Watching the giraffes roam wildly on the plains during my recent trip to South Africa, I was reminded of the social media gaffe that Delta Airlines made back in 2014. Tweeting their congratulations to the USA team for winning their world cup game against Ghana, they used imagery of the Statue of Liberty for the USA and a giraffe for Ghana. A rather innocuous, if a tad superior mistake, it sent the internet into overdrive with rapid-fire tweets and posts quickly pointing out the fact that giraffes are not native to Ghana (nor was the Liberty gal to the US for that matter) and that a global airline should know better!
Social media can be a high stakes real-time marketing game. If you are highly visible on this platform or if you just want to utilise a trending hashtag to grow your presence, you need to be very careful about the message you are sending and the corresponding imagery. While Delta quickly deleted the offending image and tweeted an apology, even their attempt at damage control was ruinous, stating that their previous tweet was “precious”. Sadly, the brand damage was done, twice, and clearly we are still talking about it over a year later.
The people in your business who handle social media must be mindful of insensitivities and bias, especially if you are looking to take advantage of the activity around global events like the World Cup. If you are considering how trending topics relate to your brand and decide to dive in, be sure to research thoroughly, double check your assumptions and have several sets of eyes (and minds) check it before you publish.