I was a little surprised when I was tipped off (thanks Chris!) about the following tweets from the cancer charity The McGrath Foundation:

McGrath Foundation Telstra Complaint Tweets

It’s quite an interesting series. For those who are not aware (I wasn’t), Kylea Tink is the CEO of the McGrath Foundation.

Moving offices and/or changing telco providers is frustrating, and bound to be quite a pain, regardless of whether you are an individual (‘consumer’), small business, or large enterprise.

I often discuss the blurred lines between personal and professional. While (internal) social media risk management is certainly about teaching employees to behave professionally online, there’s a fine line between their role as a private individual with an opinion and their role as an employee. But in some roles (and CEO is one of them), anything you say or do (offline or online) is seen as an extension of the brand.

In the above case, if the tweets had only been on @KyleaTink’s profile, I’d still call them inappropriate. It’s frustrating when things don’t happen, but using your role or brand to try to leverage a telco to bump you up the queue is a bit on the nose for me. But sadly for @KyleaTink, she has ~500 followers, so the ability for her to throw around some ‘online influence’ is limited. Thus, get the brand’s account involved.

So rather than its usual Tweets about the charity’s activities and new things like their App:

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There’s a series of Tweets criticising Telstra for not having connected their internet.

When we moved offices early this year, we didn’t have internet for two weeks. And as a social media consulting company, that’s a big thing. So we did what we could — bought dongles, and utilised the fairly good quality 4G until the web could churn and get connected. But goodness it was frustrating!

While it is commonplace for consumers to use social media to ‘vent’ about negative experiences they’ve had with a brand, it’s something we rarely see from brands themselves. And that’s for a good reason – it damages brand equity by moving from being a brand who is all about the cause to one that complains willy-nilly every time they have a problem.

It also raises an interesting question for me. Should Telstra have treated them any differently? In social media and customer service (/crisis management), we talk about triaging people who complain or have issues based on online influence. After all, their complaints or issues will have a much larger reach than someone with 5 (or 500) followers. But for brands like Telstra — who provide services to a huge range of customers, many of whom will wait in the queue — is prioritising one enquiry over another okay? I’d say no. Certainly while responding to more influential people is important if you’re worked off your feet and can’t reply to everything, the actual activities (booking your installation contractors etc) shouldn’t be triaged in that manner. If that was the case, I’d say that your other customers might just take a bit of an exception to it.

So if I was going to try and use influence (real-world or online) to get something bumped up for a brand, I’d go direct, and private. In this case, Telstra couldn’t Tweet back (even if they wanted to) that they’ve moved the foundation to the top of the queue – there would (rightfully) be a fair bit of community backlash. That’s the problem with public channels.

It’s a good lesson for everyone managing social media for a brand — sometimes when you’re angry or frustrated, save that draft Tweet (or email, or letter) for when you’ve calmed a little then review it objectively before sending. Because otherwise you might damage the great work you do, and the great brand you’ve built.