PayPal Gets an F: How not to handle a social media PR Crisis

Today a group of unhappy customers started a PR campaign to encourage people to close their PayPal accounts.

Paypal have failed to mount any kind of response as of the time of this writing.

How the campaign to shut paypal down started

As far as I can tell the tweet to start it all off was:

@AnonymousIRC wondered if @Lulzsec calling for a boycott of Paypal would have a significant impact on the company.

This tweet was followed up by a post on Pastebin, also by AnonymousIRC, putting forward the case against Paypal.

Some minutes later (or before… can’t easily work out which came first) @anonymouSabu posted this:

That seems to have gotten the ball rolling. With RTs and direct engagement of followers and followers of followers and so on the phrase #OpPayPal is trending.

Let me say it again.

#OpPayPal is a trending phrase on Twitter.

How PayPal responded

I have looked at several Paypal accounts on Twitter.

Here are a couple of examples:

The most recent Twitter posting from @PayPal, the account that should be taking charge of the official response to this PR campaign has not posted anything since July 14.

The really telling thing about this posting is that was a response to another unhappy customer.

OK, so the official corporate account has no response and seems to be happy abdicating responsibility to another account. Here is how @AskPayPal have responded so far:

Which, interestingly, is another example of fobbing off an unhappy customer.

UPDATE: There are now reports that the page to cancel your PayPal account is no longer working.

It may be that the page is not working because the server is overloaded or because PayPal took the page down. Either way it is not good for PayPal.

PayPal social networking performance grade: F

No attempt to interact directly with their customers.

Either Paypal have no awareness of the campaign to undermine their business on Twitter or they do not believe Twitter users represent a significant threat to their business.

Either is a fail on the part of PayPal.

How could PayPal do better next time?

If a customer complains do not fob them off or blandly ask if you can help but respond directly to their concerns and attempt to engage them in a direct and open conversation about their issues.

If you upset a whole community take the time to properly respond. Put your case out there for your friends and foes alike. While nothing you say will make your enemies become your friends there is a good chance that if you take the time to address the issues, explain your position, and offer your enemies an opportunity to engage in a direct and open conversation you will keep the loyalty of your friends.

Reaction of PayPal customers to the boycott

The reaction has been mixed.

There are those who clearly support the aims of the boycott, such as:

I spent some time trying to find a pro PayPal tweet. The best I could find was:

Now there are loads of tweets speculating the impact on the share prices when the market opens!/Chri_Phoenix/status/96193478349950976

And many many PayPal customers who are a bit confused about it all and are actually helping to spread the #OpPayPal campaign simply because PayPal are not present in the conversation to help them understand that this is a politically motivated PR campaign.

So, PayPal, for all of the above you score an F on your social networking activity, an F on your use of Social Media tools, an F on your social communications skills and an F on your customer service efforts.

Final comment,

Try harder next time — if you manage to make it through the next 48 hours.


18 responses to “PayPal Gets an F: How not to handle a social media PR Crisis

  1. PayPal have really failed here, they have lost tens of thousands of users due to their arrogance towards their customers and their needs. PayPal have several Twitter accounts and I saw minimal amount of efforts from them!
    I am also interested to find out what happens in 48 hours.

  2. Wow, I’m closing it now.
    I need it for ebay but will find some other way to buy stuff.

    There are kids begin sent to jail for protesting online, they will be getting 15 years while a rapist gets 11.. So closing my paypal account is the least i can do. You should too.

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  4. What is the problem?, if you do not like paypal because it has failed to handle the attention of customers who are on social networks, can open free accounts at Google Checkout, Money Bookers or other alternative that they like.
    Perhaps their fortunes are comparable to those of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. If Paypal does not answer me on twitter, facebook or google+ which is the big deal? Less than eight years had to go directly to a bank branch or by phone to a call center.
    In my case when I had a problem with Paypal by sending an email, they told me my concerns have been addressed satisfactorily.
    In addition, that volume (in money) we are talking about are not well served, because they want to see their problems solved via a tweet?
    I am very happy with the services that Paypal offer to me and give my trust. I think they have given me good support.

    • Hi, I appreciate your position and in a PR world controlled by corporate PR types who could afford the time to collect their thoughts before responding to a crisis, usually 24 hours, this silence on the part of PayPal would be reasonable and acceptable. Today however the consumer world is not controlled by PR executives. Companies must either fully embrace the consumer revolution that social networking brought about or go the way of Barney.
      You are free to accept arrogance from your suppliers. That is your choice. Millions of other consumers now realise they have a voice with which to demand better customer service and respect from the companies with whom they do business.

  5. This morning I had to read, that the german PayPal deletes accounts of people selling goods from Cuba. What an arrogant bunch of idiots! It is time for massive negative social feed back… 👿

  6. Thanks to everyone who has commented so far. I am happy to continue this discussion on Twitter, @EngageToday

    • I read you blog.
      I also notice that you posted your comment here as anon.
      Here are my thoughts about your blog post.
      I am not interested in the political implications of this issue.
      The facts are there and can not be removed simply because someone says they are not the facts.
      PayPal, like all companies, has a responsibility to the consumers who foot their bills, the topic #OpPayPal is trending as at now, has been for several hours, regardless of the motivations of those who started this campaign PayPal has failed miserable to handle a major social networking PR crisis.

  7. The fact is that Paypal have stopped payments to Wikileaks for the support of Julian Assange @ Bradley Manning whilst allowing payments to the Ku Klux Klan. This sucks and is morally wrong. Some people may not care about that but I cannot find it in my conscience to support/and or use a site that has its morals and sense of right and wrong so ass backwards! #oppaypal

  8. PayPal did the same with eCigs… WTFrack are they thinking?!?

    Soon they will reject payments to China, and such…

    Where would we get all our Cell Chargers, extended Cell Batteries, and Data Transfer cables then?

  9. I agree with you 110% Nic. This is morally wrong and I closed my paypal account, even though I dont even use it. I also closed my ebay account (which i dont use). Come to think about it….I dont use any accounts requiring money that is held in some sort of system. I suggest you all do the same and start saving up some mattress money.

  10. Someone who cares

    PayPal ultimatively calls german online-shops to drop all products from cuba and threatens them to freeze their accounts otherwise. What the heck is going on? PayPal doing politics? I closed my account for good.

  11. Dropit likeitshot

    Dropped my account after 10 years being a customer. I am getting tired of this Corporate Democracy we are moving toward. G’bye Paypal, we had so much fun together but I don’t know you anymore. *sniff*

    • You deciding to close your account is corporate democracy in action. You are showing the companies you do business with that if they want your money they had better improve their customer experience. It will take time because large companies are only just starting to understand what social media communications means for them and their PR., marketing, customer service, product development and sales teams.

      With a letter, an email or a phone call you are engaged in a closed one to one conversation.

      With social communications you are sharing the conversation with anyone else who has an interest in the conversation.

      Companies who get that will thrive as we make the transition to an economy where corporate democracy is not just a utopian buzz word but part of the fabric of our economic reality.

      Companies who do not get it will be marginalised out of existence over a period of several years.

      The wall has started to crumble. Change will come now no matter how hard the most dedicated stakeholders fight to maintain the status quo.


  12. Sandy Purinas

    PayPal is the best company I have ever worked for.
    They are scrupulously honest and very fair to eBay sellers.
    Closing your account would be an un-American thing to do!

    • Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for your response. My reply has turned into something like a cross between a soapbox and a rant… but I am still going to click the reply button.

      I am glad you decided to post a comment. Your comment proves that there are people at PayPal who are capable of participating in online discussions, even if without the blessing of the company. You are an example of an internal member of PayPals online community. Most of the readers and commenters on this article are external members of the same community, even those who decided to shut down their PayPal accounts. The point of this article is that PayPal failed to respond to their community at a time when a response was needed. This is not an example of great customer experience.

      No one outside of, and probably only a small number within PayPal know how many accounts were shut down during this campaign. I suspect the actual to be insignificant, but the negative publicity will persist for some time. If PayPal were to provide their online team with community management training and encourage independent action to respond to emerging crisis, the crisis could be averted. PR can not afford to wait 12 hours to issue a formal response to situations like this, a response must be issued within minutes of the situation emerging.

      There were two kinds of account closures during this campaign, those that were politically motivated and those that were motivated by self preservation. An appropriate response would have stopped most of the self preservation account closures. Responding with messages of assurance to community members who were concerned over their financial and personal data security would have been enough, in most cases to make them ignore the thread. As for the politically motivated closures, PayPal has previously stated their position. A reminder of that would be enough. Such a reminder would show that there are two sides to the story and some of those would have given it some more thought before closing their accounts. The hard core would not have been moved no matter what PayPal did or said.

      I am not suggesting that every single negative message must be addressed but in a case where there are several people all posting about the same issue and the metrics make it obvious that the message is making the rounds an acknowledgement of and response to the issue is appropriate, along with more intensive monitoring to watch for specific messages that ought to be dealt with quickly, such as “is paypal being hacked?” or “is my money safe?” or “are my personal details secure with paypal right now?” These are all reasonable questions asked by innocent PayPal consumers. At some point, many hours into the #OpPayPal campaign @askpaypal team member FG finally started to respond to some of the questions. By the time FG got into the action #OpPayPal had already been trending throughout much of the world for many hours. It would have been so easy for the online team at PayPal to fight for control of the ongoing conversation the hash tagged trending keyword was fuelling.

      If companies fix their customer experience the rest will kind of work.

      Ok… rant over.

      Rob (@engagetoday)

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