PayPal and ASOS showcase lessons in Twitter – sometimes it’s best to watch and listen – but not to tweet

First rule of corporate PR – never add to a negative story. Why? It might just run out of your control. And if this is on Twitter, then it can get seriously out of control.

We look at two high profile cases where corporates decided to enter the debate on Twitter, which resulted in negative running stories that attacked their brands.

First Rakesh Agrawal, PayPal’s former Director of Strategy. He started tweeting some very peculiar things on 2nd May, but it was PayPal’s reaction to the tweets that got us all talking, posing the question: Are some things best left outside of Social Media?

When Agrawal began his Twitter tirade, we all sat back and watched as a series of incoherent tweets appeared on his feed, some insulting his former PayPal workers. Even though Agrawals tweets were offensive to his colleagues, he said nothing about the company itself, so was it really in PayPal’s best interest to intervene?

Following his outburst, Agrawal tweeted an apology, followed by a reason for his tweets:

1

Tweeting damaging innuendos is not what corporations should be doing
Whether or not this was the result of a DM fail as he claims, with the tweets being posted accidentally to his feed, why oh why did PayPal feel the need to weigh in with this:2

PayPal’s tweet implied that Agrawal was fired as a result of the offensive tweets (vehemently denied), and claims he resigned from his position before the Twitter scandal (again denied).

Why start another debate, and particularly one that affects the brand image of PayPal as an employer?

Making fun of your customer is a bad thing
Second, we move to giant retailer ASOS. It started quite simply with what seemed like a harmless tweet from a customer about their models:3

Some sympathy here from us all – we all know trying to get designer clothes to fit our un-designer bodies is not all that easy. But it’s a bit of an accepted joke about ALL designer clothes and not particularly about ASOS, so the story didn’t really affect the ASOS brand.

However, instead of understanding the poor man’s plight, someone in ASOS in their wisdom thought they could have some fun with this and so tweeted a picture of UK model Jodie Marsh, suggesting that her muscly physique made her look like a man. Mmmm…

Needless to say this tweet got a huge negative reaction:4

The company was forced to make a public apology, and donated £10,000 to an anti-bullying charity as an apology to Ms Marsh.5

So should some things be kept offline?
If PayPal had ignored Agrawal’s tweets, and ASOS had just listened to their customer rather than making fun of his plight, these stories would have nudged along and petered out, leaving each company’s corporate branding intact.

Sometimes it’s better to watch and listen – but not to tweet.

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