Like It or Not, You Have to Behave on Twitter

Defending Your Company Is One Thing, Insulting a Consumer Is Another

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Doug Zanger
Doug Zanger
Twitter is all fun and games until someone puts an eye out -- or loses you business. I think one thing we at agencies or otherwise in the business of customer service need to remember is that our use of social media does not allow us to say anything we please at any time. Like it or not, there are -- or should be -- constraints in our social-media conversations, especially if we're Twittering or Facebooking as an official representative of a company. Something happened in radio land this week that reinforces this point.

As anyone who's read more than one of my posts knows, I can be fairly vocal about good radio stations. One of those stations is KNRK, also known as 94/7 Alternative Portland. For the sake of disclosure, I was an employee of Entercom, the company that owns the station. I also must mention that my experience working there was very good, I like the company and I still count quite a few people there as friends.

So I was more than disappointed when a bunch of tweets that flooded my account yesterday pointed me to this blog post. Seems that there was a very public row between a listener who was critical (which, in the past, was always encouraged) and someone manning the 94/7 Twitter account. The only way to describe this is ugly. Whoever was at the wheel decided to get a little personal and it made the station look really bad. There was an arrogance that really shocked me. This station prided itself on getting feedback across the board and, in one swing of the Tweet, completely abandoned it because it didn't like what it heard.

We all know that social media is a two-way conversation. And while it's meant to be a forum for back and forth -- a business' official spokesman should never let that back and forth turn into a shouting match. It's one thing to defend your company's history, another to call a potential customer stupid. If there is a beef like this, it's better to take it offline if at all possible. (Of course, there's no guarantee that it will stay offline, as these days, everything ends up back on the web.)

And neither should you try to disappear negative feedback. When I was running Radiocreativeland, I took down some comments because I thought they were mean-spirited. It was a mistake. If I had it back again, I would have left the comments up and let it ride itself out. I made a mistake and learned my lesson. I broke a promise and vowed never to do that again.

This should serve as a reminder for agencies for a couple of reason. Firstly, in this specific case, ill will between the radio station and listeners could rub off on clients advertising in that space. And you might be the one forced to explain why your ads are involved in a blog conversation about a guy being a jerk on Twitter. Secondly, and more important, if you have someone officially Twittering on behalf of your agency, you must remember at all times that everyone is watching. While it might feel like a real face-to-face conversation, you have to resist the urge to stoop to name-calling. The customer might not always be right, but for the sake of an "official" Twitter account, it's safest to pretend that he is.

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