Using Twitter as the tool to change your reputation is a bad idea.

Don’t misunderstand us, Twitter is a powerful tool and we recommend it as a component of reputation management (for more info on reputation management, we highly recommend you read our blog explaining proactive and reactive reputation management). However, Twitter is a very small part of reputation management and full campaigns on Twitter should aim to enhance an already positive reputation and brand awareness as opposed to countering negative impressions. (To see the summary and points, you can just go right here, but it’s not as interesting as the rest of the article!)

The problem with Twitter is that it can’t be controlled. Sure, you can control your own account and what you post, but that’s really the end of it. After that, the posts can take on lives of their own. This is basically what happened with the latest campaign for the NYPD.

The #myNYPD Campaign

The New York Police Department (NYPD) started the #myNYPD hashtag in order to encourage feel-good stories about the NYPD and what they’ve done. The intention was for people to post photos of themselves with NYPD officers, creating a Twitter stream that looked like a commercial you’d see on the 6:00 news. Instead, the Internet was flooded with people posting pictures of police brutality and other inappropriate police behavior with the #myNYPD hashtag. The #myNYPD hashtag wound up being the number one trending topic on Twitter. Instead of promoting a positive, community-driven image, the campaign did the reverse. Complex.com captured a large number of these images, and you can see what emerged here: Complex.com #myNYPD Police Brutality photos (note that some people will feel these images are graphic, visit the link at your discretion).

This has gotten so bad that if you do a Google search for “nypd,” the top three results (as of 4/24) are for the backfiring campaign, and four of the top ten organic results are also about a misfiring campaign – the exact opposite of what they were hoping for! Note that we aren’t making a statement either way about the NYPD here. What we are doing is showing what happened as a result of their present online campaign management.

Why Twitter Doesn’t Work

The reason that Twitter does not work for campaigns like this is that it can’t be controlled. Yes, you want authenticity in your campaigns, and people should be able to present their side, which you can respond to. When these posts come out on Twitter though, there is no way to respond to everything that is posted, especially when the topic is trending worldwide. There is no way to control the situation and address issues that come up. You’re left to hope for the best while random people tweet wildly, and your responses are never seen by nearly the same amount of people who see the criticism. The same scenario happened to McDonalds when a promoted post encouraging users to post #McDStories was hijacked in a similar manner and people posted McDonald’s horror stories, and it will happen again. Twitter just isn’t tamable enough.

Facebook, on the other hand, is much better for a campaign like this. True, you can’t control someone else’s wall, but the audiences on those walls are also typically much more limited. On Facebook, there is a controlled environment on your page that you can use to foster a conversation. If someone posts something that is completely inappropriate, it can be deleted (though we typically wouldn’t recommend that unless is crosses many lines). The better option, which you can more easily do on Facebook, is to directly address the concerns of the users, which will also be seen by anyone else who comes into the conversation. Facebook allows your responses to criticism to have as much if not more visibility than the criticism itself.

The principle behind #myNYPD wasn’t a bad one. The execution was terrible. Platform makes all the difference in the world.

What Does Twitter Help With?

We certainly don’t want to convey that Twitter has no value. It certainly does. It just has to be used in the right way. Twitter is a valid avenue for both branding and lead generation. It can also be used for proactive reputation management.

The key benefit of Twitter in reputation management is that it is a site that has a very high domain authority and PageRank, which are indicators to how powerful a site is and how it will rank in search results. Leveraging this for a branded company name enables the Twitter page to rank highly in a branded Google search, and pushes down other negative content. Doing this before negative content appears can help ensure that negative feedback doesn’t get a hold in search results.

While we advocate that companies should address concerns as opposed to hiding them, we also believe Twitter helps to show positive things that the company is doing and display branded information. There will always be one client/patient/user that has a bad experienced and can’t be consoled. Don’t let this one individual make it look like your company isn’t as good as it really is.

Twitter can also be used to promote positive content. There’s a wide audience on Twitter, and using it as a distribution channel for press releases, news stories, and other information can help spread a positive message. Please don’t confuse this with trying to start a campaign of public feedback and user generated content (unless you are sure there is no image issue). This is spreading a good word, not asking for one.

Finally, if there are some negative feelings out there on the Twitterverse, you can address them directly through twitter in an open and honest manner. Don’t start a campaign about it, but reaching out to individuals who have voiced concerns about your brand on Twitter will demonstrate that at least these people have been heard.

How to Handle a Reputation Management Crisis

The best way to handle a reputation management crisis is to address the issues. Pretending an issue doesn’t exist when it clearly does is counter-productive – people know. Push out positive information and address criticism. Most people won’t have to handle damage control as big as the NYPD or McDonalds, but everyone has to deal with an unhappy customer at some point. Make sure people are addressed and feel valued, and don’t let one person spoil everything.

And, don’t forget to address things after the fact. The NYPD has been silent on their Twitter account about the incident. Trust me, nobody that is seeing a tweet from the NYPD is unaware of what just happened. Address the issue. At least tell people you’ve heard them, you’re sorry that they feel that way, and are working to correct the issue. Link to a post on the website with more information. You can also explain that things aren’t always what they seem in a picture, etc. Don’t blow it off like you did nothing wrong; address the situation. Silence speaks volumes.

If you need help addressing issues related to you or your company/practice, please give us a call and let us know. We have a team of specialists who can help you create a plan, address negative feedback, and give a positive impression in search results.

And if you’re with the NYPD, feel free to give us a call. We’d love to help you out.

TL;DR Version:

  • Twitter is not good for reputation management when there are known issues
  • Twitter cannot be easily contained or controlled – be cautious
  • Use Twitter primarily for pushing out positive content and branding, not asking for user generated content (when there are potential negative issues)
  • Facebook presents a greater opportunity for user content and interaction in these cases
  • Push out positive information through social media, PR, etc.

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