Never under-estimate social media and its power to raise and, crucially, diminish a brand’s reputation.
Vodafone is the latest to suffer – at the hands of one of its own employees. I noticed it yesterday when Vodafone suddenly started to trend on Twitter. Vodafone has been forced to issue a apology to its thousands of followers on Twitter after one of its customer service staff broadcast an obscene message on the micro-blogging service.
He/she sent out the tweet - "is fed up with dirty homo's and is going after beaver"
The message appeared on Vodafone's official Twitter account, which is used by the company to deal with customer complaints. Instead of the usual helpful hints on how to make the most of its range of handsets or direct responses to individual customer service queries, VodafoneUK's 8,824 followers were treated this afternoon to the message that fell well outside the remit of the micro-blog.
Within minutes of the message appearing hundreds of Vodafone customers had contacted the company through Twitter to ask whether its account had been hacked. Despite Vodafone deleting the message from its Twitterfeed, hawk-eyed users of the service saved a copy and were quickly sending it across the internet.
Vodafone was forced to release a stream of apologies, replying to each user individually to say "we weren't hacked. A severe breach of rules by staff in our building, dealing with that internally. We're very sorry". Throughout the day Vodafone sent out a stream of apologies to hundreds of followers.
Some commentators might conclude that Vodafone’s social media presence had been severally damaged by the homophobic remark. However, I think they managed the whole thing remarkably well:
- The recognized they had a problem.
- Followers clearly like the brand as they were advising VodafoneUK that they thought their account had been hacked.
- Vodafone was honest enough to admit that it wasn’t a hack but a miscreant employee – they could have easily hidden behind the smokescreen of hack but they rightly chose not to.
- The apologized immediately and gave a frank explanation.
- Throughout the day they continued to engage directly with followers throughout the day.