What KitchenAid Learned on Debate Night: Every Tweet is Forever

  • Share
  • Read Later
Phil McCarten / Reuters

An attendee tweets on a laptop as Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, Inc., gives the keynote speech at the 140: Twitter Conference LA in Los Angeles September 22, 2009.

The head of U.S.-based appliance company KitchenAid surely missed much of the presidential debate Wednesday night, forced to do damage control after a tweet published on the brand’s official account contained a disparaging remark about President Obama’s late grandmother. After Obama mentioned his grandmother, who helped raise him and died just days before the 2008 election, @KitchenAidUSA sent the following message to its 25,000 followers — now deleted, but widely preserved in hundreds of retweets.

[tweet https://twitter.com/corrinrenee/status/253674921610317824%5D

The tweet sparked a massive backlash, and KitchenAid swiftly issued an apology tweet:

[tweet https://twitter.com/KitchenAidUSA/status/253673520700198914%5D

Cynthia Soledad, KitchenAid’s senior director of branding, then took control of the KitchenAid account to issue a follow-up tweet that sought to “personally apologize” to the President and his family, as well as to “everyone on Twitter” for the “offensive tweet.”

In an email to tech website Mashable, Soledad explained that an employee had intended to tweet the message through a personal account, but mistakenly broadcast it via the corporate handle.

[tweet https://twitter.com/KitchenAidUSA/status/253708391124459520%5D

KitchenAid deleted the original tweet and apologized within eight minutes, according to SimplyMeasured and as reported by Mashable. Minutes are an eternity on Twitter, where retweets can spread like wildfire, especially during major news events — and the widely watched presidential debate at the University of Denver saw more than 10 million tweets sent while the two candidates were on stage.

KitchenAid isn’t the first brand to get burned by social media. In March 2011, a tweet from Chrysler used inappropriate language in describing Detroit drivers. It was deleted immediately, but the employee behind the message was fired just as quickly.

(MORE: Obama and Romney Debate: The 9 Best Tweets)

It is difficult for Twitter users to simply delete ill-advised tweets because of how rapidly they can be disseminated by your followers. Sysomos Inc. research reveals that 92.4 percent of all retweets occur within the first hour of a published tweet’s existence, and 96.9 percent of all replies also happen within the first hour. Tweets can be preserved in the form of screenshots and passed around long after the original message has been removed, and social media search engines like Topsy keep logs of public tweets — even those that were deleted. When U.K. journalist Guy Adams faced repercussions this year for tweeting the personal e-mail address of NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel, his gaffe could still be found on Topsy after his account was shut down completely, according to Bloomberg News.

Still, perhaps the adage that any attention is good attention holds true; both KitchenAid and Chrysler both saw major boosts in their Twitter followers after their mishaps — though perhaps the new followers are just hoping to see another tweet blunder.

MORE: 11 Tweets That Led to a Whole Mess of Legal Trouble