Kenneth Cole/Cairo Twitter Debacle: Businesses Learn A Valuable Social Media Lesson

March 3rd, 2011 by Search Influence Alumni

Last month, the world saw their attention turned to Egypt and watched media coverage unfold as its citizens protested in an effort to force long-term President Hosni Mubarak out of office. Subsequently, and like most hot button topics, the issue carried over to both Facebook and Twitter and lingered on them for several weeks.

Retailer and clothing designer Kenneth Cole found himself joining in on the social media coverage of the issue by posting a tweet that read: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at”. Almost immediately Kenneth Cole found himself in a firestorm of controversy, with those criticizing him for his tasteless tweet in an effort to promote his business and attaching it to a controversial issue. Just a few hours after the tweet, he issued an apology, admitting that it was inappropriate and insensitive.      


Businesses are increasingly finding it more challenging to promote their products and services in social media, all while catching the consumer’s attention within a barrage of other competing businesses with Twitter handles and the same, if not better promotion tactics. With trending topics and hashtags changing every few hours, particularly on Twitter it is tempting for a business to attach themselves to a “topic of the moment” in order to gain consumers’ attention. Not to mention, the message has to be in 140 characters or less.

While businesses use social media tools even more to increase their business and platform, it’s important to keep a fine line of staying away from controversial topics that might offend potential customers.

Social media is a powerful tool that one can use for good or bad. Since its inception I’ve seen several celebrities “killed off” on Twitter more than I care to admit. I have also seen plenty of hashtags that made its way to trending topics that one might find very off-putting and offensive.

Still, with these challenges that businesses might face to “keep up,” it forces them to become even more creative with their tweets to consumers and keep them engaged with future sales and upcoming events.

Another byproduct of a business or individuals receiving negative feedback from a tweet is the creation of mock accounts, which usually spoofs the original account and its owner. Of course, Kenneth Cole wasn’t an exception. An account named @FakeKennethCole. was created and sent out a series of tweets which poked fun at the situation. Surely, businesses would not want to see themselves being made fun of. They probably would also not want consumers to get confused about a mock account being one that was part of the actual business.        

 Fake Kenneth Cole account that was spawned out of the controversy.

Overall, businesses learned an important lesson using social media and the actions and words that should be carefully reviewed before clicking the post button.