Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Trouble With A Tribute Tweet

Wednesday was a day of remembrance; its been twelve years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Every year on this day, millions and millions of people take to social media to pay tribute to the lives lost on that day and to proclaim that they will never forget.  However, on Wednesday, AT&T's tribute tweet was singled out and its sincerity brought into question because their tribute included an AT&T product.  They were accused of capitalizing on the tragedy.   

The image of the cellphone triggered enough outrage online that AT&T removed the tweet within the hour.  They immediately tweeted an apology; "we apologize to anyone who felt our post was in poor taste. The image was solely meant to pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy." 

I don't believe that the inclusion of a cellphone in the image was some type of covert sales operation.  I simply see it as AT&T's way of personalizing their tribute.  I think at worst, it's just a little cheesy.

So when AT&T says that "the image was solely meant to pay respect," I tend to believe them.  Yet I believe we should question their intentions on different level.  AT&T doesn't have a twitter account solely to pay its respects.  The official corporate twitter account is a business tool and marketing is one of its main functions.  It's used to generate attention and interest in the company and to deliver messages to consumers.     

I'm not saying AT&T was calculating this public relations dust up from the beginning and hoping to benefit the attention it would bring.  But I'm saying that it's straight out of the social media marketing playbook for businesses to generate attention by commenting on trending topics, which in this case, was the anniversary of an American tragedy.  Therefore, it would be disingenuous for AT&T to claim that the tweet itself was solely out of respect; whether they like it or not, there is an inherent agenda to a corporate tweet.

Social media marketers cannot forget that the intentions of corporate communication haven't changed, just their boundaries.

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