Another weekend, another social media PR disaster

Boots. I salute you. Because damned if you do and damned if you don’t just really bit you on the behind.

UKUncut have been out bringing protest and humour to the streets again today. And Boots have received a visitation due to their alleged (I don’t know enough about all this so am using alleged) tax avoidance. It appears, superficially, that while police were outside the door CS gassing protestors, inside someone was tweeting this (via @nksheridan). It appears to come from @bootsmealdeals and appears to be commenting on Boots attitude to the polices reactions to the protestors.

The account has now been deleted. As has @bootsstores. Now ordinarily, my reaction to this would have been woah! overreaction much, and to question why they simply didn’t issue an apology on the stream, explain that it had been a mistake and carried on, business as usual, because deleting the accounts simply makes them look a bit stupid, because as the link above clearly shows, nothing on the interwebs is ever actually deleted. Ever.

But then you start to look a little deeper and you wonder exactly how deep the doing it wrong goes. And it goes quite deep. A quick riffle through the boots.com website reveals a blog (I’ll not pass comment, it’s not fair) and no mention of Twitter, at all. Even in the Contact Us bit. So thanks to other Tweeters, I discovered an account, which has also been deleted, called @bootsstores. The only tweet from this account that I can easily find is this one. Funny Donkeys. Yes, you did read that right. Also, note the user pic.

So, we’ve got one of two situations here, and neither of them is very happy making for Boots. 1) two accounts which are not actually being run by Boots officially, but are being run by employees are merrily tweeting quite company reputation damaging stuff (yes it’s only donkeys but really? First rule of running an official company Twitter account – be friendly but not over friendly and keep it vaguely related to business) because commenting on police action is just not the done thing or 2) you allowed two accounts which were nothing to do with you use your company name and cause quite widespread confusion when those two accounts are deleted, because if they’re not you why have you waited until now to get them deleted and if they are you why do they look so unprofessional?

Whichever way you tilt your head, there are some very interesting issues here. In the midst of a backlash against social media consultants, I would argue that now more than ever they are needed (as long as they actually know what they’re talking about and it might be helpful is there were some questions somewhere which people could use to filter out charlatans), and I would also argue that Twitter verification is really rather necessary and taking it away leaving a gaping void is damaging Twitters reputation as well as other peoples. The potential for damage to a company not keeping an eye on what is happening on social networks should not need to be pointed out and nor should I need to say no Funny Donkeys.

But it seems I need to. So, no funny donkeys. If you’re tweeting from a company account, make it clear it is, put a logo on it. And if someone sets up a Twitter account which might be mistaken for your companies official mouthpiece, hunt them down and ask them nicely to cease and desist and if they wont, get your Legal Department on the case.

Don’t be a Boots.

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