14.07.2014 What Arriva Trains Wales can teach us about when social media goes bad…

Barely a week goes by without a brand or organisation letting their online image slip. One of the latest culprits is Arriva Trains Wales, who, in the heat of the moment, responded in a rather unfriendly matter to a tweet from the First Minister.

It’s worth noting the cheery, helpful way in which Arriva usually communicate with their customers:

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However, one small change in their tone caused a huge backlash this weekend.

On Saturday 12th July, First Minister Carwyn Jones sent a tweet to Arriva while at Cardiff’s Queen Street station. Having spent his afternoon in a celebration to mark the use of Welsh language in the capital, he was somewhat concerned by the lack of Welsh announcements on the platform.

The reply from Arriva Trains Wales was even less satisfactory than the service:

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As the media picked up on the Twitter conversation, Arriva Trains Wales released this statement as an apology for their manner:

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Unfortunately for Arriva, the public had already shared their outrage at the way one of the most important politicians in Wales was treated by the company:

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Carwyn Jones was gracious in his response to the apology, tweeting a simple “@ much appreciated”, but as the tweets from general members of the public show, a slip in Twitter etiquette can leave a lasting negative impression on customers and service users. In 2011, the clothing store Urban Outfitters lost a staggering 17,000 followers after they tweeted a blasé response to a serious enquiry about copyright theft.

The tone in which brands communicate online can really impact on public perceptions. If brands use negative attitudes or insensitive comments on Twitter or Facebook, customers are likely to have a poorer impression of the brand overall.

While some brands are brilliant at maintaining a friendly, humorous and well-considered voice on social media – see Oreo’s winner of a tweet during the 2013 Superbowl – it is not easy to be consistently positive on social media. When there are multiple users of one social media account, or when users are not trained in handling their brand’s image through social media, it becomes even more difficult.

Our advice? Check what you write before you publish it, if in doubt ask a colleague to give a second opini0n, and always sense check how it sounds in your head. Does it sound like something one of your front line customer facing people would say? If not, always err on the side of caution. The potential fall out of a poorly thought-out response is just too risky, as some poor soul at Arriva’s social media department learned this weekend.