Back over the summer,  I wrote a post called “What was your worst social media mistake?  What did you learn?“   If you read through the comments,  misdirected tweets (tweets sent to an organizational account, not a personal account or private message sent out to all) were the most common.      These ranged from tweeting about a favorite television show to much worse,  tweeting the “c-word

Back in November, someone in Senator Dodd’s office made this epic Twitter mistake. They apologized and moved on.  In a discussion thread about this mistake, my colleague Wendy Harman from the Red Cross said she hoped that if her organization made this mistake, she could find humor and an honest discussion.

Well, late on the evening of February 16th,  I got a DM from Wendy saying,  “The dreaded tweet!  We took care of it.”  The Red Cross managed to turn a PR disaster into a fundraising opportunity.  All because they’ve built relationships with their network over the past few years, swift action, and knowing how to deal with mistakes.   Here’s a play by play of the Twitter Faux Pas

The Red Cross admitted on its blog that it accidentally tweeted something that was intended for a personal account, not the institutional account.   That Tweet, out in the wild for about an hour,  did not go unnoticed by Twitter followers, Beer bloggers, and, of course, Wendy Harman at the Red Cross who got awakened in the middle of the night with a call from a staff person in Chicago wanting to know about the Tweet.

Thinking quickly, they did disaster recovery on the rogue Tweet.  Deleting the tweet, and replacing it with the one below.

While it was out in the wild, DogFish Beer (the subject of the original tweet) acknowledged the incident by asking fans to donate to the Red Cross on Twitter.    Given the response from its network (and DogFish Beer), the Red Cross turned this mistake into fundraiser.    They again thanked their fans for their understanding that a 130 year old humanitarian organization is made up of humans and helping them turn their faux pas into something good.    Using humor again, here’s their fundraising pitch:

Please join Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in raising money for the American Red Cross.

If you’re interested in donating a pint, please click here to learn more about Red Cross blood drives. Note: Alcohol can often make you more dehydrated. Dogfish Head recommends not drinking immediately before or after donating!


The mistake turned into a fundraiser also attracted a lot of attention and traffic to their site according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  The hashtag #gettingslizzerd, a reference to drinking too much, trended on Twitter.

Twitter mistakes are going t happen.  What can learn and put into practice to mitigate the results?

  • You can’t hide or not respond:    The Red Cross is an organization that deals with life-changing disasters.  While the errant tweet wasn’t one of them, it could have escalated into a disaster of PR kind if the Red Cross has simply deleted the tweet and ignored it.
  • Act Quickly: The rogue tweet was only out in the wild for an hour before Wendy Harman got a call.   Had the apology taken more time to set into action, this might little mistake might have been a big mistake.   Here the Red Cross has affiliates who are obviously scanning their stream across different time zones and there is obviously a “in case of Twitter emergency call …”  written down some place.
  • Admit your mistake and humanness: The Red Cross openly admitted their mistake and asked forgiveness.   Had the mistake been a lot of worse,  it might have been a different story.
  • Use Humor When Appropriate: The Red Cross dealt with the situation with humor.   Both out on social channels as well as internally.    A good laugh helps reduce embarrassment and avoids having people make fun of you because you’re doing it yourself.
  • Build Your Network Before You Need It: The Red Cross has been a model of a Networked Nonprofit and building relationships, listening, and engaging.     As a result, this mistake did not escalate into an angry crowd on Twitter.
  • Employees Should Use Different Twitter Apps for Personal/Organizational: Many Twitter apps allow us to tweet from several accounts and if you’re using them on a mobile phone, sometimes it easy to mess up in this way.   Perhaps employees who tweet personally and on behalf of the organization should use different apps for personal and organizational.     Or maybe don’t drink and Tweet.

How would your nonprofit deal with a Twitter disaster?   What is your takeaway from this mistake?