Blackberry (RIM) became the second major brand to experience a thrashtag this week as the result of an ill-conceived Twitter campaign. The online anomaly, or "bashtag" as Mashable is calling it, is causing PR professionals and community managers to re-think the idea of fan engagement on Twitter. The 140-character giant has become a bullhorn of customer experience, both good and bad. But, the backfire is a result of mistaken concepts by PR and new media folks, and could have been avoided. Two reality checks before you launch a Twitter campaign:
1. Are our products high quality in the eyes of the public or do our strengths lie elsewhere? Both McDonald's and Blackberry have had their share of customer troubles recently. McDonald's woes hearken back to the release of Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation. Even though we're still lovin' it, we know that the rich taste in those fries is the product of a chemical made in New Jersey. If you ask people on Twitter to recall a fond memory of McDonalds, chances are they won't be glowing. A fast food joint is not a touchy-feely place despite what their commercials portray.
2. Have we had a recent public customer service crisis? Blackberry's recent failures would seem to dictate that a feel good campaign about Blackberry is not appropriate yet. Just ask BP. If you answer yes to this question, you should table the Twitter feel-good campaign.
The Edelman's annual trust barometer describes trustworthy companies as listening to customer needs, having high quality products and services, placing customers ahead of profits, being transparent, and valuing society's needs-- some of which have been violated by both these companies. But don't throw the baby out with the bath water. There are ways to engage stakeholders in singing your praises that don't involve open-ended Twitter campaigns. Both these hashtag #fails are a good example of how one size social media does not fit all. Online communities can be your advocate but do your homework first.