“There I was, sitting by the pickle barrel” – how Twitter helped Ford avert a crisis

Wonderful to meet Shel Israel last night at Third Tuesday here in Vancouver. I spoke to him and found him unassuming, funny and helpful.

Shel was in town to promote his book Twitterville. http://www.twitterville.com I like his approach – he’s not telling readers how to use Twitter. Instead it it’s about what Twitter can do for you – illustrated through examples of Twitter in action – taken from 400 interviews with users in 38 countries.

I always like the PR examples. The book profiles @scottmonty – the social media guy for Ford. Monty used his knowledge about how Twitter works and the trust he’d earned with his 5,500 followers to slow, then avert what could have been a huge reputation crisis for Ford.

It seems Ford’s legal department had sent a cease and desist letter to a Ford Ranger fan site and the fans were mad. Word was spreading to other fan sites, usually loyal customers were mad, Ford was being labelled a bully and the whole things was online and burgeoning – fast.

Twitterville tells the story of how Monty jumped on Twitter to handle this growing crisis in an intelligent, if labour-intensive way.

He asked his own followers on Twitter to hold off and give him more time to gather information. He then spend hours on Twitter search finding every incensed tweet about the Ford Ranger issue and responded to each one – confirming something was happening, saying there was more to the story and requesting time to get more information.

In the end he he was able to post Ford’s version and appease the unhappy fans to everyone’s satisfaction. I like his quote,

“Would this have worked for Ford if we didn’t have a Twitter presence? It would have been far slower, and the response would have had a much smaller impact. Searching Twitter throughout the day kept me in the loop with what was being posted and where – it was the Country Store, where people came in and out and shared their gossip, and there I was, sitting by the pickle barrel.”

We in PR always like being there by the pickle barrel. I’m excited to let social media help me do that.

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