The Scandal Of Toothless Social Media Representatives Ends… Now

Last weekend, our own Erick Schonfeld wrote an impressive in-flight diatribe against American Airlines; specifically their ineffectual social media representatives whom he described as little more than “a toothless marketing arm” for the company.

Of course, the usual dick of troll commenters (‘a dick’ is the collective noun for troll commenters, look it up) complained that personal rants have no place on TechCrunch – despite the fact that a) TechCrunch is built on a proud tradition of personal rants b) Erick is the co-editor of the site and so can write whatever he damn well pleases.

In fact Erick’s ‘rant’ was long overdue. American Airlines’ social media department does suck when it comes to providing actual customer service. But here’s the thing: so does everybody else’s.

Last night I stayed at the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas and had cause to bitch on Twitter about the wifi. Sure enough I promptly received the standard “we’re sorry, we’ll look into it…” response from the hotel’s social media representative. And of course that was the last I heard from them (until late this morning when I complained again, and they offered to contact me privately – ten minutes before I was due to check out). For MGM, which owns the Luxor, the important thing was they’d intercepted my complaint and encouraged me to discuss it with them privately; effectively “shhhhh”-ing me away from complaining further in a public forum.

Across America, and the world, thousands upon thousands of people are current employed as “social media representatives” or “online brand ambassadors” or whatever title we’re giving to this army of 19-year-old, disaffected, invent-your-own-job-title millennials this week. In almost every case, those responsible for the Twitter accounts of giant companies have absolutely no access to customer accounts, nor are they in any way able to make the decisions required to resolve complaints.

Instead their job is simply to identify angry customers, publicly apologize and then promise to resolve the matter by DM. Nothing more. This despite the fact that for a growing number of customers, these @companyname or @companynamecares Twitter accounts represent the primary public face of multi-billion dollar brands.

Erick and I are fortunate to have TechCrunch as a platform to draw attention to this scandalous waste of company resources and mass-deception of customers. The vast majority of people aren’t so lucky.

Well enough’s enough: it’s time we bring this nonsense out in to the open. I want to hear your real world examples of how companies have dealt with your Twitter complaints. Which ones lead to actual remedial action, and which were simply swept under the carpet with the empty promise of a private response? In the coming weeks I’ll write a couple of follow up posts – one to praise the companies who actually practice what their social media representatives are paid to preach, and another name and shame the brands who – like American Airlines and the Luxor (MGM) – promise the earth but deliver nothing. I have a feeling I know which will be the longer post.

Tell me your stories here.