Dark Knight Terror: When Automated Tweets #Fail

Context is king.

It’s one thing to provide enough context when explaining yourself, but it’s quite another to ensure that what you say won’t potentially be taken out of context. The latter is something that both the NRA and CelebBoutique learned the hard way last Friday.

The American Rifleman, the official journal of the National Rifle Association, published on its Twitter feed this past Friday at 6:20am PT the following:

While a fairly typical tweet from them, the message came the morning after the Aurora, Colorado, theater Dark Knight Rises shootings and, given the timing, appeared to make light of the shootings. Unsurprisingly, the tweet sparked considerable outrage, with hundreds of users –including filmmaker Michael Moore– pointing their followers to it. The NRA, however, wasn’t alone in appearing insensitive to the tragedy. CelebBoutique.com –”the online boutique loved by your fave celebs”– took the “Aurora” trending topic as an opportunity to promote its Kim Kardashian-inspired dress:


Twitter users again unleashed an avalanche of criticism here:

There are clear lessons to be learned in each of these cases. With the first, a spokesman for the NRA, in a statement to CNN, said that a single individual, unaware of the events in Colorado, scheduled a tweet in advance that is “now being completely taken out of context.” Lesson: While scheduling tweets may be fine and dandy if you’re Pepsi, an organization as polarizing and contentious as the NRA should definitely be sensitive of what’s happening in the world before posting and shouldn’t ever automate.

In CelebBoutique’s case, the company is UK-based and too quickly posted after seeing that “Aurora” was trending. Lesson: Take the minute to check why a topic is trending before joining the conversation.

But, both at least did the right thing by apologizing and deleting the tweets. The same can’t be said of one reporter/blogger this past September 11. The writer covers deals and startups, and apparently uses a service for automatically posting tweets, as she posted every five minutes exactly throughout that day. The thing was, her tweets about an investment roundtable appeared while surrounded by heartfelt tweets related to 9/11. It was jarring to see posts so out of tune with the social stream. She’d have done better to disable the auto-posts. Again, this is a case of not testing the waters or simply overusing automation. This is no different from what our client Attensity sees with customer service departments being too heavily dependent on automated messages going out to distraught customers.

So, whether it’s Twitter we’re talking about or a customer service department, there needs to be a balance with automation and a better understanding of the surroundings.

Jordan Hubert can be reached at jhubert@sterlingpr.com. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jahubert.

Photo credits: in.house.media