How not to use Twitter: HabitatUK as a case study

Habitat is a trendy furniture store, set up by Terence Conran in the 1970s, for those who’ve never been to the UK its like a slightly more upmarket version of Ikea. @HabitatUK turned up on Twitter a couple of days ago, and decided to use trending topic #hashtags at the start of their tweets to get noticed. They used ones that had absolutely nothing to do with furniture, decorating, or shopping, but obviously the top hashtags for Thursday evening AEST such as #iPhone #mms #Apple and even Australia’s Masterchef contestant who got voted off #Poh. I found these on Twitter Search:

HabitatUK #hashtag abuse

HabitatUK  trending topic #hashtag spam

Just to really add insult to injury, HabitatUK even used an Iranian election hashtag, and threw one in for True Blood fans too, both trying to get people to signup to a database.

Hashtag abuse involving Iranian election

Hashtag abuse involving Iranian election

I’ve written about how easy it is to make a mess of hashtags on Twitter if you don’t know what you’re doing. Thanks to Twitter’s immediacy and public transparency, you can be quickly picked up on spammy behaviour – and the Twitter community made their disappointment clear to @HabitatUK.

Here are some of the more polite, yet dismayed responses:






@HabitatUKs response to all of this? They deleted their offending tweets, and replaced them a couple of hours ago with some generic product and sales oriented tweets with links to various web pages.

Thanks to the wonderful caching qualities of Twitter Search, the offensive tweets live on long enough to capture the evidence, but regardless of whether deleted or not, the damage to the brand has been done. The response tweets and the retweets will live on long after their offensive hashtag spam effort.

So what could HabitatUK have done instead?

  1. Individually @replied everyone who complained to them publicly, and apologised for the spammy behaviour
  2. Apologised in public. They could have sent out generic tweets to say sorry for not knowing what they were doing when they hijacked the trending hashtags for their marketing tweets
  3. Given Twitter followers a special offer discount voucher that could be redeemed via the web.
  4. Asked Twitter followers what kind of information/offers HabitatUK could offer, that would give value and build interest.
  5. Its ok to fail. Do it quickly and apologise publicly. People are a lot more forgiving when you admit to your mistakes rather than deny any wrongdoing.

The way the @HabitatUK page looks now, is typical of a traditional, push marketing, corporate PR approach. Admit nothing, aplogise for nothing, do not engage in conversation, advertise, advertsise, advertise. You have to wonder why they’re even bothering being on Twitter in the first place.