9 Feb 2010

Brands and Social Media

Following on from my post about what brands need to think about when it comes to social media and its use for online PR, comes hot news about Vodafone.

The facts:
Late on Friday 5th February 2010, a member of Vodafone’s social media team posted a homophobic remark via the company's official Twitter account. Around 8,800 Vodafone followers received the remark in their tweetstream, I was one of them . . . .

Vodafone admitted that “a severe breach of rules” had taken place, but only after Twitter's amplifying effect took hold.

Attempts to delete the offending comment were scuppered by retweets that amplified the offence. Vodafone apologised repeatedly to its followers . . . using a copy and paste apology . . . oh dear.

What could, and should, have been done:
So, what could have been done better?

1) Accept that human error happens - how you deal with it is what matters.

2) Some errors are worse than others. Posting offensive remarks to thousands of customers is beyong stupid . . .

3) The democracy of social media prevents you hushing things up. The damage is done at the point of publication. The social media network will not allow you to cover things up. The bigger the brand, the more seriously the error will be in terms of its repercussions via retweets.

4) Do say sorry . . . . once. Do it properly, once.

5) Take extra care if you 'own' your company social media profile. It is too easy to accidentally post to the wrong account if you are juggling between a personal and a corporate account. Take time to consider your posts and where they are going to . . . .

6) Some kind of security would be a great idea, especially in situations where profile owners are off-site or based away from scrutiny. But don't persecute the social media profile owner in your company either - be human about it, but sensible.

7) Educate profile users about social media, your reasons for using it and the benefits it brings to the company.

8) Stop and think before you publish. Always.

Social media gaffes of our time:
Habitat - Habitat handed over their Twitter profile to an intern, assuming that social media was just a jolly jape presumably . . . . Result? Habitat were suspended from Twitter following consistent abuse, despite warnings, about piggy-backing trending topics for commercial gain.

Virgin - Virgin Atlantic cabin crew used Facebook to call passengers "chavs" and claimed that the airline's planes were full of cockroaches.

Telegraph - During last year's budget extravaganza, telegraph.co.uk set up a Twitterfall to provide real-time updates of the budget. Tweets were created on the service that included the tag "#budget". Twitter users (savvy lot) spotted the unmoderated twitterfall and embarrassed the paper with a stream of tweets such as "Breaking news: Barclay Brothers to pick up your tax bill in unprecedented act of philanthropy. #Budget" – and far worse than that too . . . . but, that is for another time.

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