Wednesday, 24 June 2009

@stupid

BBC News today reports that Habitat have got into hot water by mis-using a hashtag on Twitter. By adding #iranelections to their tweets, it meant that anyone searching for #iranelections saw their promotional message. At least, that's what it meant if someone searched for #iranelections in the fraction of a second after the message was posted - given the sheer volume of tweets currently using this tag, it would've been lost in the fog immediately. Net result: miniscule chance of benefit, but high likelihood that someone actually following the account would be offended.

All of which immediately puts me in mind of Hanlon's Razor:
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
Chances are, someone relatively new to Twitter, and presumably quite junior, figured they'd found a way to game the system, and hadn't thought through the consequences. Maybe they read one of the vile guides explaining how to game Twitter? If Habitat are criticized for anything, it should be that they (or their agency) are using people for this task who don't understand the social web. You need only look at the list of people they follow - currently 4 people - to see this was the case.

We've reached the stage now where job descriptions need to include a requirement for people to demonstrate they've participated in social networks for long enough to understand the social nuances at play. I think Habitat will recover quickly from this unfortunate incident, but we can anticipate similar transgressions elsewhere.

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