A Lesson on Social Media Damage Control, Take Two

During the protests in Egypt, designer Kenneth Cole was given a strong lesson in how not to use recent events on Twitter to self promote, and thanks to some quick actions and ownership of his mistake, recovered. Now Microsoft may need to look to the designer for some damage control lessons.

After the horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Microsoft’s Bing search engine posted a ‘retweet’ challenge – they will donte $1 for every @bing retweet up to $100,000 for quake victims.


Oops. Backlash started pretty quickly as people accused Microsoft of using the disaster to promote their search engine and their “corporate citizenship” page, which shows how Microsoft is helping Japan.

Meanwhile, Bing’s competitor Google created a popular people finder for those trying to find friends and relatives in the disaster, and released their satellite images to help resources on the ground find those in the most amount of danger. No retweet challenge or marketing plan needed because these services are worthwhile and deployed during times of need.

Bing’s Twitter team later apologized for their tweet, claiming their intention was to make it easy for people to donate to the cause. Their original tweet, however, was not deleted and continues to be retweeted, even by Bing’s celebrity spokespeople like Ryan Seacrest. In other words, this marketing plan continues despite admitting to an error.

You may remember something like this happened only a few weeks ago when designer Kenneth Cole tweeted inappropriately that the protests in Egypt were actually people excited about his new collection. He quickly recovered from this by owning up to the mistake, removing the original tweet and stating it was his personal error. No excuses.

How can Microsoft recover?

– delete the RT challenge tweet

– add “how to donate” to their Bing homepage

– use their expertise to create a tool that helps the cause

Is this a marketing fail by Microsoft, or just a misguided attempt to raise awareness of how to donate funds to the cause? How else could Microsoft help? While you’re thinking of this, please also consider donating as there’s nothing worse than analyzing a company’s $100K donation when you haven’t given anything yourself.

How to donate:

Canadians wishing to help support relief efforts underway are encouraged to contribute by:

  • Donating online
  • Calling 1-800-418-1111
  • By texting the word ASIA to 30333 to make a one-time donation of $5*
  • By contacting their local Red Cross office. Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked “Japan Earthquake/Asia-Pacific Tsunami” and mailed to the Canadian Red Cross National Office, 170 Metcalfe Street, Suite 300, Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2P2.

Americans can donate: text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation