The Victorian Taxi Association is in damage control after its recent social media campaigns backfired on a number of fronts.
On Monday, the taxi lobby launched a Twitter campaign calling on users to tell their “taxi story”.
The hashtag was soon swarmed with stories of poor customer service and taxi drivers engaging in inappropriate behaviour.
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While the organisation tried to hose down criticism on Tuesday, arguing the campaign hadn’t backfired, the taxi lobby has since admitted the social media campaign did not meet its expectations.
The association has also fired the agency that was responsible for the campaign.
“Unfortunately, the YourTaxis campaign concept and its delivery did not match our intention,” chief executive David Samuel said yesterday.
“We were aware of many of the issues that passengers face but the campaign concept and delivery showed us the true extent of their concerns.
“We take full responsibility for the campaign and will be undertaking a full review of our strategy. As a result, we have made the decision to part ways with our agency.”
The association said it will now create an “action plan” to improve taxi services in Victoria.
Here are four lessons businesses can learn from the YourTaxis social media fail.
1. Understand public sentiment before jumping on social media
Catriona Pollard, founder of CP Communications, told SmartCompany this morning it’s critical for businesses to have an appreciation for public sentiment prior to doing any social media campaigns.
“This campaign is asking for feedback and saying give us your experiences,” Pollard says.
“You have to have an understanding before you do that because you might get a rude shock. In this case, it was a very public response.”
2. Engage in an open dialogue
Social media expert Dionne Lew told SmartCompany earlier this week companies cannot expect social media users to publish glowing reviews of a business.
Instead, Lew says social media is about creating an open dialogue and the Victorian Taxi Association should have approached its campaign differently right from the outset.
“They may have been better place to go out with a ‘tell us your issues’ or ‘tell us what we can do better’ campaign,” Lew says.
“People would have gone, ‘Hallelujah, they’re listening’.”
3. Hashtags won’t fix your problems – in fact, they can make the situation worse
Pollard says hashtags are easily searchable, which can be a downside if a social media campaign backfires.
“If it’s an emotive brand, which taxis are – especially with [the rise of] Uber – then using a hashtag-style marketing strategy isn’t the best thing to do,” she says.
“You would be much better off staying in control of your brand. We’ve learnt from Qantas and Coles and numerous social media campaigns that hashtags are fraught with difficulty.”
4. Don’t add fuel to the fire
The taxi association certainly didn’t make life any easier for itself by sending out a Remembrance Day tweet on Wednesday.
The tweet, which has since been removed, misspelled “Remembrance” and said “600,000 taxi trips are taken by war veterans for treatment purposes. Lest We Forget. #YourTaxis.”
The association apologised later on the same day, saying it was “completely unacceptable” to use a day dedicated to paying respectful tribute in its marketing.
Marketing your business off the back of Remembrance Day, let alone any sensitive topic, is fraught with danger.