Habitat’s Tehran branch – how not to use Twitter

I’ve been watching the way that the situation in Iran has been unfolding on Twitter with a mixture of surprise and confusion for some time now.

Yes I can see the huge importance of getting first hand reports out of the country and the vital role that new media has played in the debate – although I’m not sure I agree whole heartedly with Gordon Brown’s comments that as a result, “you cannot have Rwanda again”.

What has most surprised me most though is the string of messages that started appearing over a week ago asking tweeters to turn their avatar green to show support for the people of Iran. Is this really helping? Why would I do this? What’s more, once I have turned my avatar green, do I keep it have to keep it green forever?

As a result of all this activity, #Iran and #iranelection have been top trending topics for the last week or so. Enter Habitat…

As the news broke that Habitat had started adding inappropriate hashtags to its sales offers, it started to become clear that we were now being presented with a great case study on how not to use Twitter.

The story of the intern who added inappropriate hashtags to Habitat offers (and has since been fired) will no doubt be told again and again over the coming months. But it also helps to highlight another Twitter issue that emerged earlier this week – namely that the micro-blogging site is proving to be very effective at sending traffic to media websites, but not online retailers.

This is clearly a challenge for all online retailers. As the new Woolworths online only store launches today it’ll be interesting to see whether they can make Twitter work for them. Just stick to picknmix hashtags – and steer clear of politics.

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    Thank you Stuart.

    Imagine what could have happened if Twitter and other social media sites were left totally unchecked? Is any of this the responsibility of Twitter?

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    There were two big issues for me over this:

    1. Letting an intern loose on your brand’s external communications is risky in the first place, but to do so without checks in place is equally scary.

    2. That the intern took all of the blame and lost their internship is the worst thing for me. The person managing the intern should have been held accountable, instead the most vulnerable person became a scapegoat. Personally I don’t think this is that ‘big a deal’. It was a mistake by an intern – that’s how people learn, no?

  • I like the fact that it’s already an industry joke…