The Twitter hit of the week has to be British Gas’s obliteration at the hands of the Twitterati yesterday. Like a corporate lamb to the slaughter, on the same day they announced a 10% price hike, the official British Gas Twitter account declared “we are here with our Customer Service Director, Bert Pijls, answering your questions until 2pm” and invited customers to send in their questions with the hashtag #askBG. And like that, a social media mauling began…
Many column inches and pixels have already been dedicated to the funniest and most vicious tweets delivered with the hashtag #askBG, but for good measure, here are a few of my personal favourites:
#AskBG has opened the gates of hell, but sadly satan’s domain has frozen over, as he can’t afford the heat and gas bills for the fires
So was this a PR mistake of epic proportions? Well, in some ways, you have to admire British Gas for opening themselves up to what they must have known would be an avalanche of scorn. And they did try and answer some of the tweets:
Realistically, British Gas would have come in for a social bashing whether they had attempted the Q&A or not. But by setting up and promoting the session, they ignited and galvanised the vitriolic response, handing over a hashtag to collate all the attacks in to one easily searchable term (check out the associated hashtags for a further indication of the level of vitriol aimed at the energy company).
Moreover, they tried to respond to their critics on a rational level, armed with facts, stats and rational arguments. Whereas the most memorable of yesterday’s tweets were operating on an emotional level, talking not about wholesale price rises, but impoverished pensioners forced to choose between heating or eating.
A recent Stanford study showed that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts. And this is why, in the end, #askBG was such a bad move. Because what will stick in people’s minds from yesterday’s debacle will not be facts about the cost of government programmes or system upgrades, but stories of grannies shivering through the winter, whilst energy fat cats sit snugly on top of their piles of cash.