Promoted Tweets as Brand Terrorism

16.09.2014 | Blog

On Sept 2nd a gentleman, Hasan Syed, promoted a tweet about a bad experience he had with British Airways:

Apparently, they lost his bags and proceeded to not be very helpful in finding them. He took an interesting approach to complaining. He tweeted, and promoted his tweet (paid to have it show up in people’s feeds). It is unclear if this has ever been done before, but for whatever reason his tweet went viral (story got picked up by Mashable and other sites) so it was a massive success. British Airways suffered a considerable amount of bad press from a small investment. (Story on Mashable) This story is interesting in many ways. The amount of trouble this tweet caused British Airways is probably considerable. The story has over 20,000 shares on Mashable and that is only one of many publications that reported on it. That isn’t what interests me however, I am more interested in what happens if this becomes a trend. Think back to the early 90s before there was Amazon or social media. It was hard to know which companies have good or bad customer service. Product reviews existed in magazines and websites but they were spotty and you couldn’t write your own. Basically if you had a bad experience the best you could do is call and complain and tell your friends about it. Compare that to now. When was the last time you considered any serious purchase before reading a dozen reviews? Every user has the power to review the product or service on various major platforms like Amazon, Google, Ebay. There are blog post reviews, comparison posts, top ten lists, video reviews, video rants. Oh and let’s not forget “telling your friends.” I put that in quotes because now instead of telling twenty people you know you broadcast it on social media and every friend that sees it has the opportunity to re-share it, exposing your woes with a whole new audience.

Imagine if promoting a tweet was as common as writing a review. Twitter would essentially have a crowdsourced ad campaign running for whatever company is currently in the spotlight. That is both an awesome incentive for good service and deterrent for bad service. Social media has always been great at holding companies accountable and this is just another avenue for that dynamic.
Is there a question of abuse? It is hard to say. The fact that promoting tweets actually costs money creates a strong anti-troll barrier. A person would need to be motivated enough to purchase their own soap box. This particular tweet went viral, but if this was common practice these tweets probably wouldn’t go viral very often. A critical mass of energized users would be needed to make a strong impact.

Another unique and useful feature of these promoted review tweets is the ability to interact with the original poster. You can ask follow-up questions, even get into a conversation about the product or service and discuss alternatives. The company in question can directly and publicly address the tweet allowing for a more transparent and honest discourse.