How many times do I have to say it: If you are highly controversial, or you have a huge negative sentiment, don’t hold an open hashtag event or Q&A session. Sea World has become the latest entrant into the club of businesses or government agencies which wrongly thought that the internet was a forgiving, understanding place.
Sea World has come under fire from animal rights groups for its treatment of the animals within its captivity, fire that significantly accelerated in 2013 with the publication of Blackfish, a documentary which was heavily critical of Sea World’s treatment of killer whales. In an effort to pull back against those critics, Sea World launched AskSeaWorld.com, which posts questions and answers that it gets from the Twitter hashtag #AskSeaWorld:
Astoundingly, SeaWorld responded by essentially mocking those trying to troll it:
This, of course, only incited more responses…seriously, SeaWorld, what the heck were you thinking here?
It then stopped mocking and then called its opponents “trolls and bots”:
Guess how that went?
Well, the important thing isn’t so much, “How are things going on Twitter?” It’s more, “What kind of response is this #AskSeaWorld effort getting? Is it getting good publicity?” Let’s check Google News and see….
SeaWorld got this one wrong six ways from Sunday. It’s hashtag campaign is being almost exclusively used by people to attack the parks. It’s responses to the hashtag campaign were more than just poor judgement, it was malpractice – you do not tweet responses which FURTHER ENCOURAGE TROLLS. If you respond, you say something mature, like, “We’d love to answer all questions, even from critics, and set the record straight.” Cute GIFs and obnoxious attitudes will win you no friends.
Oh, and again, don’t hold an open hashtag or ask for feedback if people really hate you, because it will backfire.
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