Vodafone and Twitter – what went wrong, what went right?

June 2nd, 2009

Vodafone 3G guy Vodafone discovered the wrath of the Twittersphere last week, and to their credit, they listened.

Lance Wiggs has a fantastic blog post explaining the background, and the comments are well worth reading too.

It made waves, even worthy of a mention on Radio NZ’s This Way Up programme . (MP3 recording here )

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(Side note: the fact that Radio NZ interviewed a tech correspondent from the UK about a marketing/comms issue in NZ just shows how converged the world is becoming!)

Some observations:

  • Transparency is no longer optional. Issues of corporate strategy are going to be discussed, whether you plan for it or not. Full credit to Paul Brislen from Vodafone for actively participating in the comment thread on Lance’s blog.
  • Beware of the expectations you set. Paul set very high standards by being a genuine participant in social media. While his temporary replacement 3Gguy did interact with people, it was a radical departure from what people had become used to. While 3Gguy may have been a fantastic tactical campaign if it started from scratch, the distance the audience had to travel was too far.
  • Having a strategy helps. Vodafone’s Twitter involvement began as an under-the-radar experiment by Paul, and whatever strategy has been developed has been in retrospect. To be sure, a lot of innovation happens that way (penicillin, anyone?) but when more than one person is involved, it’s good to set some guidelines. (And maybe, ahem, get some help from, say a social media consultancy .)
  • You can’t please all the people, all the time. Some people were quite happy with 3Gguy. After all, he was giving away free stuff! What’s interesting is that, in general, those who didn’t mind 3Gguy are relatively recent to Twitter, while those who resented his presence have been on Twitter for a long time . Within every tribe there will be sub-tribes, and while you can’t please everyone, it’s good to have an idea of who you do want to please.

Last word: It’s easy to throw stones, and have 20/20 hindsight. Vodafone made an unwise decision, but has been excellent in listening and responding to the community.

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