Twitter storm in a teacup

By Alex Eve, Campaign Executive

Make no mistake, us Brits are certainly passionate about our tea. Nothing made this more evident than when Conservative MP Rishi Sunak sent shockwaves through the Twittersphere by posting a photo of himself pouring a few cuppas for his colleagues on 21st February.

Image credit: Flickr

The photo in question featured Mr Sunak promoting a bag of Yorkshire Tea to the camera, or at least that’s what it looked like at first glance. With the impression that Yorkshire Tea had engineered a blatant piece of product placement, social media users flocked to Twitter to express their anger at the company for representing an affiliation to the blue side of UK politics.

The twist in the tale was that Yorkshire Tea was in no way involved with Rishi Sunak’s post, was not told in advance that it would be posted, and quickly gave a statement confirming this on the same day. Despite this, what quickly followed was a combination of accusations and boycott threats that inundated Yorkshire Tea’s Twitter account that following weekend.

In an impassioned tweet on Monday 24th, Yorkshire Tea lamented the fact that Twitter users had attempted to drag the brand into a ‘political mudfight’. But the brand was also quick to praise those that defended the company.

What was most prominent in Yorkshire Tea’s response to the debacle, however, was the brand’s final tweet on the matter, which looked to make the point about social media abuse towards organisations, and made the case that a human still has to deal with the insults at the other end.

With this tweet, it added fuel to a debate that has certainly come to the forefront in recent months — something that my colleague Ellie spoke about a few weeks ago. Are we fully aware of the impact that harsh words can have on a recipient in the online world? Much has been said in regard to the impact of an individual’s mental health when they receive online abuse, but what about those who have to field insults when working under the umbrella of a corporate account?

A member of the firm’s social media team commented that it was easier to be on the receiving end of such abuse as part of an organisation, but also urged people to remember that the company had a human face, as well as a corporate one. After all, it is humans that ultimately make an organisation what it is, and we all have the potential to be affected by negative words.

#bekind