Perhaps you noticed in the news this month that Home Depot has been dealing with a bit of a social media crisis. In case you missed it, you can read the story here. Essentially, Home Depot, as part of a partnership with College Game Day, tweeted a photo of three young men playing Home Depot bucket drums before a game but didn’t think through the connotations very well. Unsurprisingly, people were offended.

While Home Depot is far from the first brand to post an offensive tweet, there are still lessons to be learned from how they responded, both showing what to do and what not to do.

What Home Depot did right:

  • Quickly deleted the tweet and apologized, admitting that it was a “dumb” thing to post.
  • They explained clearly what steps were taken, which included firing those responsible for the post.
  • They were clear in their communication across all channels that they deemed the content unacceptable, including responding to individuals on Twitter.

What Home Depot could have improved upon:

  • Their approach to responding on Twitter (where the issue originated) was robotic, as they posted the same response over and over to every person tweeting about the incident, making the brand look inhuman and perhaps insincere.

The key takeaway from the incident is that brands are clearly attempting to more effectively engage with their target audiences via Twitter and other social media channels. Many are having great success, but brands should not be doing this without a concrete plan—or even a half-baked plan for that matter. The core tenet of crisis communications planning deals with anticipating everything that could go wrong beforehand, and mapping out a precise approach for when it does. While Home Depot’s response to this crisis was fairly effective, shortening the lifespan of the crisis and minimizing blowback, it could have been better had they thought through key messaging and channel strategy in advance.

What are your thoughts on Home Depot’s predicament?