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Retailers, social media, and lessons from the “bashtag”


Last week, I witnessed a Twitter slaughtering unlike any other.

A telecom carrier was advertising their newest promotion on Twitter via a promoted trend, which encouraged twitter users to tweet directly to their campaign using a hashtag.  It was meant to inspire discussion about the new service, but it quickly evolved into a PR nightmare.  Tweeters used the hashtag a “bashtag”, and instead used it to vent their customer service issues.  Thousands of them.  It was an absolute bloodbath, and it embodied every business’s worst social media nightmare.

I’m not going to discuss the merits of the product, the perception of the carrier or the wisdom of the Twitter campaign; when it comes down to it, any retailer using social media faces the same risks and online backlash.  For me, this example raised the broader issue of how retailers should respond to negative feedback in social media.

In this case, the carrier provided an excellent example.  Customer service reps did a superb job of responding to complaints, using the “acknowledge publicly, fix privately” model.  Reps replied to tweeters directly and encouraged them to privately send details of their complaint so it could be addressed.  General complaints were responded to positively, and tweeters were thanked for their feedback.  I don’t envy those reps, but they handled an extremely difficult situation well.  And most importantly, they provided an excellent counter-point to complaints about a lack of customer service!

This is customer service in the 21st century.  Reactions on social media are unpredictable, and oh-so-public.  Just remember, your responses are public too, so use that to your advantage to restore your company’s image.  At the end of the day, that’s what people will remember most.

How do you address negative feedback on social media?

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