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@HVSVN vs. @British_Airways: A Twitter Case Study
By: Christine Geraci
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So you slept late. Tripped over the dog. Forgot your lunch. Spilled your coffee in the car. Found a Dear John letter on your dresser.  You're overworked and understaffed and your pay is about as quality as the funny-smelling stuff now mysteriously wedged into the soles of your shoes. 
All somewhat understandable reasons why you might phone it in on your customer service obligations today. But before you do, think twice: You don't want to piss off a savvy Twitter user with a lot of ancillary income.
Twitter user @HVSVN, whose profile identifies him as the CEO of personal care product manufacturer Salon Commodities, recently flew British Airways. They lost his luggage. After repeated emails went unanswered, this dude took his dissatisfaction to Twitter. 
Was he satisfied with tweeting to his 500 or so followers (which have since grown to more than 1,200)? Nope. He used Twitter's advertising service to spread the message far and wide.
To say it worked would be an understatement. 

British Airways didn't get back to him until the next day, apologizing for the late response by saying their account was only "open" from 9–5 each day and asking him to DM his baggage reference number. @HVSVN's response: 
"How does a billion dollar corp only have 9-5 social media support for a business that operates 24/7? DM me yourselves." 
I couldn't understate the validity of this point if I tried. Operating a business 24/7 and only being available via social media during regular business hours is a classic example of a company completely missing the point of social media. Are you available at 2 a.m.? Maybe not. But he tweeted at around 7:30 p.m., a fairly reasonable hour, and no one at the company bothered to respond from their smartphone? 
Salt continued to pour into the wound when British Airways responded by saying it couldn't DM him as he wasn't following them. Then @HVSVN responds: "Jesus. I have been following you already. Did you even bother to check?"
Ouch. Just, ouch. 
In the end, this guy spent $1,000 on his Twitter advertising campaign to publicly shame British Airways, thanks to all the interaction his initial tweet received. Sounds like a lot, huh? 
Well, considering he received a ton of press, gained numerous followers, and placed a lot of attention on his own business thanks to another business' crappy customer service, I say he got a pretty sweet deal.
And on September 4, this happened:
Now, you might think the moral of this little tale is "don't piss off Twitter users with money." I assure you, that's not even the half of it. 
Rather, this is merely the latest example in a long line of cautionary tales of how social media can shine a blinding light on the stuff at which you're just not that great. Including your very use of social media.  
If you're going to do social media, do it right. If you don't know how to do it right, hire someone to help you, at least in the beginning. 
Finally, there's been a lot of hype about this man being a trailblazer of sorts, since he seems to be the first person to utilize Twitter advertising to complain about customer service. Many wonder if others will follow suit and use promoted tweets to put on similar shaming parades. 
Personally, I doubt it. Not everyone has a few grand lying around to shame a company for losing their luggage. Could people crowdsource? Sure. Could others with lots of disposable income now think it's OK to utilize promoted tweets for such purposes? Sure. Will Twitter change its terms of service because of it? An interesting question. 
We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, congratulations @HVSVN. You got a ton of publicity for a small investment. You shamed a big corporation. And you got your luggage back. 

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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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