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Did AT&T Miss a Huge Marketing Opportunity with 4chan Debachle?

Posted by The Marketing Intern on July 28, 2009

AT&T FTL, as they say.

AT&T FTL, as they say.

A lot of the major blogs out there picked up on the whole AT&T vs. 4chan thing, and for two days it was relatively well covered. I won’t bother rehashing the nitty-gritty, but suffice it to say that AT&T blocked particularly provocative parts of img.4chan.org, 4chaners screamed censorship and vowed revenge, then AT&T unblocked the site and said the whole thing was a big misunderstanding — a story which, to a point, 4chan founder m00t corroborates.

Fact is, though, that AT&T missed a gigantic marketing opportunity here. 4chan was blocked on a Friday night. It took until Monday for AT&T to say anything at all about it. And when they did, their response was the worst kind of I’m-sorry ever: the sorry-we-were-just-following-policy apology.

What could AT&T have done to make this better? For starters, they could have taken advantage of social media. A quick tweet saying something to the effect of, “img.4chan.org was blocked because of suspicious outgoing traffic; will update when more info is available.” But no, @ATTNews was dark until the 27th. Contrast this with the AT&T outage in Hawaii less than a week prior:

Hawaiians, we’ve heard your ?s. There’s a hardware issue disrupting some wireless service. We’re working on it & will provide any updates.5:12 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck

Hawaii, our techs are making progress and we’ll keep you updated12:29 AM Jul 22nd from mobile web

Hawaii, service is back up & running after a hardware issue affected some customers yesterday. We apologize for any inconvenience.11:57 AM Jul 22nd from TweetDeck

Hawaii: If you were affected by the wireless service issue Tues. & have questions, call 1-800-331-0500. Again, please accept our apologies.8:30 PM Jul 22nd from TweetDeck

(Yes, this is the sequence in which the Tweets appeared, despite the timestamp differences.) Apparently AT&T knows how to communicate with upset customers, just not when to do so. Why no outreach for 4chan?

In fact, the only thing that AT&T has said about the 4chan incident was contained entirely in the 114-word statement posted on their website. (As a point of comparison, the Hawaii incident got 90 words, two of which were variations on the word “apology”. Number of apologies in the 4chan news release? Zero.)

How else could AT&T have turned this into a positive? What could they have done to calm the waters at 4chan? Does this change or reinforce your opinion of AT&T?

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One Response to “Did AT&T Miss a Huge Marketing Opportunity with 4chan Debachle?”

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