Well-known high street furniture store Habitat has issued an apology (via its PR company, via a social media blog) for its misuse of popular hashtags on Twitter over the past few days.
Among fair game for whoever was posting on behalf of @TwitterUK were the hashtags #Iran, #iPhone and #Apple – all completely unrelated to any marketing efforts the retail chain was pushing on the service.
The tweets, which unsurprisingly caused quite a backlash from users, have since been removed.
Habitat’s PR company contacted Social Media Today with the following statement:
I know people have been waiting for a response tweet from us; we are treating this very seriously and wanted to offer a longer message. We have been reading everyone’s comments carefully and would like to make a very sincere apology to any Twitter users who were offended.
The top ten trending topics were pasted into hashtags without checking with us and apparently without verifying what all of the tags referred to. This was absolutely not authorised by Habitat. We were shocked when we discovered what happened and are very sorry for the offence that was caused. This is totally against our communications strategy. We never sought to abuse Twitter, have removed the content and will ensure this does not happen again.
It has been really valuable to hear how users would like us to use Twitter and we are determined to do better for the Twitter community.
Habitat Head Office
An apology is definitely a good move, given that a businesses effective use of Twitter is much about building trust and transparent dialogue with consumers, though it does raise some interesting questions.
The statements at the start of the second paragraph implies that:
- Habitat has limited control over who posts to the official Twitter channel
- Habitat (or the designated representatives) don’t yet understand Twitter basics
Hopefully lessons have been learned from this incident. Twitter isn’t particularly complicated, but it’s easy to get things wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing and what various things mean.
Update: The Habitat Press Office has since stated: “In response to speculation, we would like to clarify – this was not done by an agency. The hashtags were uploaded without Habitat’s authorisation by an overenthusiastic intern who did not fully understand the ramifications of his actions. He is no longer associated with Habitat.”