Errant Disney Tweet Reveals Perils Of Social Media

Open Jaw

In the past, big, successful brands maintained tight control of their messaging. Advertising, press releases and other B2C and B2B communications were carefully scrutinized before being approved and sent out.

In today’s social media-driven world, when tweets and Facebook posts come flying out in real time, the potential for erroneous messaging has multiplied. Every company wants attention, and sometimes the best way to get it is to say something that pushes the envelope.

Social media staff are often young and can lack the experience to understand the nuances of their messaging. A case in point came this week, when a tweet from Disney consumer products division Disney Living was sent out to its 174,000 followers. The Tweet read:

Hang up on the travel agent. This is all you need to know:

The 1st link leads to a story on the Disney Insider website about Disney Cruise Line’s recently announced ‘Star Wars Day At Sea,’ coming to the line’s ships next year. The 2nd link led to a photo of Star Wars characters – which has since been removed, as was the tweet.

Since travel agents are important partners for Disney Cruise Line, the tweet was highly offensive to a key sales channel, who would understandably see it as encouragement for consumers to book direct. It was quickly picked up by John Frenaye of Travel Research Online, who reported his disappointment in an editorial on that site, titled “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

But here’s the thing. Disney is committed to the travel agency sales channel – at least as much as any supplier is. It invests resources and pays commissions on park visits, resort stays and Disney cruises. Disney Cruise or Disney Parks would never send out such a tweet.

The offending tweet was removed as soon as it was brought to the attention of someone with a better understanding of how things work, and while Disney doesn’t want to comment on the incident, its staff who deal with the travel trade were clearly mortified. This is a company that has done an amazing job of promoting and protecting its brands over the years.

In the end, it’s not such a big deal. The tweet didn’t attract that much attention and presumably little damage was done. But if this can happen to Disney, how do the rest of us manage our brands on social media and avoid making a potentially disastrous faux pas?

Social media is still young, and companies are busy trying to determine the return on investment for their Twitter and Facebook efforts. Some older staff may not quite ‘get it,’ when it comes to social media, while the younger, more social-savvy staff may not quite ‘get’ the potential ramifications of an offhand comment.

But one thing is becoming clear: social media need to be as closely monitored as any other form of brand communications. While tweets may seem to be here one minute and gone the next, if they go wrong, the damage can be lasting.

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