4 social media lessons from Australia’s #YourTaxis fiasco

The Victorian Taxi Association’s hashtag campaign to improve its image backfired. Here’s how social media managers can avoid the same fate.

It sounds like a good idea: Encourage your customers to share their experiences with your product or service online.

Visions of positive tweets filled with smiling faces, kind words and people holding handwritten signs that read, “#YourTaxis” must have danced in the social media team’s heads when the Victorian Taxi Association created the hashtag campaign.

If the goal was positive feedback, the campaign couldn’t have missed the mark more. It’s quickly becoming a social media nightmare.

The #YourTaxis hashtag campaign “was meant to promote a broader digital strategy in which the yourtaxis.com.au website helped to restore the ailing reputation of Victoria’s yellow cabs and rebuild trust as the industry fights back against Uber,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

YourTaxis is a website coordinated by the Victorian Taxi Association that houses all of Victoria’s taxi services, facts and history.

This week, people have overwhelmingly used #YourTaxis to tweet taxi horror stories that range from inconvenient and aggravating to dangerous and illegal.

If YourTaxis wanted to gauge public sentiment with the campaign, its mission was accomplished. In case this isn’t the outcome it sought, here are some tips to avoid a similar situation:

1. Learn what your audience already is talking about.

Whether it’s customer reviews, user surveys or social media comments, it’s always a good idea to get a feel for customers’ perceptions so there are no surprises.

If the goal is a positive hashtag campaign, but you have every indication that negative sentiment abounds, address the negativity first. Restore the reputation, tell the public how you fixed it, and measure public sentiment again to determine if the climate is right to conduct a campaign.

2. Use specific hashtags that improve chances of getting the desired response.

YourTaxis “clearly didn’t consider all the outcomes of using this particular hashtag,” says Miranda Mayuiers, a social media strategist at Oakland Community College in Michigan.

The hashtag wasn’t specific enough, Mayuiers says. The organization could have tried something more positive, such as #ILoveYourTaxis or #YourTaxisHelpsMe to guide better people to positive messages.

The broad hashtag made it too easy for users to go any direction they chose, she said.

3. If things go south, address complaints.

The @YourTaxis Twitter account managers are responding to all of the negative comments, and Mayuiers says that is smart.

It is important to address complaints, resolve them and perhaps even offer incentives or discounts as an act of goodwill, she says.

4. Be careful whom you imitate.

It may sound like a good idea to watch what the competition does and emulate what appears to work for them but YourTaxis did a poor imitation of Uber’s social media campaigns, according to The Sydney Morning Herald:

In the case of the Victorian Taxi Association mistakenly saw the success of Uber and its clever use of social media as something it should replicate in order to nullify its rival. Back in April, Uber used Twitter as part of a successful campaign to encourage Victorians to show their support for the car riding app. Clearly, the taxi industry thought it could do the same. But the difference between Uber and Victorian taxis is chalk and cheese. Uber has a broad, incredibly supportive customer base with spectacular advocacy. The Victorian Taxi Association has thousands of unhappy, angry customers who have spent years waiting to vent their negative experiences to others.

What works for one organization may not work for another, Mayuiers says. Do your homework, understand your audience and how they communicate, and conduct your campaign accordingly.

What other advice do you have for YourTaxis, Ragan.com readers? How can they improve their image going forward?

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