By now, the @VodafoneUK story which broke on Friday afternoon is, to many of us, well known. However, has this really damaged the reputation of the brand or has it had the adverse affect?

On Monday, @Lakey (Can you see how we’re now using Twitter handles instead of names. Most odd) wrote an interesting post on the story which encouraged Dan, a Vodafone representative, to respond, and fair play to Vodafone for doing so. There is mixed opinion about how well Vodafone handled the aftermath because there is no fixed “process” on dealing with such situations.

However, I believe something really positive has come out of this, which may benefit Vodafone and other organisations embracing social media…

Someone at Vodafone clearly had that Friday feeling. All excited about what the weekend could bring, they decided to tell their friends on Twitter. Unfortunately, they told many more people than they intended to and did it via their company’s Twitter account.

Imagine that panic fuelled, heart racing, realisation after the tweet had been sent to thousands of people; accompanied by the frantic search for “delete”, “undo” and “recall” surely there must be something to save my backside!!

Alas, there is no such functionality. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Even if you do delete the tweet from you own computer, it has already been replicated thousands of times on your follower’s Twitter screens. Looking for a big hole to swallow them up, which never appears, the offending tweeter had no option but to hold their hand up and hang their head in shame.

Internal conversations must have focused upon the tarnishing of the brand name; the creation of a reputation management issue; how could you do such a silly thing? Lots of raised voices and most probably a lot of giggling amongst the Vodafone Team.

The harsh and honest reality is…we’ve all done it. Warranted with much less visibility and impact; but there’s been a number of times when I’ve sent out a tweet from the wrong or multiple accounts on Tweetdeck. It is so easily done.

Deep down, I suspect many people are empathising with the poor soul in Vodafone and wondering how Vodafone will react. If I may suggest something, I’d like to see that person’s employment at Vodafone kept intact and for Vodafone to be human about it.

There is a great opportunity for a very personable PR exercise (and many other things), demonstrating that we should all be able to laugh at ourselves; as opposed to being far too corporate and serious about it. Vodafone could lead by example here.

Social media with all its instant “updates” is a medium where mistakes will happen. Ideally, not too often, and there is a need for companies to have social media guidelines. However, human errors will occur and by doing so, will demonstrate that there are real people, with real personalities, like you and me, behind the corporate face.

Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to divert from scripts and rigourous communications processes. Isn’t this what the social web is all about? Online organisations recognising this fact have the opportunity to build stronger relations with their customers and attract new ones. People relate to people.

I suspect Vodafone will come out of this in a very positive way, especially with the honesty they demonstrated after the incident occurred. Although the @mentions to everyone did turn up the Twitter decibels somewhat, I’m pretty sure they will look back at last Friday very fondly in the months to come, even if it doesn’t feel like that at the moment.