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Clorox is the latest brand to face a social media firestorm after it posted an image on Twitter of a Clorox bottle made up of emojis with the caption "New emojis are alright but where's the bleach."
Despite the fact that there were no face emojis in the graphic, some Twitter users jumped on the brand, calling the company out for being racist.
Last Wednesday a number of racially diverse emojis were added to iOS, so some users appeared to take the timing of the Clorox tweet to mean that Clorox was suggesting these new emojis be bleached white.
Maskeroni called the incident "one of Twitter's more bleachable moments" for good reason: even if it was a dud of a message, it's clear that the intent of the Clorox tweet was not malicious or racist.
Even so, Clorox eventually attempted to bleach the incident away by deleting the offending tweet and apologizing.
Wish we could bleach away our last tweet. Didn't mean to offend - it was meant to be about all the emojis that could use a clean up.— Clorox (@Clorox) April 9, 2015
Of course, many people recognized that Clorox wasn't suggesting the unsuggestable, but on social media, small fires can look like big fires, and sometimes small fires can even become big fires. Which raises a question for brands like Clorox...
In a strategic context, one could argue that the Clorox tweet was ill-advised not because there was a wrong interpretation of it under which it could be seen as being racist, but rather because it doesn't really say anything of importance.
As one commenter, Matt Maher, a Social Media Manager at ad agency Initiative, sarcastically joked, "If you're like me, when you think of quality storytelling and can't-miss content, you think of CLOROX."
Jokes aside, content for content's sake is one of the biggest problems in social media marketing today, and the Clorox backlash demonstrates why it's so important for brands to think strategically about what they post.
Obviously, a brand that sells cleaning products is probably going to have more of a difficult time producing compelling content than a brand that sells cars. This doesn't mean that Clorox and companies like it shouldn't participate in social media, but it does change the risk-reward proposition significantly and that should be top-of-mind for those responsible for making decisions about how social channels are used.