Twitter bust-up: Ashton Kutcher vs Wal-Mart

Lots of big brands still get it wrong on Twitter. From general insensitivity, naivete or just plain being rude, it’s amazing the number of faux pas that brands still get themselves embroiled in. Take the recent case of JPMorgan Chase & Co, and the online forum they had to hurriedly cancel, utilizing the hashtag #AskJPM. Good-naturedly meant to give college students an opportunity to communicate with a senior spokesperson, the exercise due backlash due to frustration with the previous financial crisis, forcing the bank to post #Badidea!

Last year even McDonalds got it wrong, when it sought feedback on its dining experiences, using the hashtag #McDStories. What they got instead was references to dog food and the contributing effects of obesity, resulting in a rapid cancellation.

You would think that brand’s social media teams would learn from the mistakes of others but no.. This week, Wal-Mart got into a Twitter spat with Ashton Kutcher, with the actor bashing Wal-Mart for not paying its workers enough. Wal-Mart was quick to respond with what I think were initially well meaning but ill thought out messages, rebutting the celebrity’s comments. Instead it drew further criticism from some of Kutcher’s 15 million Twitter followers. A devoted posse you do not want to mess with.

So how did this all start? Ashton Kutcher first took up the cause of workers allegedly resorting to employee to employee food charity collections, so workers who benefit from Associates in Need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinners. He tweeted:

@WalmartNewsroom then fired back:

Kutcher then retorted, “you should be proud of your associates but I’m not sure if they should be proud of you.

And then the back and forth began:

Not before long many in the Twitter community jumped into the conversation to address Walmart directly and to highlight their own negative employment experiences with the company. In its final Tweet to Kutcher, that is visible on Twitter, Walmart acknowledged “We know we can always get better as a company. This year we’ve made providing more opportunities for our associates a top priority.” It seemed in this instance Walmart had a change of heart. At first it seemed to be really civil, but then I believe, it’s mistake was in sending off a string of clarifying tweets about employee compensation. This was perceived as arrogance.

Ashton Kutcher had the last word and tweeted a link to a study about Walmart workers who are on government assistance programs, “Walmart should be the leaders not the low water mark,” he wrote.

Image credit via