Commentary

Please, Please Don't Ask People To Be Nice To You On Social Media

Amazingly, brands and industry organizations don’t seem to have figured this out yet, so I’ll say it again for the record: asking people to say nice things about your company or industry on social media is basically an invitation for them to tear you a new sphincter, which they will undoubtedly proceed to do with gleeful abandon. So please, please stop these idiotic social media campaigns where you beg for compliments, because it’s not happening.

The latest spectacular failure in this particularly misconceived line of social media strategy comes from Australia. Desperately trying to fend off car hailing service Uber, The Victorian Taxi Organization, representing cabbies in the territory that includes Melbourne, recently launched a Twitter campaign called #YourTaxis asking customers to share their positive experiences with taxis, for a chance to win a year’s free rides.

This was not a good idea, for the obvious reason that within the range of plausible experiences (ruling out a romantic comedy type event where you accidentally meet your future spouse when you both climb in the back seat at the same time) a good taxi ride is, at best, unremarkable, while the scope for bad and upsetting taxi rides is virtually limitless.

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I’ll just throw out the first couple scenarios that come to mind, but please feel free to add your own: dishonest cabbie, incompetent cabbie, rude cabbie, smelly car, dirty car, car breaks down, taxi never showed up as scheduled, taxi ignored hail on street, couldn’t find taxi at all, cabbie refused trip (hello, Brooklynites!). And the list goes on.

Indeed, these common complaints are just the tip of the iceberg, judging by the responses to the VTO’s Twitter campaign, which weave a tapestry of misery at the hands of commercial livery. Some representative tweets touched on homophobia; sexual assault and harassment; traffic accidents with the meter left running; a pregnant woman who threw up, was extorted and then left by the side of the highway; a driver who fell asleep at the wheel; and a driver colluding with burglars.

Whoops. To its credit (sort of) the VTO tried to put the best face on this outpouring of anti-taxi vitriol, saying it was all welcome feedback: “Not a failure from our point of view… YourTaxis proving a great opportunity for us to talk about our service with customers.”

Yeah right. At least I know someone’s happy: Uber really couldn’t ask for a better gift.
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