Last June, UK furniture retailer Habitat made quite a mess on Twitter, and became a case study of how not to use the social network in the process. In a nutshell, they used hashtags (items formatted like #topic that users add to their tweets about a given topic, making it easier to search for it) that were not related to their site or their tweets. Those are circled in red below. Here’s a shot of the Twitter page from the days in question.
Some were harmless, like #iphone, while others sparked more anger, like #mousavi, which references a candidate in the heated Iran elections.
Habitat’s response also fueled the fire. Rather than come out right away and apologize, they simply deleted the posts. Thanks to many users taking screen captures, the offending posts live on. Then Habitat waited two days before issuing a statement and laying the blame on an intern.
But why do I bring this up? Because, almost a year later, the company is doing things right. And that’s worth noting. Yes, they are still pushing specials, but they are doing it responsibly. They are commenting directly to users who wrote about them or their industry. They also improved their page background to include other relevant links and information.
The bad thing is, the search engine results for Habitat UK are littered with news articles about the gaffe. Until good news pushes those things down, this will continue to be a very public black eye for the company.
So what’s the lesson?
Obviously, don’t do dumb stuff, but there is a bigger one here. If someone came to you and said you had a speaking opportunity in from of 2500 customers, who would you send? The CEO, most likely. Or at least a top executive. Well, that is what you have on Twitter, 2500 or, in many cases, thousands more customers looking to interact with you. You wouldn’t put an intern on stage in front of that many people to represent your brand (nothing against interns), so don’t do that on social networks!