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Twitter Just Taught Everyone an Important Lesson

Users expressed their outrage over a change to one of the social network's features. Fortunately, the company listened.
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When Twitter unveiled a new feature on Thursday that triggered an overwhelming negative response, the newly public company taught everyone a simple, but important lesson: When everything goes wrong, the right thing to do is listen to your customers

Within 24 hours of making a change to its "block" function, the company undid the move in response to a large volume of complaints. Users even started a petition with the hashtag #RestoreTheBlock after the company announced the update. 

The fleeting change to the feature allowed people to block other Twitter users, but blocked users wouldn't be informed that they had been blocked, as they had been previously. Blocked users could still view or tweet at the person who blocked them, but their interactions would be invisible to the blocker, Reuters reported

The backlash to the change was nearly immediate. Some users did not understand the change. Others claimed that the social media site was effectively enabling harassers, while leaving victims in the dark about abuse.

Wrote one user, @edcasey,"New @twitter block policy is like a home security system that instead of keeping people out puts a blindfold on YOU when they come in." 

Another, @alainagrey14h, expressed similar disdain for the change, tweeting, "Don't make it easier for men to stalk our tweets and threaten us. We shouldn't have to be silent to feel safe. #RestoreTheBlock"

When it became clear to the company that users were strongly against the change, Twitter announced that it would restore the original block function. In a company blog post, Twitter executive Michael Sippey apologized on behalf of the company. 

"We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users--we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe," Sippey wrote. "Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect." 

Sippey explained the company had tried making the change to protect users from abuse without having to deal with the implications of blocking another user.

"Some users worry just as much about post-blocking retaliation as they do about pre-blocking abuse," he wrote. 

The company's fast action and follow-up apology were a textbook example of how to respond after inadvertently alienating customers, says Danielle Gano, the CEO of the bi-coastal public relations firm Elle Communications. "The key to successfully overcoming a crisis is to act quickly and not bury your head in the sand," she says. "Ultimately, customers are telling you what you need to know in order to retain their business, so start by listening to their feedback and then craft a plan and accompanying message that addresses what went wrong and how you plan to handle it."

Twitter's response appears to have paid off. After the social network made the announcement that the original block function would be reinstated, there was a positive outpouring from users on the site. Many thanked the company for addressing their concerns about the failed update. 

"Whatever your opinion, it's refreshing to see a social media giant listening to users. #RestoreTheBlock #welldone", one user, @CColeshawDBS tweeted

A lesson to us all--when you listen to your customers and respond to their concerns, they will be appreciative. 

 

IMAGE: Joshua Blount/Flickr
Last updated: Dec 13, 2013

ABIGAIL TRACY

Abigail Tracy is a staff reporter for Inc. magazine. Previously, she worked for Seattle Metropolitan magazine and Chicago magazine.




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