Yes, I was part of the team behind the Best Buy Serial tweet. You might have heard about it. Seems to me like everybody did. And for Serial listeners, the audience it was intended for, the reaction was highly positive. They had listened through an episode where the discussion was almost all about whether there was a pay phone at a Best Buy or not. We had seen through social listening (wait, seeing through listening? ok whatever) that people found the episode a little absurd and definitely joke-worthy. But when we hopped into the conversation with an insider joke, the non-Serial-listening population called it an outrage.
Within 20 minutes, we were the subject of an article on Mashable and other sites as far-reaching as Australia. Serial had retweeted us, as had Ira Glass. And then the cascade of hateful comments about Best Buy's insensitivity rolled in. How can they comment on something as sacred as the death of a girl? Why were they trying to capitalize on such a tragic event?
Best Buy took the tweet down and replaced it with an apology.
And then something interesting happened (see the responses to the apology). People stood up for us. A lot of people. And there was interesting, intelligent discussion about whether we should have tweeted or not. By the next day, Best Buy social sentiment hit an all-time high, and its Twitter followers had grown significantly. All I know is, in the end, it was a reminder of the brief attention span people have for social. Other than a handful of journalists needing an example of a tweet gone awry, there's been nary a mention since a few days after the tweet. And the brand sparked thoughtful conversation not only about the subject of the tweet, but about where the line is for brands on social media.
Needless to say, I've thought about this a lot. I've got lots of questions, and I still don't have all the answers.
- What if the first article had been written by someone who had actually listened to the podcast? (I assume initial sentiment would've been different, but it would've netted out the same)
- Why is it ok for some brands to talk about it (Sesame Street!) but not others? (sometimes they just are)
- Was it ok to comment on what we saw as entertainment, regardless of the subject? (we should've realized it could be taken another way)
- Should Best Buy have issued an apology? (we actually recommended not to)
- Should we have done it in the first place?
- Would I do it again?
"Next time, on Serial..."