When Twitter Fights Back

Nothing beats a good social media campaign. The audience engagement, viral reach and brand awareness can help boost your company’s image and increase sales; however just as social media can improve your reputation, it can also take it away. Brands like Kenneth Cole, Blackberry and McDonalds have all had their share of social media disasters, and now we can add the Argyll and Bute council to the list.

Photo from NeverSeconds blog
Chances are before today you hadn’t really heard of the Argyll and Bute council. Located in Scotland, the council has maintained a typical existence of governance and managing city services, but yesterday that all changed when the council tried to stop 9-year-old primary school student from writing her blog.

For the last few months Martha Payne has been writing a blog called NeverSeconds about her school dinners.  The blog featured daily photos of the meals she was given, a food-o-meter and health rating, as well as how many pieces of hair she found in it. Those of us whose memory goes back far enough probably don’t have the fondest memories of these meals, and while Martha did give several dinners good ratings, there were others that didn’t meet her expectations. Martha’s blog became an Internet hit, with over 2 million hits, and the council apparently didn’t like the attention. Yesterday the council decided to ban Martha from taking photos for her blog, which in turn would shut it down.

What the council didn’t anticipate was the response throughout social media, especially Twitter. Since Martha’s blog announced what happened yesterday, there has been an ever-growing flurry of tweets against Argyll and Bute council. At the time of writing this blog #neverseconds, Argyll and Bute, and Martha Payne are all trending on Twitter. The council’s response? A somewhat aggressive press release defending its actions and silence on social media.

No organisation wants to be in the position the Argyll and Bute council is currently in, however radio silence is not the answer. As a digital agency we work with many clients on their social media strategies and have compiled a few tips on how to cope with a negative Twitter backlash once it has begun:

1. Listen carefully to the conversations occurring about your brand. If there are an overwhelming number of tweets centred on a specific topic or action you’ve taken, assess the situation quickly to determine what your reaction will be.

2. Don’t take any rash action. A response should take a professional and calm tone.

3. If you need to make an apology, do it. There’s nothing worse than refusing to apologise when your company made a mistake. Issuing a formal apology will begin the process of improving your now tarnished reputation.

4. In addition to social media, address the tweets through other channels, like your own website, the press and an email to your customers.

5. Once the social media fire has calmed, consider launching a memorable social media campaign to fix your now-tainted social media strategy.

The future of the Argyll and Bute’s reputation may hinge on how they react to the Twitter storm, so this will be an interesting story to watch.  As for Martha Payne, we hope she continues to write her blog and pursue any creative means necessary to do so.


[Editor’s Note: Since this blog was written, the Argyll and Bute council has backed down from their earlier stance and will allow Martha to continue her blog. And that’s the power of social media].


For more information on how our digital agency can help your business manage its social media accounts, please contact our social media experts today.


*Photo from NeverSeconds blog