Monday, November 28, 2011

Social Media Engagement Comedy: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback

It's not unusual for businesses to monitor the web and social media looking for mentions. Companies like Dell, Comcast and Best Buy have noted social media customer service programs designed to engage people over social media, listened for disgruntled customers and making efforts to resolve issues before they turn into Dell Hell.

So along comes this story of Governor Sam Brownback and a Kansas teen. Here are a couple of the details from Talking Points Memo.
A Kansas teenager got in some trouble with her school for comments she posted on her Twitter account -- in which she claimed to have trashed Gov. Sam Brownback (R) to his face during a field trip.
And her post:
Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot
And then what happened:
But as it turns out, Brownback’s office watches Twitter for comments about him. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag told the event organizers about the comment, “so that they were aware what their students were saying in regards to the governor’s appearance,” the Wichita Eagle reports, also adding: “We monitor social media so we can see what Kansans are thinking and saying about the governor and his policies.”

Brownback’s office flagged the tweet to the event organizers, who in turn passed the complaint on to Sullivan’s school. This got her called to the principal’s office:
Imagine if Dell or Comcast had the option of calling the principle at your school to 'discuss' your complaints about their product. Imagine if, instead of contacting you about your product problem or your complaint, they attempted to contact your boss or the company president. Instead of engagement for resolution, this event essentially amounts to hostile engagement.

Considering that I've since seen several reposts of this story, the whole thing blew up far beyond a simple negative post on Twitter. Lesson one of social media engagement should probably be obvious. Of course, politics is different than customer service. One might argue that, if this were a political post from an ideological zealot, there would be no way to change the dialog, to resolve the complaint.

But instead of reflecting on the politics or on the 'tell your principal' approach to the dialog, it's probably a worthwhile thought experiment to think about the possible outcomes and to try and how this should have gone. Imagine seeing this tweet come across your wire -- what would have been the right way to resolve this situation? Is there a way that you could improve the outcome? In some cases, this kind of media explosion might actually be a welcome result. Are you prepared to resolve issues that you face on social media?

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