Chris Lee

Head of Social Media Knowledge

Grayling London, Soho

PR own goals are dime-a-dozen at the moment. JPMorgan Chase was the latest firm to fall foul of Twitter this month, calling off its Twitter Q&A with new CEO James B Lee after criticism from Twitter users. Recent weeks have also seen Ryanair and British Gas’s Twitter Q&As descend into chaos.

The big questions: who thought they would be a good idea and why did those social media ‘advisors’ not know enough about Twitter to know quite how inevitable a backfire would be? I imagine someone somewhere read something about ‘brand transparency’ but got it all wrong.

Brands have been active on Twitter pretty much since its inception in 2006, and it’s not as if that brief seven-year history hasn’t already been potted with brand #fails as precedents: McDonalds’ #McDStories, #WaitroseReasons, #RIMjob…the list goes on seemingly ad infinitum. Rather like the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the long and winding road of Twitter marketing is littered with common sense bypasses.

The Path to Great Twittership

With social media, no one size fits all, so each brand will have its own unique offering and responsibility to customers when engaging online. Quite often, consumers want help from brands but without the hard sell. So they’re happy to ask brands for advice, but are not so receptive to their sales messaging.

Many organisations are reticent – even in 2013 – to get active on Twitter because of self-inflicted crises such as those above. That’s a self-defeating mindset because there’s a conversation going on out there already – with or without those organisations’ involvement – which they could influence for the better if they only knew how.

The answer? Be useful at every turn. If the content is good and the customer service is good, then your sales messages are already resonating via the medium of trust. Word of mouth is extremely powerful and Twitter is not rocket science. It’s just a conversation. Don’t be arrogant and you’ll be fine. If you’re not sure how, talk to us. The way a business operates Twitter really exposes its business integrity.

This is far more productive than say, raising your prices by 10% and then inviting people to publicly humiliate you in front of millions on Twitter. #Justsayin 

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