The NFL’s Washington Redskins, battling increased pressure to change a team name that many consider a racial slur, launched a social media campaign; and depending where you checked, it either looked like a disaster or a good way to rally support.
Last week, 50 U.S. senators, most notably majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), signed a letter to the NFL urging that the team be forced to change its name.
Yesterday, the Redskins responded on Twitter and Facebook, asking fans to tell Reid and Congress to back off. The Redskins’ tweet has received the most attention and coverage.
Tweet @SenatorReid to show your #RedskinsPride and tell him what the team means to you.
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) May 29, 2014
Hey @Redskins and @HarryReid! To me #redskinspride is about normalizing overt racism in the 21st century. Did I do this right @Redskins ? — Bart Johnston (@MBJohnston12) May 29, 2014
A really poor grasp of social media marketing? RT @Redskins: Tweet @SenatorReid to show #RedskinsPride & tell him what the team means to you — Hugh C. McBride (@hughcmcbride) May 29, 2014
But the Redskin name got much more support on its Facebook post about the issue. The overwhelming majority of 1,200+ comments support keeping the name. Some samples:
Of course, social media is a crude tool for the gauging of public opinion, but if brands needed a reminder of how messages are received on the two main social networks, this is a great one. Facebook is much more of a closed system for communicating with fans, so it’s no surprise that a post on the team’s official page would draw supportive comments.
On Twitter, a brand is opening itself up to critics — not incidentally some of the smartest and most witty residents of the online world. In that environment, creating a hashtag campaign is a recipe for failure, like spraying gasoline on a blowtorch. And adding insult to injury from a P.R. standpoint, the Twitter reaction is the one most likely to be written about on news sites, which is clearly the case here: