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4 Ways This Big Brand Blew It on Twitter

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In business – and in life – sometimes there’s a thin difference between aggressive and obnoxious.

T-Mobile crossed that line.

Late last week, Sprint tweeted about their new package that provides subscribers unlimited data, as well as an annual phone upgrade:

Some Sprint customers were upset that package pricing and ingredients were shifting:

Given the size of Sprint’s customer base, it’s natural that some would be displeased, and complaints about Sprint’s speed and lack of LTE are common. Evidently, T-Mobile was strategically eavesdropping on this thread, and proactively reached out to dissatisfied tweeters:

In The NOW Revolution, Amber Naslund and I talked about “listening at the point of need” and seizing opportunities that are unveiled in social media. We counseled brands to listen for customer expressions of want, and to tastefully offer to fulfill those needs. But is this “listening at the point of need” or is it out-of-bounds? Even if you think this is fair game, there are 3 reasons it was a disaster at the execution level:

1. Overestimated the Need

These customers weren’t overtly (or even partially) mentioning that they wanted a new carrier. They weren’t threatening to quit. Yet, T-Mobile jumped in with a “solution” that wasn’t commensurate with the consumers’ state of need.

2. Unclear Benefit

If you’re going to try to pick off your competitors’ customers on Twitter one-by-one, you probably should do so with very clear information and calls-to-action. These T-Mobile tweets have neither:

What is #teammagenta? Did you know that T-Mobile is “team magenta?” I didn’t. Did you even know that T-Mobile’s corporate color is magenta? I didn’t. If you’re trying to get someone to cancel a phone contract, why are you wasting precious characters pushing a marketing-speak hashtag?

3. No call-to-action

In some of their responses, T-Mobile did convey actual differentiators that might have partially swayed potential switchers, but what consumers want (and rightfully so) is a true call-to-action that provides enough value to actually change carriers. If T-Mobile offered a contract buyout in their tweets, instead of blathering about #teammagenta this might have been more effective. There’s not even a clickable link in these tweets (although I do give T-Mobile’s “Matt M” credit for signing them)


4. Not participating selectively

When you jump into conversations like this, you run the risk of coming across someone who actually has history with you already, which can breed some unintended commentary (I also find it amazing that T-Mobile chose to engage with someone with the Twitter handle of “suck dis d**k” who used a profanity in their original tweet):


I’m all for companies listening aggressively. But to me, this is just way over the line, and poorly executed on top of it.

Or maybe I’m wrong, and you think this is a good idea? Do you?

Big thanks to my friend Jarrod Lyman for tipping me off to this in real-time.

Join The Conversation

  • sprout_sarah's picture
    Oct 3 Posted 3 years ago sprout_sarah

    Very interesting topic, Jay! This is incredibly relevant to the tactics I employ on a daily basis. It's definitely a gray area, in my opinion. I think researching the context of the conversation as much as possible is key in prospecting and trying to acquire a competitor's customer. You could be totally out of place or you could be the perfect solution. 

    #Teammagenta might have been relevant later on in the buying process, but using it in the first tweet seems a bit arrogant. In my efforts, it's all about a mutually beneficial interaction. I ask questions to see if I can offer a good fit. If not, we part ways. If it does work, it's really a win/win.





  • Sharon Horswill's picture
    Sep 27 Posted 3 years ago Sharon Horswill

    They certainly shot themselves in the foot in #4.

    Basically they look childish but I wouldn't think it's worth any other service provider joining in the conversation at all. Those complaining are probably not in the mood to talk to another company. Not in buying mode at all!


  • Sep 27 Posted 3 years ago DaveLeBlanc

    Jen, you are correct.  Social media is a poor place to sell. A hard pitch just stands out like a sore thumb and becomes annoying.  Better follow up with a humor or some useful information.  

  • Marie Youngblood-Krebs's picture
    Sep 27 Posted 3 years ago Marie Youngbloo...

    This certainly highlights one of the issue's in Social Media Marketing Jeff!  Salespeople see the words "marketing" and "media" and there is great misunderstanding about SOCIAL.  When I am working with a client in my ghostblogging business for real estate professionals, the first thing I try to educate them about is that marketing on these platforms must be in a social context and not sales as usual.  It is a tough balance though, because salespeople are taught to sell, sell, sell!  Now, we're telling them "relate, relate, relate" and it's a whole new animal with all new rules to learn.  We talk "Call to Action" but deciding how subtle or how agressive?  Touchy, touchy.  Both companies blew it here, though.  T-Mobile in being sneaky - social requires authenticity.  Nothing authentic in this twitter feed.  Sprint in being SILENT.  No relating to their customers pain at all. Finding balance between social relations and selling is key in the new marketing game.  Real Estate professionals, you will find ideas how to accomplish this on my site at

  • Sep 26 Posted 3 years ago zoomdust

    Hi Jay,

    Great article and some interesting points of view, most of which I agree with. Clearly this was not well thought out and sounds llike a junior person jumping on twitter and thinking it is as easy as just offering their service to disgruntled competitor customers. Not good form.

    It does highlight the need to plan your Social Media activities and ensure they all have a strategy whether that be sales related or some other objective. What would be interesting is to find out is if this activity did deliver any conversions and if so how many in comparison to those that had the negative response detailed here. I am sure we would be counting the number of conversions on one hand.





  • Sep 26 Posted 3 years ago JoanDamico

    I think it's a clever program but as many of you already mentioned, it was poorly executed. My concern is where was Sprint in all of these posts? They appeared to be on autopilot, not responding to any of the tweets.

  • Zachary Chastain's picture
    Sep 26 Posted 3 years ago Zachary Chastain

    This is a trainwreck, both in strategy and execution. :)

    If you're going to try this, you should at least go for more concrete complaints. If someone has an issue that you can easily and effectively address, like a problem with their phone, wanting to upgrade, wishing for a better plan that you can provide, etc then go for it.

    Coverage issues aren't concrete enough to offer a solution to though. Maybe they get bad coverage because they're in a rural area where every carrier has bad coverage? Maybe your coverage won't be any better for them than the brand you're trying to tear them away from, which just makes you look doubley-dumb, as Bobby's response to T-Mobile highlighted.

    You can't be sure that your coverage will be any better than the competitors on a case by case basis. Every carrier has this problem and the only way to fix it is to build more towers and update existing infrastructure, neither of which is cheap or easy to do. 

    If you can't genuinely offer a solution to the problem, and the problem also affects you and all of your competitors on a case-by-case basis, you probably don't want to lead with that in a situation like this.

  • Sep 26 Posted 3 years ago DigitalMktgGirl

    I think it was a great concept that was executed poorly. To your point, #TeamMagenta wasn't well enough known, and T-Mobile didn't think through the possible repercussions (aka a former user saying their service sucks.)

    If you're going to play dirty, you need to be able to back it up.

  • jenpicard's picture
    Sep 25 Posted 3 years ago jenpicard

    There are so many brands that don't understand social media, and think that you can just go out there and sell, sell, sell. I recently wrote an article about generating leads on social media, and one of my tips is to add value instead of being overly promotional. LIke you said, they're not solving the problem at hand with their "solution". One of the best tips I ever received for bad cell service was to turn off my 3G/4G network if my calls weren't able to get through. These cell phone brands could go a long way by simply offering little tips and tricks, which would keep them top of mind if the customer did want to switch carriers.

  • Sep 24 Posted 3 years ago flashionista

    Hi Jay,

    Great article. It pointed out that T-Moblie has underestimeated the power and importance of social media by trusting it to someone not qualified to speak for the brand. It seemed as though they were not really taking it seriously enough to put some experienced business, marketing and PR brains behind it. You can't win the game if you have no particular strategy beyond being in the game.  

  • OIRMS1's picture
    Sep 23 Posted 3 years ago OIRMS1

    "Team Magenta"? Now that's good branding--not!

    I totally agree with you Jay, this was wrong all all fronts. It just goes to show that even some of the big boys need a lesson in best practices every now and again.

  • Shawn Alain's picture
    Sep 23 Posted 3 years ago Shawn Alain

    Hi Jay,

    I think there might be a modified strategy here that could work.  They come across here sounding like an aggressive salesman and as you mentioned, not offering a real solution to the problem just "You wouldn't have to deal with that".  I think if they took a less aggressive and negative approach such as "We currently have an offer for Sprint customers wishing to switch [link to page with offer]" then they might be better received and be able to convert more sales.

  • JHSMAS's picture
    Sep 23 Posted 3 years ago JHSMAS

    This is pretty thought provoking.  Perhaps nothing can get the anger going than cell phone companies (and airlines).  Clearly T-mobile did make some errors here. I agree that Team Magenta is a bit vague for social media and we can learn from that.  I had my own personal battle with Sprint and it is a company with issues.  How they handle those issues is another story.  If anyone is interested, my nightmare with them is documented here:

    Your commentary addresses the importance of proper social media etiquette.  Is it right to solicit for business in a thread like this?  Maybe...if you can help someone.  In this case, saving someone from Sprint Hell may be a good thing.  As you point out, it was just poorly executed in a few ways.   

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