When is a Twitter Crisis Not a Twitter Crisis?

In the last few weeks I’ve had two clients who have experienced criticism and/or negative comments on Twitter. They’re very different brands (one’s a high street retailer, one’s a service business) and it goes to show that any organisation can encounter a minor (or major) Twitter ‘crisis’ at some time or another. But the two brands in question handled their situations in very different ways, and the outcomes as a result were diverse.

The situations of the two clients varied, one facing criticism over information released to the press (information that could be substantiated, I hasten to add) and one coming under fire for rumours (inaccurate rumours) that had started to spread about company policy. Upon each situation breaking on Twitter, both brands called me to ask for advice. And after investigating what was happening and monitoring the extent to which it was happening, my advice to both was the same: do nothing. In both cases, activity was minimal from people with little or no influence and I felt that actively tweeting would only highlight the issue to more people and run the risk of creating more trouble. I advised monitoring @mentions and keywords closely, but holding back from responding until such time as we felt the issue merited it.
The first brand took my advice. We took the conversation with the major proponent (a high profile blogger) offline and we dealt with his concerns quickly. In the public timeline on Twitter we didn’t talk about the issue and it quite simply died. By employing restraint and avoiding a kneejerk reaction, what had the potential to be a significant Twitter brand crisis amounted to nothing.

The second brand, however, had heard all of the stories about Twitter firestorms and believed the hype. They’d had it drummed into them that they must respond instantly, that failure to do so could cause irreparable damage to the brand. They weren’t comfortable with the concept of ‘doing nothing’, and so they went against my advice and issued a short statement. As I suspected, within minutes the brand had people who had no idea about the issue tweeting to enquire as to what was going on. What was initially a controlled situation suddenly took on a far more threatening outlook.

So what are the learnings from these two cases? Other than you must always listen to my advice and trust what I say because I’m always right (ahem…), the key takeout is quite simply not to jump in. Sometimes listening, monitoring and evaluating without acting can be a far more viable customer service strategy on Twitter than leaping into action. Just because someone on Twitter has an issue with your brand does not mean that everyone else does, or even that they care. Chances are, they won’t even have heard about the issue you’re so desperate to address.

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