Things started well for UK train and bus operator Abellio Greater Anglia, as the employee overseeing its Twitter account apologized when a bus failed to stop at a station. Even the complaining customer, Charlotte Warren, was cordial, tweeting “Not your fault” before asking about the refund process
However, the situation escalated when a third party on Twitter, with the username Ricky Andrews chimed in.
“This is possibly the most ludicrous situation I've seen in a while. Even the coaches u hire can't run properly,” Andrews wrote, tagging Abellio and Warren.
That’s when Greater Anglia warned Andrew not to "routinely contact other users who are not your own followers via our feed" as it was against their policy.
When Andrews makes it clear that he plans to continue contacting “who I wish on this open social forum
” the company accuses him of “trolling” and threatens to ban him. The entire exchange has inspired numerous responses and a Greater Anglia parody account.
While the company now deals with the fallout of its social media failure, the lesson for HR leaders is to ensure the person, or people, who have the Twitter password also have the training to understand their role, company policy, and what they can and cannot control on the internet. One reason social media continues to be contentious for organizations is the inability to control everything, but as this incident shows, trying to control customers and members of the public can only backfire on employers.
One would hope that the person in charge of a corporate Twitter account understands how Twitter works, and knows how to communicate with followers and fans. Unfortunately the business world won’t stop giving us examples of the opposite.