in Social Media

Why I claimed the St. Louis Rams defunct Twitter account (before it was suspended)

Yesterday afternoon around 4, I was hanging out working on a website. I took a brief break to look at Twitter when I saw someone post the new Rams switch from St. Louis to Los Angeles. My first thought, being a uniform nerd was “I wonder if they’re going to change their colors,” so I went looking to see and typed “Rams” into Google. That was it.

The first thing I saw beneath the top results were their twitter handle which had not cached changes. You can’t see it now, because they’ve asked google to remove Twitter because their old name still comes up.

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Once I saw the team hadn’t backed up their old Twitter handle (@StLouisRams) when they switched to their new one (@RamsNFL), I wondered if the old one was available. My only thought was “maybe some fan group would want it,” since the team probably had no interest in keeping it.

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Mentions streamed like crazy for a while — and still are — because people hadn’t gotten the memo that the team changed names. Especially since the now Los Angeles Rams weren’t able to convince the actual person with the name LaraMS on Twitter since it’s her name.

Maybe an hour into the experiment, Twitter put the suspension hammer on the account. Which is fine. It’s just a silly story that gives me material for a future presentation.

So what was the point, you troublemaker?

Not fame, that’s for sure.

Here’s the deal. This is really a story in thinking about your users.

Think of your twitter profile like a phone number with a forwarding number.

Whoever ran marketing point for the social media team probably had their people under a fast turnaround to get the new website up announcing the official name of the team and to switch the twitter accounts were literally the last thing on anyone’s mind, I bet. Even the Fox story that quotes me indicates my belief, “they just forgot. There’s no real precedent for this sort of thing,” because it’s not like we had Twitter when the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles in the 50s.

Most companies realize their old customers want to know where their new location is. In the case in the Rams, you’re leaving behind an entire fan base and keeping the old account to say “please follow us at @RamsNFL” might seem unnecessarily cruel and yet, it’s precisely what they needed to do.

People are still looking for them and tweeting at the old handle. That happens and will eventually stop, but the 15 extra seconds it’d have taken to do that would’ve saved the team a modest amount of embarrassment and directed new traffic to their account.

Also, if I hadn’t done there were actual fans of the team who were going to do it if I hadn’t beaten them to it.

“UX stopped being about people and started being about rounded rectangles and parallax animations” – Golden Krishna, The Best interface is no interface

The user become an ancillary part of the equation in so many of our design decisions. Whether it’s deciding how to deliver content or how we disseminate information, too much the argument is focused on a notion of duping people’s eyeballs to our content, rather than engaging their interest.

We need to create holistic customer journeys that establish and maintain loyalty. Brand loyalty is that niggling thing that your parents and grandparents demonstrated by buying the same kind of toothpaste for forty years or going to the same accountant until they died. These days, with companies sprouting and dying in short one-act plays, it’s harder to achieve that kind of relationship, especially for new-economy tools and platforms.

The sooner we think of the customer as a partner, rather than an adversary, the better our decision-making across silos will be.

The suspension is a bigger issue in ownership of accounts.

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You don’t own your social media presence. I’ve managed social media for brands (mostly universities) and one of the things you realize quickly is that investing too much of your brand equity and lead generation in a platform that doesn’t belong to you, is a very dangerous precedent.

In higher education, I remember that it was not long ago many institutions were horrifically reluctant to use tools like Facebook and certainly not Twitter. Now? You have presentations that litter conferences on the best uses of Snapchat, institutions have these platforms as integral part of their communication, marketing & recruitment strategies.

If your account is blocked, you have very little recourse unless you’re a huge advertiser with the platform. Even if you are, if you’re not a major brand, good luck finding an ordinary person who can talk to you about your problem. Is there another scenario where companies spend millions on a service where they have no control over the product they’re receiving?

The Congressional hubub over the design of the Stolen app that came and went last weekend was overblown and yet, abuse is not okay. That was a design problem that was squashed because people have become to think of their profiles as an extension of themselves (or their brands.)

In a heartbeat, your entire business model and strategy built around a platform could be laid to waste without a second notice. It’s a very risky way to work, but we’re not talking about it enough.

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In retrospect, was the 30 minutes or so between when I did this and the time it was suspended worth the trouble? Probably. I had no designs on it being anything other than a solid story. It surpassed my expectations in that regard.

I’ll think about this topic a bit more and intend to make it part of a broader presentation later this year about social media. There’s a lot to learn not so much about this specific story, but the broader implications of how brands treat customers and the UX strategy of platforms.