Twitter Marketing Gone Bad: A Cautionary Tale

Almost every digital marketer understands how powerful Twitter and other social media platforms are as marketing tools. Within seconds, marketers or businesses can connect in real-time with their target audiences.

When used properly, marketers or companies can easily enhance their brand and improve their overall reputation by responding to complaints and staying current in the eyes of their consumers. But, when used improperly, social media platforms can be used to garner national media attention for all the wrong reasons. Within seconds, a digital marketing effort can cause havoc that can cost a businesses or professionals their hard-earned reputations.

A local anchor for Fox Philadelphia recently sent a tweet that started a firestorm, she certainly didn’t see coming. Joyce Evans tweeted on October 6, 2013, “Thought ‘Breaking Bad’ was hot last Sunday? @FOX29philly See who’s breakin’ bad in SW Philly leavin’ 6 people SHOT — Tonite at Ten.”

Just two days later, the tweet has more than 5,000 retweets and 1,826 favorites. While the numbers may sound great, they are the result of the immediate backlash of the public. Furious Twitter users replied with comments explaining that a man had lost his life and the comparison to a fictional television show was in extreme poor taste. In less than 140 poorly written characters, the Philadelphia anchor saw her credibility plummet in the eyes of her audience.

As of Nov. 18, the tweet was still on her newsfeed. As of Oct. 8, Evans had only tweeted four times since the story teaser and every tweet was telling individual followers that they misunderstood the intentions of her post. (Only one of the four remained on Nov. 18.) While it’s clear Evans should have never chosen to sensationalize a murder to attract viewers, failing to apologize and get in front of the story is a public relations nightmare. Evans should have deleted the tweet and apologized to anyone she may have offended. Deciding to tell the public that they misunderstood, only further disparages her credibility in the news medium.

The story of Evans is a cautionary tale with a clear message; don’t get out of your lane without thinking it through first. The public follows a local news anchor for local news. They aren’t looking for a comedian who pokes fun at the death of a local man in a gunfight in their city. Every business or public personality should consider the core message before hitting “tweet.” Everything said or done on social media should be written to strengthen the core brand of the individual.

It’s clear that the tweet by Evans was a poor decision. However, the idea of using a trending topic and spinning it to hook in an audience is an excellent marketing tool. It’s done successfully almost every day, but pausing for a moment to consider the repercussions of a tweet can help prevent disaster.

Kenneth Wisnefski is president and CEO of Mount Laurel, N.J.-based WebiMax, an Internet marketing product and services provider. Reach him at