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By now, the @VodafoneUK story which broke on Friday afternoon is, to many of us, well known. However, has this really damaged the reputation of the brand or has it had the adverse affect?

On Monday, @Lakey (Can you see how we're now using Twitter handles instead of names. Most odd) wrote an interesting post on the story which encouraged Dan, a Vodafone representative, to respond, and fair play to Vodafone for doing so. There is mixed opinion about how well Vodafone handled the aftermath because there is no fixed "process" on dealing with such situations.

However, I believe something really positive has come out of this, which may benefit Vodafone and other organisations embracing social media...

Someone at Vodafone clearly had that Friday feeling. All excited about what the weekend could bring, they decided to tell their friends on Twitter. Unfortunately, they told many more people than they intended to and did it via their company's Twitter account.

Imagine that panic fuelled, heart racing, realisation after the tweet had been sent to thousands of people; accompanied by the frantic search for "delete", "undo" and "recall" surely there must be something to save my backside!!

Alas, there is no such functionality. Once it's gone, it's gone. Even if you do delete the tweet from you own computer, it has already been replicated thousands of times on your follower's Twitter screens. Looking for a big hole to swallow them up, which never appears, the offending tweeter had no option but to hold their hand up and hang their head in shame.

Internal conversations must have focused upon the tarnishing of the brand name; the creation of a reputation management issue; how could you do such a silly thing? Lots of raised voices and most probably a lot of giggling amongst the Vodafone Team.

The harsh and honest reality is...we've all done it. Warranted with much less visibility and impact; but there's been a number of times when I've sent out a tweet from the wrong or multiple accounts on Tweetdeck. It is so easily done.

Deep down, I suspect many people are empathising with the poor soul in Vodafone and wondering how Vodafone will react. If I may suggest something, I'd like to see that person's employment at Vodafone kept intact and for Vodafone to be human about it.

There is a great opportunity for a very personable PR exercise (and many other things), demonstrating that we should all be able to laugh at ourselves; as opposed to being far too corporate and serious about it. Vodafone could lead by example here.

Social media with all its instant "updates" is a medium where mistakes will happen. Ideally, not too often, and there is a need for companies to have social media guidelines. However, human errors will occur and by doing so, will demonstrate that there are real people, with real personalities, like you and me, behind the corporate face.

Sometimes it's not a bad thing to divert from scripts and rigourous communications processes. Isn't this what the social web is all about? Online organisations recognising this fact have the opportunity to build stronger relations with their customers and attract new ones. People relate to people.

I suspect Vodafone will come out of this in a very positive way, especially with the honesty they demonstrated after the incident occurred. Although the @mentions to everyone did turn up the Twitter decibels somewhat, I'm pretty sure they will look back at last Friday very fondly in the months to come, even if it doesn't feel like that at the moment.

Karl Havard

Published 10 February, 2010 by Karl Havard

Karl Havard is a trainer and contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter and connect via LinkedIn.

21 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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Liam

I don't think the person who wrote that is homophobic at all, the tweet was clearly in jest and not malicious. Where I work, me and my team all have a dark sense of humour and this is how we would speak to each other. On the otherhand, it isn't professional conduct at all.

Vodafone could have buried and denied it was one of their employees, but instead they were honnest and open. Something which other businesses and even the government could do more of.

over 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Jordan, so are you saying the person who jumped onto the web relations computer didn't have the "Friday feeling" or was messing around? And when he had sent it, didn't have that blind panic feeling? Granted, I was not there first hand and I do not condone such activity....but it does show the real human element behind the corporate social media communications. It's a fine line, and one we and business should be aware of and recognise.

over 6 years ago

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Jordan Stone

An individual jumped on the computer and was messing around where they shouldn't have been (apparently). It wasn't a case of someone accidently updating their Tweetdeck to the wrong account, and getting that feeling of panic that they've messed up. To me, these are two very different situations.

I actually think Vodafone came off well because they handled the whole mess with the seriousness it deserved - quickly. Not because they laughed it off. 

I definitely think there is a place for companies to demonstrate there are real people, with real personalities behind the corporate face, but I just don’t think this was it. 

over 6 years ago

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Xavier Izaguirre

I agree with Jordan,

Vodafone deserves coming out well of the issue becausee it handled it quickly and seriously.

Whilst i agree with the idea of having a laugh about ourselves every so often, I deem pretty gross to tweet such a thing from a corporate profile. plus is offensive for a lot of people....

Social Media is as serious as any other form of communication....regardless of how much humour may be used

xavier izaguirre

Social media library

over 6 years ago

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Janice Taylor Gaines

Wow - the "Friday Feeling" thing reminds me of something I saw in another article - it talked about "friending" on social networking one minute, and then "businessing" in the corporate environment the next, and mixing the two.  Check out the article at IT Knowledge Exchange, called "Social Networking and the Blended Environment" by David Scott - it's a great companion piece.  For that matter, check out his book, "I.T. WARS" (which you can Google).  He makes the point that most organizations enjoy "security" largely as a matter of luck!  These topics are fascinating!  Keep these coming - security is my main interest.

over 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Jordan, Xavier, I think you are missing the core point of my post. This is not about lets treat the corporate Twitter account flippantly; this is about the fact that there are real people behind the social media channels. People make mistakes; they mess about; both instances occurred at Vodafone; it happens everywhere. The person messing about (and they should not have been) also made a mistake by sending the tweet via the corporate account. However, the key point is the recognition that the Social web makes it very easy for human behaviour (making mistakes, messing around, being moody etc) to be reflected via a corporate social media account.

Vodafone did take this seriously and I commend them for doing so; as should any other organisation. Social media is different to other online communications as it is real time, individually focused, yet broadcast to potentially thousands of people; archived on the web and made accessible through the cross fertilisation of many other online channels. A single, simple misplaced tweet, taking seconds to write (whether malicious or a mistake) will become much more common place as more businesses adopt these channels. Therefore, as a human race we need to be more empathetic to this rather than all getting on our high horses, pointing our fingers, shouting loudly and wishing to see the offending individual thrown to the lions.

over 6 years ago

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Steve Ward, @CloudNine Media Recruitment

Karl, I absolutely agree with you. Isn't one of the benefits of Twitter, to demonstrate some personality in corporate communication? Once distant organisations are now engaged in day to day chatter (as is the wont of Twitter particularly), and it creates an engagement that was never there before. Read @markshaw 's story about Starbucks vs Costa Coffee.

Naturally it means there is a human side, and ok - some wag at Vodafone made a faux pas on the corporate account - but we all recognise Vodafone more for it, we all recognise and appreciate Vodafone's honesty in communications afterwards, and we all feel a little warmer towards Vodafone as a consequence.

...and hey, the fact that we are talking about it, means Vodafone will be the winner - for being completely human. They'll be mocked in some quarters, but appreciated in far more. I kind of like Vodafone now.

over 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Steve, Thank you! Glad you concur. Whenever I see or hear Vodafone now, I smile. I never did before. I hope they take the opportunity ahead of them. 

over 6 years ago

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