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How to Handle Awkward Situations on Social Media: A Bank of America Story

Companies are constantly learning how influential social media can be, and no company knows that better than Bank of America this week. On February 6th, 2014 the @BofA_Help Twitter received a very interesting tweet from a user named Lisa McIntire. Her tweet included a photo of a Bank of America credit card offer letter addressed to a “Lisa Is a...," well, you can read below.


As you can expect, she wasn’t thrilled about the offer. The original tweet was sent out at 12:07PM, and by 1PM it had reached well over 1,000 retweets. Since the tweet was addressed to Bank of America’s customer service Twitter, it drove observers’ subsequent horrified tweets there and not Bank of America’s official Twitter. That may why Bank of America wasn’t aware of the tweet for close to two hours, which McIntire herself was confused about:

It was perplexing, considering that the Twitter account was very active for those two hours. Finally, representatives at Bank of America saw the photo and took to Twitter to let McIntire know they're aware of the problem:

So what can we learn from this unfortunate situation?

Be aware of the chatter surrounding your brand.

Customer service Twitter feeds are usually bogged down by hundreds of tweets a day; @BofA_Help seems to address direct tweets and those aimed at @BankofAmerica, doubling the volume of correspondences. Thus, it’s easy to understand why they were probably unable to respond as quickly as McIntire would have liked, but given the rate of the tweet’s circulation on Twitter (followed by the news outlets), Bank of America has to make sure they have a better awareness of the social media chatter surrounding their brand. That way in special cases just as these, they can drop everything to make sure the matter is resolved.

Be personal.

Bank of America’s response to Lisa’s "no response from Bank of America" tweet was personalized enough to show it was a live person responding, especially evident by the initials at the end. In fact, to prove how urgent the matter was, they made a second tweet that they were following up ASAP. While the two-hour window of no response still stung a bit for McIntire, the non-automated response was enough to show that they’re listening. And given the statistics, good customer service is extremely helpful in changing people’s minds about their perceptions of a brand. This is especially appreciated given Bank of America's bad social presence last year.

Take the issue offline. 

Even if social media is the platform the issue was originally announced on, taking the correspondence offline is important. Doing so allows both parties to control the rheteric surrounding the problem. As it turns out, it was actually Lisa’s membership in the Golden Key International Honour Society that forwarded her address to the bank in that format. By contacting her directly, Bank of America was able to control the public discussion in a small way, even if McIntire did continue tweeting about her experience.

Apologize publicly.

After resolving the issue internally, don’t forget to make a small statement on the matter as well. Golden Key took the blame for what happened, and said so on Twitter, but as of today there is still no official word from Bank of America. We have learned that Bank of America executives got involved and are still investigating the situation. They're also flagging curse words in the system, but we learned all of this through McIntire’s Twitter. For the public facing audience who may not be following McIntire to receive updates on the matter, a statement addressing the issue is key to let the world know this wasn’t swept under the rug.

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