Home Depot’s Twitter timeline was full of what seemed like endless apologies on Thursday afternoon after the firm tweeted a picture that it now calls a “dumb tweet,” and others are calling racist.
“We are deeply sorry for the dumb tweet and have deleted it,” the firm Tweeted dozens of times, beginning at about 4 p.m. ET.
The tweet in question can easily be found; we won’t link to it here. Screen captures of what appear to be a Home Depot tweet show three people sitting in front of a Home Depot College Gameday TV studio set. Three are drumming on Home Depot buckets. Two are African Americans; the third is a person in a gorilla suit. “Which drummer is not like the others? See more” the tweet says.
Home Depot Director of Corporate Communication Stephen Holmes told me that an outside agency was responsible for creating the Tweet, and that agency has been fired.
“We have zero tolerance for anything so stupid and offensive. The outside agency that created the Tweet and The Home Depot associate who posted it have been terminated,” he said in an e-mail to me. “We’re also closely reviewing our social media procedures to determine how this could have happened, and how to ensure it never happens again.”
Reaction on Twitter was swift.
“@HomeDepot I’m never shopping there again , and canceling my card,” wrote one Twitter user in response.” Said another, “I’m going to Loews after this.”
Social media and social TV strategist Carri Bugbee said major brands still struggle to walk the fine line between taking risks to be interesting in social media and making very public mistakes.
“Many brands are now trying to quickly leverage pop culture and trending topics in social media. Everyone is hoping for something like the Oreo Super Bowl tweet that went viral,” she told me. “However, it’s easy to get it wrong. The only way to avoid a faux pas is to employ people who have life experience, news judgment and crisis communications savvy. I suspect the person who wrote that offending tweet for Home Depot was probably young and had no clue about the implications of that tweet.”