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Twitter Twits: Retailer Busted Using Iran Election to Sell Furniture

By Kevin Fayle on June 26, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
In keeping with yesterday's theme of things to leave out of your overall firm strategy, here's a tale that illustrates how you shouldn't go about marketing your firm on Twitter.

[Twitter, as you may have heard, is the microblogging site that allows people to post short messages, or tweets, to the internet.  It's kind of a big deal right now.]

Users of the service noticed that the European furniture maker Habitat was tweeting about gift card offers using popular hashtags like #Mousavi (the opposition challenger in Iran's contested and tumultuous election) and #iphone.  The Twitterverse was none too pleased with Habitat's tweet spam, and users called the company out on inserting their message into unrelated conversations.
A website picked up on the story and held the company's actions out as an example of what not to do when marketing a product or service on the microblogging site.  Habitat eventually removed the tweets, but the damage had already been done.  Their attempt at marketing had backfired because of a lack of understanding about Twitter etiquette.

For example, I had never heard of the company before this whole thing broke.  Now, I will always remember them as the company that bungled their Twitter strategy.  Not the kind of impression they were hoping to cultivate, I'm sure.

Habitat's unfortunate plunge into instantaneous Twitter notoreity just underlines the fact that it's important to understand the culture of sites and services before you get involved.  Social media can be an excellent way to meet people and spread the word about the practice, but it's important to use the sites on their terms.  Remember, when you're using social media, you're part of a community, and it's important to act according to the community's norms and expectations.

In Habitat's defense, the company claims that the tweets originated with "an overenthusiastic intern who did not fully understand the ramifications of his actions. He is no longer associated with Habitat."

The twist of the overeager intern also demonstrates that, if you hire someone to do your tweeting or blogging for you (because, let's face it, who's got the time?), then it's important to monitor what they're doing and give them clear guidelines and policies for the kinds of topics and practices that they should pursue.

And, whatever you do, tell them not to use the hashtag #iranelection unless they're actually commenting on the election in Iran.  Habitat sure found that one out the hard way.

See Also:
The Revolution Will Be Microblogged: Iran's Election and the Power of Twitter (Technologist)
Habitat Uses Iran Twitter Spam to Pimp Furniture (Mashable)
UK retailer Habitat spams Twitter hashtags, apologises (The Blog Herald)
Habitat Drops Marketing Intern After Iran Election Twitter Faux Pas (paidContent:UK)

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