Posts Tagged ‘response’

How Sir Richard Branson defended against angry tweets

Posted on: March 28th, 2011 by Fransgaard 1 Comment

The launch of today had a shaky start.

I don’t want to go too much into the political details but if you don’t know what I am talking about have a look at Creative Review’s post on the subject or have a look at the spoof site it triggered only hours after launch.

Lots of angry tweets was instantly launched against #startupbritain:

  • #startupbritain seems main advice for branding is to spend money with US companies
  • Well-trodden today, but #startupbritain linking to a lousy crowdsourcing co. that’s not even UK-based for ‘design’ is an utter embarrassment
  • But all the useful information already available from Business Link. #startupbritain seems to be all about ads for big cos
  • I’m self employed and just beginning to expand the business- #startupbritain is a shallow load of tripe that will end in tears
  • #startupbritain seems to have shit the bed somewhat
  • #startupbritain? Naaaaaaaah

The battle for #startupbritain commences

To be fair there were some positive tweets as well but the majority of the initial twitterstorm was negative… At least to start with.

Then suddenly the following tweet appeared from one of the poster boys of the site; Sir Richard Branson:

Now is the time for young, enthusiastic & nimble companies to set up and thrive. #startupbritain

Within minutes that tweet was retweeted enough times to make it a top tweet which meant it would appear first when looking at the hashtag regardless of how old it is.

And at the time of writing this (3 hours after the tweet was posted) it is still a top tweet having been retweeted more than 100 times probably a lot more.

The tide of the battle turns

In fact, that single tweet was retweeted so many times it thinned out the negative tweets. At some point every other tweet was a retweet of this single positive tweet.

Was it a balanced view? One positive tweet against the hordes of angry tweets?

I personally think it was. As a Tweeter, when you retweet something you can personally vouch for it and you are in agreement with it (unless you state otherwise ofcourse). So while it was the same tweet over and over, it had the backing of a group of individuals agreeing with the meaning of the tweet.

Does it matter that many of the people retweeting probably wasn’t aware of the heated debate on #startupbritain? Not really. They still stand behind the content of the tweet.

It was starting to look like the positive sentiment was winning.

Battle won?

But was it winning?

I started to notice more and more eggs, the default profile picture of new Twitter accounts.

I then started looking into the retweeting Twitter accounts and found many of them where in fact scam or spam accounts leeching on the popularity of Richard Branson’s Twitter account and possibly the sudden surge in the #startupbritain.

Suddenly part of the winning positive sentiment was in fact represented by hollow bots having no opinion or interest in the real topic at hand.


I don’t have any concrete data on how many positive or negative tweets there were. Nor do I know how many were real voices and how many were bots.

I did watch the development closely from the outset and I can put my name to the account above.

Was the conversation hijacked? Not completely, but at some point I didn’t feel the conversation itself had lost. Lost to the pointless bots ruining a heated, but healthy discussion.

Did you witness or participate in the event? What do you think?