and take full responsibility as soon as possible."
Philip Brookes, Managing Director of Aktiv Tactics, stressed that, had Carat not acknowledged that they accidentally sent this tweet, the possibility that the account was hacked was a real one.
"Organisations are frequently lax with changing passwords after staff leave, and other security procedures for account management of external services."
He also hightlighted that it's impractical to have multiple levels of approval yet still remain "lithe and nimble". A timely reminder to change your client accounts' passwords regularly.
But he too agrees with Rosenfeld that Virgin hasn't suffered any fall out as a result of the tweet.
"A lot of people are amused, and in a few days it will be mostly forgotten." However, if "Virgin made a habit of this, they would likely tarnish their reputation. Fun and good humour is different to taking a personal dig at any person, celebrity or otherwise. But as a one-off they can certainly get away with it."
Brookes feels that "cheeky" is actually part of Virgin's brand identity. Nonetheless, the apology was a wise move.
" ...at the very least, it's a form of insurance" and "helps to curb the negative responses of those who may consider the post distasteful," he said.
So while some tweeps were considering NOT flying Virgin because they removed the tweet and wanted the person responsible to be given a raise, I feel the stinging lesson felt by that unfortunate Carat team member will definitely leave a mark.