Why viral twitty brand tweets can be terminal

Meg Coffey // 02nd November 2014

“We’re sure your 320 followers will understand.”

Just 46 simple characters, yet they cause so much damage.

When it comes to customer service, Twitter can be a magnificent thing. Customers can interact with brands quickly and efficiently and it allows brands to give themselves a personality beyond the purchase. Brands excelling at customer service attract a loyal audience. It’s different for those that don’t.

When Chicago-based Christian Conti sent a tweet to a relatively unknown New York-based clothing company calledHawke & Co complaining about a recent purchase, they sent the 46 characters above by way of reply. The result was nothing short of a spectacular example of how NOT to use twitter for customer service.

Hawke & Co responded to Conti’s original tweet with several (since deleted) messages, referencing that with only 320 followers his complaint wouldn’t matter. At one point the company used the hashtag #entitled. It appears that size does matter, however, as Hawke & Co’s tweet about the number of Conti’s followers went viral with several influencers picking up on it and retweeting the tweets before they were deleted.

The irony in this? Of Hawke & Co’s 19,000 followers at the time, only 39 were real accounts. Hawke & Co deleted the tweets, send another one out that claimed it to be a social experiment and then delete that as well. To make matters worse, in a series of private messages Hawke & Co thanked Conti for the exposure he gave them. The twittersphere went wild. The exchange made it to BuzzFeed. Finally Hawke & Co issued an apology.

In today’s cynical world, we wouldn’t be faulted for thinking this was all a brand awareness stunt. The comment about it being a social experiment could be true… but it was a very risky one to take. If you scrutinise it, this was just an example of customer service gone very wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with a brand having a voice or a positive attitude – that should be encouraged. But what Mr Conti experienced should not. It was not appropriate.

Every interaction with a customer should be treated with the same respect, regardless of someone’s status. Hawke & Co had the opportunity to apologize and correct the problem yet instead failed to realize the power of Twitter. Even for someone with 320 followers.

Originally published: Out to Market, The West Australian 27 October 2014

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Meg is not only known as one of Perth’s leading marketing managers but also the state’s ‘digital darling’: leading the charge in all things social media marketing with passion project Social Media Perth #SMPerth and proving a public speaking dynamo on the local, national and international stages.


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