The Wonderful World of Internet HR

Wonderful Pistachios introduced me to the incredible world of online customer service.  Customers of late have been finding maggots and burnt nuts within the protective shells of their pistachios.

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Two separate (horrifying) instances produced immediate responses from the company.  These errors are so egregious that they have no choice but to be upfront in their damage control.  They use comforting language to their customers, almost adopting a parental undertone.  “We’ll take care of you.”  This sentence is intended to show that they remain in control and have the means to care for their customers, regardless of external circumstance.

In Chapter 8 of Ben Shields’, Social Media Management, he mentions that best practices in social media management lie within the speed of reply.  Stopping the uproar before it becomes an untamable wildfire of customer anger is imperative.  Also, Shields states that tone of the response is important as well.  Acknowledging error and displaying how you will correct it in the future is more effective than a simple apology to a customer.  So, despite the gross factor of Wonderful Pistachio’s latest mistakes, their social media team is doing an exemplary job in managing it online.


This is something Uber has faced recently in more than one way.  On the political, business, and technical front, Uber has stood in the face of extreme crisis a lot in the past year.  They even have a separate Twitter account than their main @Uber account to deal with customer maladies.

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In 2014, Uber exec Emil Michael suggested spending a million dollars in a counter-strike against the media, using “off the record” material against a female journalist that wrote a critical piece on the company concerning their male-dominated culture.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick issued a poor, lengthy apology that did nothing to soothe public opinion:

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In his rambling apology, Kalanick does not take into account the nature of Twitter.  It’s a brief platform.  He basically chops up what looks like an email to employees and calls it a day.  He also glazes over the actual issue at hand, making too broad a statement and not mentioning any steps to correcting Uber’s culture moving forward.

Shields states that in mitigating a crisis, you must do three things: shift perception, direct audiences to a specific action, and improve brand health (216).  Kalanick does none of these things with his lackluster apology.  An effective strategy would have been creating a plan for the company to empower women within their business model and harshly reprimand (i.e. fire) any male drivers that have been reported as sexually harassing women.  Merely reproducing a company policy in 13 tweets does not satisfy a consumers’ need for change.  Also, incorporating visual content within an apology, especially from a company as tech-saavy as Uber, would appeal to customer emotion more than loose text.  Shields also makes an excellent point in stating on page 218 that anything on social media these days can be taken out of context and create an even larger problem.  Post with caution.



It’s #Hashtag Happening

Weaving the word ‘hashtag’ into casual conversation used to be an ironic verbal shoutout to popular culture that people immediately recognized as as a fad. However, as the use of hashtags in social media has grown, the word hashtag has taken some serious roots in our candor. A post highlighting a Starbucks coffee on an autumn day will sometimes be seen tagged as #basic to make the user’s audience aware that they themselves know how common what they’re doing actually is. According to Muriel MacDonald in How #Hashtags Change the Way We Talk, “Among Twitter’s triumphs is the reinvention of self-mockery.”, which is exactly where the use of the pound symbol began.

Popular music phenomenon Bruno Mars channeled Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon in the lyrics of his latest hit single, 24K Magic. “Hashtag blessed”.Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 6.48.37 PM.png

Hashtags are now, especially in this political climate, an excellent organizer of citizen journalism, which is defined as “nonprofessional journalists producing and disseminating journalistic knowledge,”(pg. 70, Humphrees) in Social Media, Enduring Principles (2016). Each day, users can find popular causes by browsing the “Explore” area of Twitter, where the most used hashtags are displayed.


Hashtags can have far reaching implications on businesses if a mass of discontented users gather around the cause. “Why People are Deleting Uber” by Brian Feldmen of New York Magazine outlines the recent uprising against Uber for the company’s refusal to shut down their services in solidarity with the JFK airport protestors. When Twitter users with a lot of social capital shine a light on businesses in a bad way, tangible damage can ensue for company profits. Feldmen states, “Lyft, one of Uber’s main competitors, used the controversy as an opportunity to announce that it would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years” (Feldmen, 2017). Because hashtags are so simple to track, competitor companies can prey on the public downfall and spin it to their advantage. Oliver Blanchard summarizes this well in Social Media ROI, “The flip side of the situational awareness coin is threat management: the threat of obsolescence, the threat of missing the next market shift of technological advance, the threat of watching your own customers flock to a competitor because they were more in tune with your market’s needs than you were, and even the threat of finding yourself exposed to a PR crisis that your typical marketing communications mechanisms are not equipped to manage” (Blanchard, pg. 131). A hashtag PR crisis is an incredible beast to manage, considering it is a fire fueled by the public. You have to engage potentially millions of angry people to save the face of your company.

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Pop culture has dominated the hashtag climate very successfully. People are eager to gather around news that is positive, like Beyonce’s announcement of twins this week. The use of memes and GIFs also serve the hashtag realm very well by injected a dose of comedy into the movement. A meme attached to a hashtag can generate a lot of traffic because people may search the hashtag just to share the funny photo with their friends.



Blanchard, Olivier. “Chapter 10.” Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. Indianapolis, IN: Que, 2011. N. pag. Print.

Feldmen, Brian. “Why People Are Deleting Uber En Masse.” New York Magazine, 29 Jan. 2017. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.

Humphreys, Ashlee. “Chapter 5.” Social Media: Enduring Principles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. Pages 63-76. Print.

Macdonald, Muriel. “How #Hashtags Changed the Way We Talk.” TINT Blog. Disqus, 09 Sept. 2016. Web. 01 Feb. 2017. <;