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10 Days of Crisis Communications: Number 8
18 Dec 2013

10 Days of Crisis Communications: Number 8

There are lots of great tips out there for dealing with a crisis. One of the nicest, most succinct ones we’ve seen comes courtesy of Melissa Agnes and addresses the Top Ten Crisis Management Take-Aways from 2013. So, the team at Capstone decided our Christmas gift to you is the Ten Days of Crisis Management – You won’t find any maids a milking here, but you will find the Capstone team’s deeper dives on Melissa’s list. To read Melissa’s original list, click here.


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# 8.   “Promoted tweets can be used against your organization.” – Melissa Agnes
Twitter has become one of the best ways for customers and consumers to reach out for customer service. Much easier than calling a 1-800 number, many people are now sending a tweet to a company or service provider. And if that individual has any social media clout, it often prompts those providers to respond expeditiously.

Many organizations, large and small, are taking to this new model of communication and utilizing the tools Twitter has made available. One such tool is the “promoted” tweet. Companies can pay to have their tweet pushed onto the feeds of those in a selected demographic and reach people who may not have otherwise seen it.  It is very similar to ads purchased on Google, which push the promoted page up to the top of search results.

These promoted tweets have generally been used only by organizations with a marketing budget, but a few enterprising and savvy Twitter users have leveraged them to really make their concerns heard. Rather than just tweet at the offending company, some users have paid the fee (as much as $1,000 or more) to promote their tweet among a specific group. Many more people than just the complainant’s followers will see the tweet. These posts are not slander or expletive-filled revenge but are mostly just straightforward criticisms of service. For a small organization, that kind of content can be devastating if not properly handled. Indeed, even for a large corporation they can attract a great deal of negative attention.

Businessman Hasan Syed (@HVSN) took to this approach in September after British Airways lost his baggage.

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In one day, he had amassed over 70,000 eyes on that tweet and thousands of interactions. British Airways didn’t immediately respond, but in the end they located his bag and issued an apology. Mr. Syed’s campaign probably cost around a thousand dollars but his return on that was enormous. Many social media and public relations experts believe that this is a new trend. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has begun establishing policy to regulate the inevitable use of this kind of consumer-promoted campaign.
The danger here is somewhat in the distance, but for a many kinds of small or mid-sized companies the potential for a group like PETA or other advocacy organizations to use a similar campaign could compound or create negative commentary.

The strategy towards managing these kinds of posts is similar to how one would handle any other negative tweet or online comment. The best defense is to have a good offense, but that doesn’t mean you should attack or escalate the situation. As you’ve been reading from us, the first step of social media crisis management is having a strong voice and presence before the crisis even takes place. Build your followers and narrative as an ongoing project, not at crunch time.

If your organization sees that kind of negative engagement on occasion, it generally sorts itself out. Your supporters will back you if you take a sincere interest in apologizing and rectifying the situation. But if you are seeing negative engagement on a more broad level it likely signifies an area for improvement. Don’t be afraid to talk to those users, in a private setting, to learn where and how you can improve.

Whether it is a one-time criticism or a promoted post, you are still very much in control of how it plays out. The opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a happy advocate always exists.

The views in this blog post represent the viewpoints of individual team members, not Capstone National Partners as a whole.

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