Ignore Twitter at your peril

By STEVE TILLEY, QMI Agency

Twitter is more than just a tool for connecting like-minded folks, getting updates on breaking news and telling people about the amazing bean salad you had for lunch. It’s increasingly becoming a platform for people to complain about corporations they feel have wronged them.

Just ask Southwest Airlines, who learned the hard way that you do not throw director Kevin Smith off a plane for being too fat.

Not many of us boast Smith’s 1.6 million Twitter followers, but that hasn’t stopped people from taking to the massively popular online service to air their beefs with CTV’s Olympics coverage, both televised and online. I keep a page open on my Twitter feed to monitor all tweets being directed to the @CTVOlympics account, and the amount of negativity there is surprising, even to my cynical self.

“Multiple reports of your web video streaming feed being broken for many ... any ideas?” tweets one user. “Did you really just confuse Shawshank Redemption with Schindler’s List?” asks another. “Dear @CTVOlympics, along with horrible commentary your Twitter links are failing. Get it together.” “You suck @CTVOlympics for cutting the hockey game.” “Worst commentary for halfpipe ever. So boring ... stop saying amplitude, you’re embarrassing.”

And so it goes. It’s true that people tend to remain silent unless they have something to bitch about, but as someone who’s been watching the games coverage on TV and online for 10-plus hours a day, a lot of the jabs do have merit.

From technical glitches to asinine commentator remarks to surreal scheduling decisions (like virtually ignoring the men’s snowboard halfpipe qualifying rounds, or airing a numbingly dry men’s hockey practice instead of live coverage of, well, any event at all), no misstep escapes the unblinking eyes and swift typing fingers of the Twitterverse.

CTV was a bit slow to engage their Twitter followers off the mark, but they’re getting better as the games go on. Fair or not, people see Twitter as a direct link to you and your brand. Ignoring that is akin to hanging up on someone who calls your customer service line to complain, when if you help them out you’ve got a fan for life.

“THANK YOU!” tweets one web surfer who had a problem fixed. “Totally saved my day and now I’m back to thinking that CTV’s online coverage is PERFECT.”

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The people who write and edit newspaper stories operate at arm’s length from the people who sell and place the advertisements, and that is as it should be. But when the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, it can result in some unfortunate snafus, as the Globe and Mail discovered this week.

As reported on the New York-based Copyranter blog, the Globe ran a story headlined, “Games still reeling from shock of luger’s death, VANOC chief says” on the bottom of a page in their Tuesday Olympics section. And directly across from it on the facing page? A Chartered Accountants of Canada ad showing a photograph of a luger in mid-run, with this slogan: “When there are no brakes to rely on, every decision matters.” (You can see the images here: http://bit.ly/adoops). Like the blog says, that’s definitely a gold medal for the worst contextual ad in Olympics history.

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Steve Tilley is following the Olympics experience on TV and on the web throughout the Winter Games. You can e-mail him at steve.tilley@sunmedia.ca or follow him on Twitter at @stevetilley.

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