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Vodafone's Twitter fiasco & the dilemma of handling social media bloopers

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Vodafone's Twitter fiasco & the dilemma of handling social media bloopers

On Sunday, followers of Vodafone India on Twitter were surprised to see some really strange messages from Vodafone India’s twitter account. The tweets continued for quite a while though thankfully since they were mentions, all tweets were not possible to everyone.

Vodafone responded by deleting all offensive tweets and posting this explanation on Twitter:

“Earlier today, our Twitter account was briefly compromised & some inappropriate messages were sent. These comments have been removed. We assure you that our customer service is happy to help as always on any service related queries.”

Vodafone’s case is not the first one and neither will it be the last, though Vodafone India should be credited for taking decisive action. It’s typically ‘corporate’ reply is at odds with everything that social media is about. But barring a few, Indian brands have not really shown too much creativity or even bravery in addressing social media bloopers.

Remember the Star Sports tweet back in November. That was another example of an incident that was not properly managed. In these scenarios, the general trend for brands is to try and shift the blame to someone else or to adopt the ostrich strategy and hope the storm fades away quickly.

Last year, MTV India accidently wished John Lennon on his birth anniversary in a tweet, which was fine, but they mistakenly added “…and a joyous year ahead.” The outrage was inevitable.

Says Eklavya Bhattacharya, Head of Digital Marketing at MTV India, “Brands need to accept the responsibility themselves and handle it, ideally, in a humorous manner. Laugh at yourself. It is far better than blaming your nephew (referring to an incident with cricketer Suresh Raina)!” According to him, brands need to stop the blame game. “People like the human sides of brands too,” he added.


With reaction times almost instantaneous on social media, it is perhaps understandable that brands and agencies panic whenever a situation like this occurs. The trick according to Sanjay Mehta, Co-CEO of Social Wavelength is to have a pro-active plan in place.

Chetan Asher, Founder Of Tonic Media suggested that personal profile be discouraged while managing brand accounts, recheck everything posted and managing of live tweets and contests by multiple people. But mistakes will still tend to happen. In this case he suggests, “Keep the communication going with regular updates on the status. A blog spot explaining the situation would also help the brand as users would notice and appreciate the steps taken to manage the situation.”

In MTV’s case, Bhattacharya told us that they used the opportunity to poke fun at themselves and take the matter more light-heartedly. He agreed that brands tend to take themselves a little too seriously online, which creates a disconnect.

As Stephanie Agresta, Global Director - Social Media & Digital, MSL Group advised in an earlier interview, “If you are as open and transparent as possible, you are free to be human, admit an error and – in most cases – move on,”


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