The stumble involved Delta Airlines and the U.S. team's win over the African nation of Ghana. Soccer remains something of a distant and rarely seen cousin among American professional sports, so its fans were understandably excited about this victory on the international stage. The social media team at Delta put up a congratulatory message on Twitter with the U.S. represented by a sunrise silhouette of the Statue of Liberty and Ghana represented by a sunrise silhouette of a giraffe.
Just one problem: there are no giraffes in Ghana.
The Internet promptly howled with indignation. Delta was blasted for its ignorance of African fauna and was even accused of racism. A PR site I visit regularly entertained a lively discussion, with opinions ranging from "oops" to suggestions that the staffer to be fired.
(Delta later offered an apology--which, sadly for them, included a typo that only added to the brouhaha.)
No doubt this was an honest mistake. Some unfortunate staffer wanted a simple pair of images that represented the opposing countries, found two that were somewhat similar in composition, and plowed ahead without adequate thought or diligence. A rookie error, yes, but hardly worth the public outcry it prompted.
(I can't help wondering how many of these self-righteous critics can find Ghana on a map....)
Even so, it's a reminder that social media is like a chainsaw. It's a wonderful and powerful tool that needs to be handled with great care, skill and respect. A giraffe gaffe is a minor kerfuffle and should be viewed that way; the broader lesson of diligence, accuracy and sensitivity in every social media encounter is one we should all take to heart.