Social Media can present a real minefield at times, and so it’s always best to err on the side of being too cautious, rather than not. At least until you find your feet. That said, I think it’s always important to imagine that anything that’s said publicly through Social Media could be heard by anyone, at anytime, and to always think through long term the potential consequences of what you say, especially when you’re being critical of someone else, or a brand or a product, whether you work with them or not.
A great example in point, was a twitter exchange that happened back in November, 2009, between @KingofShaves (the founder, Will King), and @charliedm an employee at Porter Novelli (the agency that happens to handle Gillette’s PR). You can read about the full exchange between the two here. But suffice it to say, it caught my attention at the time, and has stuck with me ever since.
In brief, @KingofShaves retweeted a message they saw in the general conversation that was happening at the time:
“Time for everyone to boycott gillette and go @kingofshaves #henrylecheat”
It was natural, to join in the conversation, which related to Thierry Henry ending the hopes of Republic of Ireland entering the World Cup, and Gillette sticking by him as a sponsor of his. Then @kingofshaves saw the following tweet from @charliedm:
“A lot more people would switch to Azor if it wasn’t a cheap plastic piece of rubbish that leaves you looking all Sweeney Todd”.
Naturally anyone who understands the power of Social Media would immediately see that as an opportunity to engage with a disgruntled customer, to help change their experience, and create a more positive association with your brand/product. Except, upon investigation, it becomes clear that @charliedm works with the PR agency Porter Novelli, who work for Gillette, so suddenly that ‘criticism’ becomes very very biased, and potentially unfounded. They engage in a twitter exchange of sorts, and the long and the short of it is, that ultimately the PR agency publicly apologise, and the apology is accepted.
Now ordinarily, I’ve been a Gillette consumer for years. I tried Wilkinson briefly when they brought out some new razor, but having started out with Gillette in my late teens, I had kinda just gotten used to it. I do remember thinking the product was much better when I first got it, and to be honest, I’ve been less and less impressed with it, as time goes on. But being a guy, and being naturally lazy, it’s usually been easier to just buy replacement blades for the device I have, rather than buy a whole new razor shaving kit. Partly that was ignorance, and partly that was just not having the time to look into it more closely.
Now as a consequence of this one negative off the cuff comment, and the ensuing conversation that occurred, being in Social Media, naturally the story caught my attention. As a consequence, whilst learning about the consequences of bad mouthing a clients competitor publicly, I also got a chance to learn more about an alternative product, that previously, I would have just ignored. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the brand name, or the packaging, but I’d always considered King of Shaves to just be a cheaper inferior product. Fortunately, now that I know just how much difference there is in King of Shaves products, and also how much better the product sounds, I’m going to have to try it out for myself. Of course, I would have never considered switching products before, but just that single tweet was enough for me to start learning about the alternative, in a way that I never would have otherwise.
I’ve yet to buy a King of Shaves product, mainly because I’ve still got a few Gillette replacement blades to finish off, and I’m not a keen fan of just disposing of things unnecessarily, but when I do finally finish up with my last blade, and am done with my Gillette, I’ll definitely be investing in a new King of Shaves razor, just to see if it really is a better product.
So, the moral of the story, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, unless you don’t care about what other people think, and are only interested in getting attention. (Just be conscious of the fact that that attention could be both positive, or negative, you don’t get to choose!