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Ellis Taylor

Published on

February 28, 2020


A political Twitter storm is every social media manager’s worst nightmare, and for Yorkshire Tea it became a reality this week.

Whilst the account was minding its own business, probably having a nice cup of tea, a brand boycott was brewing as Conservative MP for North Yorkshire, Rishi Sunak, tweeted a photo of him with a bag of Yorkshire Tea. Within minutes, a tidal wave of tweets calling for the public to boycott the brand came flooding in, creating one of the most British Twitter controversies of all time. Alongside it became a surprising conversation about kindness on the internet.

Whilst the brand was quick to make it clear that they had no association with the offending tweet, that everyone is welcome to enjoy their tea and various MPs from different parties had enjoyed a Yorkshire brew in the past, that wasn’t enough for some users. Angry tweets continued throughout the weekend, straight into the notifications of a social media manager trying to do their job and manage the situation – just a week after social media users spread reminders of the importance of kindness following the death of presenter Caroline Flack.

On Monday, Yorkshire Tea were back with the following thread:

Despite this, the tweets continued to flood in. Yorkshire Tea tried their best to be polite and remain calm, but they still managed to create a tweet that many are already saying is the best quote of 2020.

The online conversation has shown that mean comments and aggressive messages on the internet are alive and well, and too many users forget that there is a human behind the brand they’re yelling at. Whilst maintaining brand image across social platforms is important, it isn’t so bad to gently remind people that there is a person managing the account, not an actual tea bag.

However, there are people behind all accounts and the mob mentality online is strong. Whilst Sue’s online activity wasn’t the nicest, she was soon faced with a wave of abuse from other users who weren’t happy with her actions. Not only that, she became the butt of a joke that 64.5k people liked and 10.3k people shared. This didn’t quite match up with Yorkshire Tea’s message of kindness.

An eye for an eye, a tweet for a tweet is becoming all too common. For individuals, it means that a poorly thought out message to a brand puts them in the firing line, and for brands it means being on the receiving end of abuse yet having the power to cause instant public humiliation. It’s up to both parties to find a kinder way to interact.

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