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27 SEP 2012

#Backfire

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Most things are short lived on social media, and already the hype around Waitrose’s Twitter campaign last week, which hit the headlines, is old news. The lessons we can take from it however are still very relevant and should serve as a reminder for any brand using social media.

For those of you who don’t know, the supermarket chain encouraged followers on Twitter to finish the sentence “’I shop at Waitrose because …” and use the hashtag #WaitroseReasons. Unfortunately the campaign didn’t quite go to plan, with most Twitter followers using the hashtag to mock the brand’s “posh” image and perception of being an upmarket brand for wealthy shoppers. Answers included “I shop at Waitrose because if you buy a full tank of helicopter fuel you get 10% off champagne. It is a recession after all” and “I shop at Waitrose because the parking spaces are big enough for one’s RangeRover yah?” – you get the idea!

Opinion seems to be divided as to whether the campaign was a disaster or a success. Yes, it wasn’t taken seriously but at the end of the day it got people talking about both the supermarket and the campaign, and the comments that were given were hardly damaging to the brand.

If genuine criticism had been given, such as poor customer service and low quality food, then it would be a different matter. Admittedly this doesn’t help the supermarket promote a message of being a shop for all – but it could have been a lot worse. McDonald’s, Qantas and Blackberry have all suffered from genuinely negative backlashes on Twitter, made worse by the brands’ handling of the situations.

The team behind Waitrose’s social media tweeted “Thanks again for all the #waitrosereasons tweets. We really did enjoy the genuine and funny replies. Thanks for making us smile.” which at least acknowledged the responses and showed that they’d be taken in good humour.

Whenever you carry out a social media campaign, you need to think about how you’ll respond to the various situations that could occur from it. You need to decide beforehand whether you’re going to reply to each individual comment or none. If you ask a question, are you prepared for the answers that you might get? And if you’re encouraging people to engage with the brand online, do you have the time and manpower for someone to engage back?

We always warn our clients that although social media is a fantastic way to interact with a large number of people, you must be prepared for the negative as well as the positive. Unless it’s particularly offensive (e.g. containing offensive language or upsetting views) you can’t just delete a comment because someone doesn’t like your product or service.

Twitter is an amazing way to spread news quickly and effectively so a few bad examples shouldn’t put brands off – like with all communication planning, it just needs a bit of thought to go with it too!

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