As you may have read in The Metro or The Drum, it's been a bad day for British Gas. As of just after 3pm this afternoon, it had received a remarkable 11,500 tweets using its #AskBG hashtag. A triumphant social media campaign? Unfortunately not.
It began today when British Gas decided to conduct a Twitter Q&A with its Customer Services Director using the #AskBG hashtag.
The fact that they chose to do it on the same day they announced a 9.2% price rise was always going to be tempting fate. It was clearly a well-meaning move on British Gas's part, but unfortunately it didn't go to plan.
When tweet volumes peaked, there were around 160 #AskBG tweets sent in just one minute. As the hours went by, more and more Twitter users jumped on the bandwagon, some expressing genuine issues, others using the hashtag to get a few laughs.
No controversial company should ever risk the classic open ended hashtag or question, which invites ridicule. In this case, all British Gas managed to do was provide a channel for the public to vent their anger and frustration, proving a gift for their critics.
This kind of social media mistake is nowhere near as prolific as it used to be, but still too many brands are making crises worse for themselves through making this kind of easily avoidable error. They need to learn the lesson that all areas of their comms need to work in a joined up way, and they need well rehearsed crisis plans in place - just hiring a new social media manager will not be enough...
Update: British Gas have responded to the furore with this Tweet: