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Should brands even bother with twitter?

Gone are the days of Twitter users sharing pertinent information, like during the Mumbai bombings, or even being vital for that matter.
What was once a real-time news stream has become a raging sea of outrage, populated by elitists with portable soap boxes, always at the ready.
Even the social media gurus so famous for insisting brands invest time (and loads of money) into 'talking to their fans,' are now saying quite the opposite: shut up.

The question is, is it all still worth it? If you're Starbucks, the most socially engaged company whatever that means, the answer may be no.

Picture the scene: U.K starts pushing out a cute holiday initiative for Starbucks i.e #spreadthecheer, posting the stream live at the Natural History Museum where Starbucks is sponsoring an ice rink.

There was no CRM type to delete, er, moderate these tweets to keep it all sanitized. Instead, everyone decides to hijack the hashtag to make it less #spreadthecheer and more #payyourtaxes. You weren't aware Starbucks doesn't pay its taxes? That's because it does. It also just happens to use perfectly legal means of lowering them.

The backlash came from the fact that since its introduction to the U.K. in 1998, Starbucks has only paid
£8.5 million in corporation tax despite selling £3 billion worth of craptastic coffee. But in an age where countries need all the dosh they can get, talons are out. And so Starbucks (and google and Amazon for that matter) are being called out.

This past Thursday, the managing director of Starbucks UK, Kris Engskov pledged ten million more pounds per year for the next two years, saying this:

With the backdrop of these difficult times, in the area of tax, our customers clearly expect us to do more," he added. "Today, I am announcing changes which will result in Starbucks paying higher corporation tax in the UK - above what is currently required by law... We are still working through some of the calculations, but we believe we could pay or prepay somewhere in the range of £10m in each of the next two years in addition to the variety of taxes we already pay.

He went on to say if the company can't get profitable after two years it'll look into other ways of earning a profit.

As for protest group UK Uncut they aren't buying it. Hannah Pearce's reaction was this:

"Today’s announcement is just a desperate attempt to deflect public pressure. There’s no money yet, and hollow promises on press releases don’t fund women’s refuges or child benefits.

Apparently this coming weekend, she and her fellow activists will be doing something to get back at the coffee chain.

This weekend 40 actions will take place in Starbucks stores in towns and cities across the country. People will be transforming Starbucks stores into refuges, crèches and other services which the Government are cutting with their unjust and unnecessary austerity plans.”

Not sure what that means, but it sounds like a big threat of some kind.

If social media is all about engagement and sharing of ideas, that ain't happening any more. Basically nothing Starbucks can do will ever appease the angry pitchforked mob at this point. Because we live in times, especially online, where people no longer wish to be appeased, but only want to exist in a state of permanent outrage. And what's worse is they're not directing their outrage at the person in charge. They're directing it at a social media employee who has no more to do with Starbucks accounting practices than the local barista. So it's not only misguided but misdirected, too. Then again if I'm a punter being asked to be part of your social media campaign to make you look good, maybe I'm a wee bit resentful of it, too. So part of the resentment is understandable, while part of it isn't.

Knowing this is the mine field Twitter has become, if I'm the world's greatest social media brand, I might be having second thoughts about whether it's all worth it.

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