A little while back I praised Vodafone New Zealand for their excellent Twittering, inside an article on How to Twitter if you are a Corporation. They reached out to customers, solved problems, gently nudged opinion their way and generally were liked by everybody.
The account was run by Paul Brislen – who let his own account lie idle while he put himself into the Twittersphere.
And then something happened.
Vodafone decided to launch a campaign where “3G Guy” tours New Zealand giving away new net books. A great idea.
Unfortunately rather than using @3Gguy or similar to promote the tour, Vodafone instead passed the respected @vodafoneNZ account over to a pimply youth – 3Gguy.
The results are a fascinating case study.
The audience split into three – those that liked the competition (including new followers), those who saw a corporate PR account turn into a spamming machine, and the silent.
Unfortunately the second category contains many opinion leaders, journalists, web industry stalwarts and telco industry commentators.
While Paul Brislen re-opened his own account, and many people went off to follow him, many more have decided to unfollow @vodafonenz. The net goodwill is negative, and it now leaves @vodafonenz well behind the previously slightly less respected but still very well run @telecomnz team. As Twitter goes, so to the brands and companies.
So what are the lessons here?
Twittering is better done by individuals, but when those individuals leave and are replaced by folks that don’t get it, their followers may leave with them. If they are disgruntled then the damage could be severe. (So be nice to Paul)
Keep the promotion and PR accounts separate from each other. The PR account should point to promotions, but not run them. People will find the account that helps them get free stuff very quickly.
When your audience reacts negatively – do something. The most frustrating thing about this promotion is the feeling that our Twitter friend, Paul Brislen, has been taken over against his will (my theory, not at all backed up by any fact) by out of control cluless marketing lunatics. It’s as if we now see the real Vodafone coming through – a Vodafone that doesn’t listen, that steamrolls over opposition and that has lost all the goodwill that Paul built up. It’s sad.
What Vodafone should do is simple – accept and acknowledge the error, move the 3Gguy twitter stream to his own account and put Paul back on (exclusively) the @vodafonenz account. Vodafone also need to learn from Paul, and take his guidance on how to run his account going forward.
So let’s have a look at the Twitter stream damage. It’s pretty fun actually, like watching a slow motion train wreck* in action. *one where nobody is on the train
Here’s a recent page of @vodafonenz mentions from my Tweekdeck. I’ve helpfully colour-coded the tweets. Orange refers to the competition website being broken, Green is a customer service request, and Red are negative comments about the campaign and Vodafone. I’ve named the boxes for the colour blind and those that don’t read this bit and just want the pictures:
But wait – there is more – a lot more, under the fold I have pulled out some of the latest (mostly) negative twitters about Vodafone.
<update – But first – an ad break!
There’s also @vfNZno3Gguy, which retweets all the @vodafoneNZ and @paulBrislen tweets that are not about the promotion. If that isn’t a cluestick enough then there is no hope.
The vfNZno3Gguy account
Selected tweets. There are a lot more.
Clearly this post is striking a chord – plenty of retweets: