The power of social media and real-time search can turn on anyone in a moment's notice when misconduct online takes the spotlight. As evidenced recently by Kanye West, Representative Joe Wilson, United Airlines and countless others, there are no "get out of jail free cards," when individuals and brands misbehave badly. The immediacy and the transparency of social media will catch you every time.
In July, my blog titled "The Top Ten Branded Social Nightmares" talked about ten firms caught acting less than proper on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking services. Habitat, a UK-based home furnishing retailer was caught red-handed engaging in 'parasite marketing.' It was a critical case of importance that set precedence regarding the use of Twitter spam, that once exposed most likely prevented a lot of others from following suit.
For those that are not aware of this case, Habitat used the political situation of the Iranian elections to shamelessly market their own products with tweets that included the hashtag "#Mousavi" in the body of the tweet.
According to Tiphereht Gloria who apparently broke the original story in June, it wasn't until September 15th that Habitat formally apologized on Twitter.
This was followed up by another tweet that referred customers to their customer service department.
Similar to the real world, public trust in the social media space is paramount. Once shaken, it takes a lot of hard work to turn lemons back into lemon-aid. Apologies are important, but we often take them with a grain of salt, as we did with celebrity bullies like Kanye West. Because they emanate from a need to do 'damage control,' we are skeptical of the sincerity behind these types of mea-culpas.
So when Habitat indicated they will "try" to respond to all future replies...
...it's perceived as somewhat suspect. A company trying to redeem their brand in the eyes of prospective consumers should not just "try" to respond to all inquiries, they should be convincing us that our feedback and queries are of the utmost importance, and take priority over all other matters.
However, I will give this company the benefit of the doubt since they appear to be still feeling their way along the social media by-ways.
Dr.Seuss was an expert in weaving together children stories with simplistic lessons of life. "Green Eggs and Ham" is a moral tale that uses the metaphor of "green eggs and ham" as a meal worth trying. People have preconceived ideas of what they will and won't like and at first blush most people don't find the thought of "green eggs and ham" appealing. However, based on the confidence the lead character Sam-I-Am had in his product, by the conclusion of the book he is thanked for his persistence by the doubting cat he's been pursing throughout the book."
Habitat's transgression on Twitter essentially turned their brand into "green eggs and ham" and it will take a lot of persistent hard work in the social media space to convince the buying public that they truly are a brand worth retesting and regaining our trust.