Why Firms Are Bad At Social Media
Have you ever noticed how many PR disasters emerge from social media? Twitter has become a great source for journalists to find a story. And one person, with one tweet, can create a media storm – especially if that person happens to be called Donald Trump!
Here at Blue Whale Media, we’d like to make a playful observation by saying that Twitter is like a toy gun, and tweets are like the bullets. One tweet – carefully aimed at a target – can hit a company right between the eyes and send them reeling. And there have been plenty examples of big firms being on the receiving end of a powerful tweet that has received wide-ranging coverage in the national press.
Let’s Look At The Story Of The Rail Boss
For the purpose of this blog, we’d like to choose one example of such a story – as we try to understand why big companies often fail to impress customers on social media.
So let’s look at how Mark Boon, the Operations Manager of Southern Rail’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), found himself being criticised on Twitter.
In short, the story began with commuter Emma Fitzpatrick sending a Tweet that said she was “totally shocked” to see Boon “telling all commuters to stay out of an EMPTY First Class carriage on a LATE & very packed train this morning”. She sent the message alongside a picture of Boon taking up two seats – one for himself and one for his bag!
Is This Another Case Of “David Versus Goliath”?
At our website design agency we’re aware that this indignant tweet also tapped into resentment towards Southern Rail’s recent problems – namely, train delays and strikes.
This kind of tweet also becomes a David versus Goliath story. We’re probably hardwired to believe the little guy is telling the truth and the big company is mistreating us in some way.
So, how did GTR respond? They sent out a message saying that the train was “only six minutes” late and “passengers need a first class ticket to travel in first class”. Plus, “there were seats and space in the rear coaches, as Mr Boon explained”.
In other words, we think they were pretty defiant in presenting a different version of events and standing by Mr Boon.
What Could Firms Do Better?
But it seems a little sad that big firms are often using social media to justify their actions. Naturally, Twitter can be used to inform customers of developments, but it seems that it’s not often that a big company can use the platform like the rest of us.
There are exceptions, however. The dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, for example, responded to the United Airlines scandal, which saw a passenger being forced off a plane in 2017, with the following tweet: ‘Volunteer’ means “someone who does something without being forced to do it”. The tweet received around 64,000 likes.