Airing your frustrations with a company or a product is nothing new. For decades consumers have complained to their coworkers, friends and family when a transaction goes bad.
In fact, it's a widely held belief that angry customers tell significantly more people about a company than a satisfied customer. With the rise in popularity of micro-blogging site Twitter.com, it's easier than ever to tell all of your followers about the latest problem you have But beware: it can cost you.
After publishing a Tweet in May which she said, "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay," Amanda Bonnen found herself on the wrong end of a $50,000 lawsuit for defamation.
According to tech site Inquisitor, the account and offending tweet have already been deleted and Amanda's account, abonnen, had only 22 followers at the time. Thanks to the lawsuit however, instead of 22 people potentially knowing about Bonnen's complaint of mold (valid or not) many thousands will know about it.
In an interview with the local paper, Jeffrey Michael, a Horizon family representative, defended the lawsuit explaining that, "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization."
Right now, no one knows whether or not there was mold in the Horizon owned apartment but this incident brings up an important point about using social media sites such as Twitter to voice frustration and resolve customer complaints.
Unlike telling your friends over a beer, complaining on Twitter creates a permanent record of the conversation that is open for the world to see. This is important to remember because if you're lying or even stretching the truth for theatrical effect you could be on the hook for damages to the company's reputation.
Unfortunately there are far too many companies with the, "Sue first" attitude who aren't trolling Twitter to find and correct customer problems but to find and "fix" complaints with a cease and desist.
Until companies like Horizon learn that a conversation and some goodwill go a long way online, expect the number of Twitter related lawsuits to increase. If Horizon is innocent, it could have saved face and legal fees by joining the conversation online and debunking any false claims in a matter of minutes.
Twitter is a powerful tool for fixing consumer problems for many companies but don't forget that you can't embellish the actual problem without risking a defamation lawsuit. If you need to take your problem to Twitter for help, go the Joe Friday route and stick to the facts.
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