The debut of the Asus Transformer AIO at the Computex 2012 on the official Twitter account for Asus caused a bit of a stir with this tweet:

Here we have a picture of the rear view of a shapely, well-dressed woman presenting the new Asus Transformer AIO to a crowd of interested men. While some women may tend to find this image to be offensive and sexist, some men may tend to find the image to be accurate and acceptable. This disconnect is at the heart of a digital problem that can bring an organization to its knees.

The suggestive image alone is offensive enough to anyone who understands the subtle sexist jabs it makes toward women. Once “The rear looks pretty nice. So does the new Transformer AIO.”, is added – something that could have been meant as a tacky joke, transforms into a much larger problem for Asus’ reputation. Unless Asus wanted to take attention away from their new innovative, dual operating system, the Transformer AIO to encourage discussions about women, isms & technology.

Asus apologized for the insensitive tweet by removing it and saying “We apologise for the inappropriate comment on Twitter earlier. We will take steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again” –

Tim Smalley, the digital marketing manager of ASUS’s Global Corporate Marketing Division issued this statement on Mashable :

“First of all, please accept our sincere apologies for causing offence to many of Twitter’s users – it was never ASUS’ intention to offend anyone, let alone be sexist.

We have spent some time investigating this since it came to our attention and, due to the hectic schedule around Computex and the fact a number of third parties had access to our social media accounts during this period, we realize that someone has made a deeply regrettable mistake. We have taken steps to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Solutions

This distasteful tweet raised several issues for organizational reputation, responsibility & risk:

  • Responsibility: Some thoughts, such as insensitive statements… have no place in a forward focused organization or in its digital communications.
  • Risk: The official Social Media account(s) should be in alignment with your brand and be in the care of professionals who revere the organization/brands they represent and deeply understand the power of social media. Digital communications should be professional and handled with extreme care at all times.
  • Reputation: Social Media and the power of digital sharing should never be taken lightly. A sterling reputation can be severely damaged by a tweet and desecrated by viral sharing. Monitor and safeguard your reputation, always.

A disconnect between brand and consumer should not be overlooked or minimized by organizations.  If confusion and cloudy intentions prevail, expect your brand and your reputation to end up with frayed edges. All of the uncertainty can usher a brand toward less mind share, which could be followed by a loss in market share.

So far this situation has brought @Asus more followers, and more attention from social networks with a bunch of criticism about inappropriate comments. In the end (no pun intended), it’s all a matter of perception and interpretation. In business, there will be times when the consumer’s sees a situation differently than the organization (company) hoped she or he would see it.  Every organization and professional must assume the risks associated with sharing images and information online. No one is immune.

PS. You can see the video about the Asus Transformer, where dual operating systems – Android and Windows 8 – coexist.

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