April 23, 2014

One bad tweet: how 140 characters altered a company’s reputation (The Student Perspective series)

This guest post from Lindsey Bray is part of The Student Perspective series – a set of posts contributed by future stars of the comms industry.

A story recently broke about a grocery store chain, Price Chopper, in the Northeastern states of the US.

After an unhappy customer tweeted a negative comment about the company, Price Chopper allegedly contacted the customer’s employer and bosses (found in his Twitter bio) to inform them of the negative tweet, as well as encourage actions be taken against this individual.

The Director of Consumer Insights, Heidi Reale, revealed in the comments section of the blog that started it all, that the Price Chopper Consumer Insight team was unaware of the incident.  A newly hired PR employee did however personally respond to the negative tweet without the knowledge of the company.  This PR nightmare has raised several issues.

  • How should negative comments be dealt with?
  • Are our comments a reflection of our employers?

Transparency Leads to Growth

Regardless of who responded to the disappointed customer, it was clearly a breach of social media ethics.  Social media has provided businesses with an amazing platform to easily interact with customers.  Today’s consumers have a powerful voice; they can publicly make their opinions known about a company and have the greatest chance of a response now than ever.

Companies who have made themselves transparent allow for criticism and are the best equipped to respond to comments for the betterment of the organization.  This is where the Price Chopper employee fell short.

Negative comments offer great opportunities for a company to regain trust in customers by striving to grow and right their wrongs. People are much more likely to show loyalty to authentic companies who actively listen to their target audiences and react accordingly.  Instead of attacking a disgruntled customer’s livelihood, the Price Chopper employee should have spent her energy engaging with the customer to ensure his current and future happiness with the company.

My thoughts are mine and only mine…or are they?

A lot of people list their employers in the Twitter bios and Facebook profiles much like the unhappy Price Chopper customer.  The only possible way for the employee to justify her actions towards the unhappy customer is if she believes his comments to be a reflection of his employer’s thoughts, but even then it is still a blatant abuse of social media.

While someone’s thoughts on a social media platform, such as Twitter, are not directly related to an employer, if the employer is listed on his/her profile an association between the employee and employer is created.  Although it shouldn’t happen, lines can be blurred when employees become a representation of the company they work for.  In order to keep them completely separate, either a disclaimer needs to be added that thoughts are strictly your own, or the employer shouldn’t be listed at all on personal social media profiles.

What are your thoughts on the Price Chopper happening?  Does transparency actually lead to growth opportunities for companies?  Was the customer’s tweet a reflection of his employer?

Lindsey Bray.