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Epicurious: You can’t fix what happened in Boston with cranberry scones

A message to Epicurious, and any brand using social media: Not everything is about you.

I often talk about the rule of thirds and why it’s important. On Twitter, it is a way to divide your content so you don’t talk about the same thing all the time.

  • One third of the time, talk about your brand.
  • One third of the time, post about your areas of expertise but from a different source.
  • One third of time, be you.

It’s not rocket science, actually, it’s just common sense. And if you stick to it you’ll find much success.

Epicurious, a website about food, needs to read about the rule of thirds. Believe me, the people who do social media for that brand have ever heard of it. How do I know? Well, take this tweet:

scott-kleinberg-boston-epicurious1“In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones! [LINK TO RECIPE]”

No, @epicurious, you may not. Because to do so on Twitter while a city, state and country are mourning a national tragedy would be insensitive, horrific and just plain dumb.

And yet they did it anyway.

Stupid, clueless brands. Seriously, I’m tired of all the excuses. Anyone who does social media for a living, especially when they are doing it for business, needs to be aware of how to use the equipment and use it correctly. And if you can’t do it, don’t do it. To err is human and we all make mistakes, but how many times are we going to make the exact same mistake and blame it on the learning curve? Or blame it on inexperience? I still die laughing whenever I read or think about this.

In this case, you can just tell how it happened. It probably went something like this:

Clueless person 1: “Awww, gee. I wish there was a way to work our content into all this talk about Boston, I mean it’s just getting all pushed down by the news.”

Clueless person 2: “Seriously. Well, you know … it is early and those people probably aren’t thinking about breakfast.”

Clueless person 1 and 2 in unison: “BUT EVERYONE LOVES CRANBERRIES!”

They don’t. They really don’t.

scott-kleinberg-boston-epicurious2In this case, the story actually gets worse. There were two apologies, and the first one was really bad:

“We truly regret that our earlier food tweets seemed insensitive. Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Boston.”

Seemed insensitive? No, was insensitive. And when the company tried to reply to all the people who said the same thing, they replied by cutting and pasting the exact same tweet. So far today, @epicurious has pretty much broken every social media rule.

Later, someone with some social media experience stepped in and tried to fix the damage with this tweet:

“Our food tweets this morning were, frankly, insensitive. Our deepest, sincere apologies.”

Damn skippy.

What an absolutely horrific avoidable mess this was. Sometimes it takes a mistake of this level to truly learn, but as I said above I’m tired of the excuses. And seriously, someone teach these people the rule of thirds! Almost all of their tweets somehow come back to content from Epicurious. I love food, but I don’t need everything to be a recipe.

So what next? Well, as with any similar situation, people forget and life returns to normal. It should, but brands guilty of such social media crimes should have to do the time and learn. Here are some things I would suggest:

1. Google “KitchenAid social media” and read everything you can find about how that brand screwed up and quickly fixed it. That’s what you want to strive to every day.

2. Use the rule of thirds. Talk to your almost 400,000 followers like they are real people. And enough with the recipes!

3. Train your staff. And if you aren’t capable of doing the training, find someone who is.

4. Draft a crisis communication plan and use it.

And thanks for ruining cranberry scones for me. Now I won’t be able to enjoy them without thinking of work. Sigh.

About Scott Kleinberg

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  1. Guarantee the tweet was probably queued up for an auto-push. But I 100% agree with everything you said. And even if it was queued up, that no excuse.

  2. Completely agree! What on earth is wrong with these people? This is why I don’t say I work in marketing, because dumb asses like these do! Seriously? Scones? Oh yeah that’s really a good link you made there @epicurious – please leave the Internet!