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Published by Kevin O'Keefe, CEO & Founder of LexBlog

What lawyers and law firms can learn from KitchenAid's social media debacle

October 4, 2012

The Internet is a fast moving and unforgiving place.

The appliance maker, KitchenAid (@KitchenAidUSA), learned this after a tasteless tweet regarding the President’s grandmother was sent from their corporate Twitter account during Wednesday night’s presidential debate.

The person behind the KitchenAid tweet made the mistake of sending the tweet from the company Twitter account instead of their own personal account. Although only up for moments, it was enough time for others to re-tweet, capture and respond. In the world of social media, the “delete” button can’t be used fast enough.

Social media faux pas such as this do happen. They cost people their jobs and create PR nightmares. But this situation could have been easily avoided.

Scott Kleinberg (@scottkleinberg) Social Media Editor for The Chicago Tribune, shares three ways to avoid such a social media dilemma . Lawyers and law firms may wish to make note of them.

  1. Until Twitter applications have tools that effectively segregate personal accounts from business accounts, all companies should consider requiring the use of two separate Twitter applications for the those Tweeting under the corporate brand; one for your personal Twitter account and the other for the company Twitter account. This may be more of a hassle but it will definitely lesson the chances of a KitchenAid nightmare. Applications such as Hootsuite do allow you to manage multiple accounts from one login point. However, they do not keep the accounts neatly segregated. Better to use Hootsuite for only business accounts and another application such as TweetDeck for personal accounts.
  2. All employees should be trained on how they should tweet and what they should tweet, even after business hours. Social media by its very nature means communication and engagement with one’s target audience, during and after business hours. Not all tweets can be scheduled and pre-approved by another person ahead of time; this is why social media training is vital for employees.
  3. Have a social media crisis management plan. The Internet is very fast, you won’t have time once something like this happens to sit down and figure out the best solution.

KitchenAid’s senior director of branding, Cynthia Soledad, handled the situation well by quickly tweeting an apology to the President, followed by an explanation.

Kleinberg makes a valid and, in some eyes, a controversial point. A point I agree with.

As an employee of the Chicago Tribune, I wouldn’t tweet anything on my personal account that I wouldn’t put in the paper. If KitchenAid had a similar rule, this probably could have been avoided.

I’d have the same rule for your law firm. Lawyers and other professionals ought not to be tweeting anything from their personal account that the firm would not want its target audience of clients, prospective clients, and the influencers of those two audiences to see.

Sure, we are entitled to our personal opinions. But is broadcasting them on social media platforms worth putting not only your job, but also the reputation of the firm you work for at risk?

A lawyer wears one hat. It is really impossible to have a personal side and a professional side. They’re both one in your clients and prospective clients eyes. Expressing poor judgment or bad taste and then claiming that was you personally and not you as a lawyer or on behalf of your law firm is not going to fly.

Be prudent and wise. Rather than using separate accounts and applications for personal and business Twitter accounts, don’t say or share anything via social media which could damage your reputation or the reputation of your law firm. Anywhere. Anytime.

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