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Caution: Dangerous Tweets Ahead



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By : VK Melhado    99 or more times read
Social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become powerful vehicles for businesses to promote themselves. In addition to standard marketing efforts using social media, some companies also reach out in innovative ways, actively resolving customer complaints posted on Twitter. Their actions help their bottom lines by proving to a global audience that they place a high value on customer care and quality assurance.

Other companies unfortunately have fouled up their social marketing efforts, receiving cries of "PR Fail!" from bloggers all over the internet.

One such instance is that of Horizon Realty Group, "one of Chicago's premiere [sic] apartment leasing and management companies." Former tenant, Amanda Bonnen, made a Twitter post in reply to one of her 20 followers that said "You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay."

Horizon responded to the post not by asking Bonnen to remove or edit the post, but by launching a lawsuit against her, claiming defamation. According to the allegations, Amanda Bonnen "maliciously and wrongfully published the false and defamatory Tweet on Twitter," and that the statement has "damaged the Plaintiff's reputation in its business." Horizon is suing for $50,000, plus court costs.

Unfortunately, Horizon's lawsuit has done immensely more harm to the company's reputation than the original tweet ever could. Bonnen's original post would have been seen by a mere 20 people, but now the story has garnered massive online attention.

Word of the lawsuit has spawned numerous blog posts and articles, including such reputable sources as the Chicago Sun-Times and CopyBlogger. The majority of posts and reader comments have been critical of Horizon's handling of the issue, particularly after a spokesperson for the company gave an interview to the Sun-Times. In the interview, he said that they did not speak with Bonnen about her post before filing the suit because "We're a 'sue first, ask questions later' kind of an organization."

Online readers and potential tenants have flocked to their keyboards to talk about what they believe are bully tactics by a company that is trying to impinge on the rights of free speech. And there are sites like Yelp—which allow users to post reviews of businesses—that have dozens of angry reviews, simply based on the company's decision to sue.

As CopyBlogger's Sonia Simone aptly put it, "Horizon Realty might be the most love able, fair, decent and true company in the world. Right now, their name recognition has about as much appeal as Saddam Hussein. With mold."

While it's certainly understandable that Horizon Realty felt the need to defend their reputation, their tactics leave much to be desired. Perhaps others can learn from the mistakes of this real estate company, and remember that how we treat our clients—both online and off—has a significant impact on the long-term viability of our businesses.
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