When Twitter Chats Don't Go As Planned

From the "What were they thinking?" file... In an effort to improve its public image, Lane Bryant recently took a step into the realm of real-time communication with customers through a Twitter chat. Using the hashtag #AskLaneBryant, CMO Brian Beirler led the chat as an effort to generate good will and build relationships with customers. Unfortunately, it didn't work out as they had planned.

Many chat participants felt that Lane Bryant was not living up to its own description: "Lane Bryant is the most recognized name in plus-sized clothing, and our emphasis on fashion and fit - not merely size - makes us a style leader."Women seemed not to believe the company truly represents the wide diversity of plus-size women.

Some women felt that Lane Bryant doesn't understand the needs of its target audience.

While some will say that Twitter chats hosted by brands usually do not go well, I would argue that, if you are prepared and know your audience, you can be successful at getting your message across and engaging with participants. Just take The Walking Dead, who has hosted multiple positive chats with fans.Lane Bryant made a few mistakes that could have easily been avoided:

  1. Don't make assumptions: Don't assume that all your supporters will show up at your Twitter chat and it will be all rainbows, glitter and unicorns. If you open the door, expect some (sometimes more than some) naysayers to step through.
  2. Know your audience: I find it hard to believe that Lane Bryant didn't know that many target audience members have complaints. This was the perfect opportunity to answer those complaints or even to announce a company change addressing the complaints before said complaints could even be tweeted!
  3. Prepare, prepare, prepare: Know what you want to talk about and what messages or announcements you want to communicate. But also anticipate what types of questions you might need to answer. Social media search tools and Google are your friends in this instance. Find out what people are saying about your brand in advance, and be prepared to answer¢€¦because we all know the minute you don't prepare is the minute you will get asked the difficult question.
  4. Follow-up: Perhaps the most important thing that Lane Bryant can focus on now is follow-up. What was learned during this Twitter chat? What can be changed from an operational standpoint? How do these changes need to be communicated to consumers and via what channels?
  5. Looking to the future: What communications tools can be put in place to continue to build these relationships? Maybe the head buyer could conduct a Twitter chat about trends and give a glimpse of how those trends are impacting what Lane Bryant will be offering during an upcoming season. One of the easiest and most impactful things Lane Bryant can do, in my opinion, is to connect with their target audience and listen to them¢€¦and then show that they heard them.

Lane Bryant has the opportunity to be the company that "pushes the envelope" and establishes itself as truly THE "style leader" but more importantly, to set itself apart as a company that listens - and a company that was instrumental in changing how society views the larger woman. 

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