Why You Should Never Argue in 140 Characters or Less - Geeklist
There is a fascinating "storify" (a list of tweets with commentary that make up a story of what happened on Twitter) by Charles Arthur about an uncomfortable back and forth on Twitter between Shanley Kane, an engineer at Basho, and Christian Sanz and Reuben Katz, the founders of Geekli.st.
UPDATE: Here is a link to Geekli.st's apology.
The nutshell is that Shanley came upon this ridiculous video (photos here) of a girl in her underwear dancing around with a Geeklist T-Shirt. According to the Geeklist site, it is an "achievement-based social portfolio builder" for developers. Programming is an intellectual pursuit and any kind of "-ism" is totally inappropriate. In this case, immature sexism is a huge turn off. It's been a week of sexism in technology on the Internets.
But this post is less about that, as we can all agree that girls dancing in their underwear is a poor way to promote programming. I want to talk about Twitter, your Customers, your Brand, and Bile.
Shanley tweeted to the founders of Geeklist a totally reasonable question.
@csanz @rekatz why the ads with a woman in her underwear dancing around to dupstep?— Shanley Kane (@shanley) March 22, 2012
At this point, Geeklist should have recognized what Shanley was really saying. This was a chance for them to re-notice the video in context and be reminded it should probably not exist. Instead, they replied with a non-answer answer with no recognition of the underlying question.
OK, a little dense, but here's where it goes south. Shanley, who is clearly and rightfully upset, asks that they take it down but she drops an F-bomb. Fine, she's pissed, not the point.
@shanley @rekatz oh that was super old ad created by a friend,we need an updated version that shows less skin! :)— Christian Sanz (@csanz) March 22, 2012
@shanley @rekatz ? why the agressive tone— Christian Sanz (@csanz) March 22, 2012
Boom. Stop there. You've got a customer who is upset, rightfully so, about an -ism, also a hot button. She's reaching out to you to validate her frustration AND most importantly handle your business. Every time a person reaches out to you on Twitter, it's a chance for you to put your best foot forward. This is the first impression. Get it right. You have only 140 characters.
At this point there's no turning back. It doesn't matter at this point that the video in question was made by a friend of Geeklist. It doesn't matter that Geeklist is/was a good product. What matters is that the founders were thoughtless in their response on Twitter.
Twitter is not chat, it's not IRC. And even it it was, the thing that I see companies forget over and over and over again is this. Companies need to know: You're on the Internet. Things that you say here matter and will be archived forever and repeated.
Shanley then nails it with this tweet:
@csanz @rekatz sorry my "tone" is offensive but a video that objectifies and sexualizes women in the context of "geek culture" merits anger— Shanley Kane (@shanley) March 22, 2012
This is Geeklist's last opportunity to fix this. They should watch their tone, fall on their swords and handle their business. Surprisingly (or not) they go on for two dozen more tweets. It's really hard to read. Good on Shanley for not backing down. Note Charles Arthur's commentary:
[Shanley] Kane complained about a video. [Geeklist's Christian] Sanz took offence because of how he was addressed, rather than treating it as a legitimate complaint about content. Now both he and his co-founder are subtly signaling that they will make life difficult for her and her company
Stop here. Note. You will never win an argument on Twitter. You think arguments on the Internet are hard? Counting the characters until someone invokes Hitler? Pardon me while I quote myself, via Twitter.
Why argue on Twitter? Try speaking to someone in person in monotone short sentences while blindfolded without context.— Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) May 20, 2011
Acknowledge your mistakes, be kind, stay positive, respond with respect and thoughtfulness. You are in public and you are teaching people how to treat you. You likely cannot win an argument on online, and you can never win one on Twitter.
This story is a great example about how not to manage your brand on Twitter. Of course, in this case they were also totally wrong, but trying to argue their point in 140 characters just dug the hole deeper.
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