My Controversial Opinion on The Weather Channel’s Social Media Fail

One of my social media buddies Jessica Wooldridge Tweeted me and a few other gurus our opinion on The Weather Channel’s social media fail moment. I read what happened and found I had way more opinions than could fit in 140 characters. I am writing a blog post giving my opinion as a social media marketer representing multiple companies on how The Weather Channel employee handled the situation. Hopefully my opinion can be a learning opportunity for businesses trying to learn the ways of Twitter.

Fort Worth City Council Member Joel Burns Tweeted a simple complaint to The Weather Channel, asking them to change the photo on the app. When he opened the weather for his city, the app displayed a photo of Dallas instead of Fort Worth. He wanted to see his city, not Dallas.

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The Weather Channel did not respond after his Tweet sent at 7:05 AM. Burns Tweeted again at 7:40, just 35 minutes later, saying:

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Okay, I get it. The Weather Channel is not perfect. I especially hate the update to their app that happened about a year ago. The interface is sensitive and poorly laid out and it can be a pain to find weather in a different city. However, Burns only waited 35 minutes before deleting the app.

Yes, you need to respond to complaints as a company. Yes, you need to do it in a timely manner. But a timely manner means within a couple hours, not 35 minutes. For all you know, the social media team was in a weekly strategy meeting since it was Monday.

Not only that, but Burns was outright rude about the “poor customer service.” He is the same as a customer in a restaurant who asks the waitress for more napkins on a busy Friday night and then is infuriated when they are not brought back in under five minutes, nixing her tip. His wording and vengeful tone was extremely rude and unprofessional. Which led to a frustrated social media team at The Weather Channel to respond:

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Alright. Here we go.

The Weather Channel responded a minute later. This could mean they were on the whole time and ignoring Burns. Or it could mean they just started looking through their Tweets and were responding to things when his Tweet caught their eye and they became frustrated. Regardless, they responded at the wrong time with the wrong thing.

Companies ALWAYS need to be the bigger person when confronted with complaints and unruly customers. The same goes for this interaction between Burns and The Weather Channel. They should have apologized without the sarcastic comment. It was unprofessional and inappropriate.

However, what Burns said was also unprofessional and inappropriate. He WAS bullying. It doesn’t matter that he was bullying a corporation and not a person. It is still bullying. As a political figure, that is terrifying. People quickly rallied behind Burns, scorning The Weather Channel and how horrible they were to BUrns.

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The Weather Channel should not have responded that way. But in this incident, no one is recognizing that Burns was unprofessional, inappropriate, and yes bullying. All things you do NOT want in a city council member. The Weather Channel would have been the winner in this incident if they had responded apologetically and been the bigger person while RT what Burns said. This would highlight how poorly Burns behaved and The Weather Channel would have been a great social media example.

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The person who Tweeted the sarcasm should not be fired. That person should be reprimanded and The Weather Channel should have protocols in place for future incidents. But everyone is ignoring the bad behavior of Burns on Twitter. This is being overshadowed by The Weather Channel’s fail. It needs to be discussed.

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4 thoughts on “My Controversial Opinion on The Weather Channel’s Social Media Fail

  1. I think what really aggravates me is how tiny of an “issue” this all blew up over. Being from Kansas City, MO – I know how upset I get when people assume I actually live in KCK. HOWEVER, if a WORLDWIDE company made an app that tried it’s hardest to make the background of my (as well as thousands of other users) default Weather City as accurate as possible (within 50 miles) I would be thrilled. Even if the background was Kansas City, Kansas.The Councilman just came of sounding like a Primadonna, and the people sticking up for him sound like mindless butt-kissers, too clueless to make their own opinions. But, that’s just an outsider’s view.

    • That is a good point, that the entire issue was miniscule. Perhaps TWC could not change the photo because Dallas and Fort Worth are grouped too close together. If that was the case, then TWC should have explained after he complained instead of ignoring the problem. Regardless, you are right Anna that the issue is miniscule.

  2. Just another great example that not every social media professional is actually good at their job. But it’s kinda sad that with all of the firestorms some organizations receive for mishandling their social media campaigns, many are still making silly unnecessary mistakes. Accidents happen we all know that, but when your brand is on the line take the time to teach your social media team how to appropriately handle customer complaints!

    • Exactly! Honestly, behaving correctly on social media is not difficult. It is the same as working in customer service. No matter what is said to you, just apologize and empathize and fix the problem the best to your ability. Sheesh.

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