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24 October 2013

When a Twitter campaign goes wrong: #AskBG


British gas photo

As I'm sure you may have heard, it’s been a pretty bad week for British Gas. By 3pm on the 17th October it had received an outstanding amount of tweets via its #AskBG hashtag (roughly around 11,500). A pretty triumphant social media campaign you may be thinking, right? Oh you couldn’t be more wrong.

It originally started with the company announcing that they would be holding a Q&A session with their customer services director, Bert Pijls. Unfortunately for them it was announced on the same day that they had raised prices by 9.2%, with the average customer's bill rising by more than £120. You can only feel slightly sorry for Bert as he faced a montage of vicious tweets, some expressing more genuine issues and others, well, let’s just say using the hashtag in order to get a few laughs. I’ve picked a few of my favourite below.


Tweet 2ed
Tweet 3ed
Tweet 4ed
No company as controversial as British Gas should ever risk the open ended hashtag or question which is inevitably going to invite ridicule. All it successfully managed to do is invite its customers to publically rent their anger and frustration.

British Gas responded with this tweet:

“Our announcement today is difficult news for customers. We didn’t make this decision lightly. We know people are worried about rising energy prices and they want to talk about this, which is why we wanted to host a Q&A session on Twitter with our customer services director.

Rising prices doesn’t have to mean rising bills and there is help available. If you are worried about covering the cost of your energy bill, please visit our website for more information on the help we can offer.”

This is a valuable lesson to be learned, in that all areas of communication in a business need to be joined up in order to successfully work and that they need a well-rehearsed crisis plan in case things backfire. Maybe reconsider the social media team? Interestingly enough, as The Telegraph noted, there is a job advert on the British Gas website for a social media manager.

 By Laura Bracher


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