Thursday, 25 June 2009

Habitat - not a natural fit with Twitter!

Unless you have been hiding, you will have read about the Habitat Twitter storm that has been exciting the masses. To keep a long story short, Habitat begain tweeting using irrelevant hashtags, one of which centred on the scandal around the Iranian elections. The Iranian hashtag was trending strongly as the global twitter community started to engage with what is a truly frightening and depressing scenario. Habitat (some would argue shamelessly) cashed in on the rising trend to grab awareness to their unrelated sales tweet.

What ensued was inevitable - the twitter community reacted negatively and with speed. Negative comments streamed in against Habitat, criticising them for their 'black hat' efforts. A swift retraction of the tweets followed but general silence from Habitat HQ as to why they did this. After a few days an apology surfaced, more comments were generated and the storm in the tea cup gently eased. Not before the news had reached mainstream media with the story breaking on the Guardian and Sky News.

For me, this is a good example of how much impact conversations within social communities can have on mainstream media. Twitter has been derided by many as a fad, novacaine for those of us with attention issues and nothing to do (something I have always aspired to!). However, if you can put this one-dimensional view to one side, you will discover that Twitter is a powerful communication tool that throws up stories and spreads them like wildfire. The viral impact of breaking news is impressive; Habitatgate has seen coverage on Sky News which has extensive reach (nope, no idea how may million viewers!).

You can follow the original story (and the outbreak of comments - some rather fuelled with vitriolic rage!) on Social Media Today. A follow-up story was then posted after Habitat contacted Social Media Today to ask them to publish an apology - read it here.

So what do you think? Should brands be taking brand monitoring in social communities more seriously? Is managing your social media personality more important than ever? Do you need to define rules of engagement before starting, or does that go against the culture of social?

Love to read your comments so don't be shy!

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