Ignoring loyal fans: A social media how-NOT-to

I love it when companies use social media to see what people are saying about their brand. I love it even more when they acknowledge those folks. What I don't love as a consumer is feeling ignored. Enter Sharpie.

The famous marker company, Sharpie, recently offered a perk through Klout. They gave so-called "Sharpie influencers" a bunch of free stuff to do all kinds of artsy things. I love crafts and was bummed I didn't get the perk; so I sent a tweet (I'm a smart aleck, what can I say):

Sukhraj Beasla responded to my tweet and said she was disappointed, too. We started kidding back and forth about how much we loved Sharpies and wanted Sharpie to love us, too. Soon after, Lindsay Fultz said she was laughing at our funny tweets and joined in. Hugh McBride was next. He changed his avatar to a pack of Sharpies and started sharing great photos of things created with Sharpies! Then, Shana Ray joined and tweeted a photo of her Sharpie table.

We started using the hashtag #sharpiechat on some of the tweets, and even more folks started tweeting about Sharpie. People shared how they used Sharpie and what they liked about the product. Sheetal Makhan from South Africa asked what Sharpies were and of course I told her about all the permanent marker goodness. What had started off as a joke had turned into a full-fledged chat on how great Sharpie products were!

For nearly two hours that night, we traded tweets, shared Sharpie art, revised song lyrics to include Sharpie, and kidded about who loved Sharpies the most. It was terribly fun and at it's peak, #sharpiechat had more than 20 participants. Twenty-plus people sharing their love of the product and giving Sharpie's twitter account lots of love. When I went to bed, I thought, "I bet the Sharpie folks will get a kick out of seeing all those tweets in the morning. And how much will they love that we started the first ever #sharpiechat!".

Well, imagine my surprise when the next day came and Sharpie said nothing. Nada. Zilch. I even looked at the Sharpie Twitter page to see if they had respond to anyone from the previous night. Negative. Sharpie hadn't even followed me back (nor have they in the subsequent two weeks)! Granted, I didn't host #sharpiechat for any self-serving purpose, but not to even get one tweet from Sharpie? I thought that bit the big one. (For the record, not everyone put "@sharpie" in their tweets, however there were enough who did that Sharpie undoubtedly saw the surge of mentions and could have tracked the #sharpiechat hashtag.)

So, here's the free advice for the day. If your customers say how great you are, thank them! Respond, engage, do something! The last thing you should be doing is ignoring them. And, since Sharpie didn't see fit to acknowledge anyone who participated in #sharpiechat, I'd like to do that now--because that's how social media works.

Thank you to the following individuals:


And special thanks to: 
@lindsayfultz for coming up with the hashtag
@hughcmcbride for scouring the net to find the most amazing Sharpie-inspired content to share
@sbeasla for responding to my initial tweet, which got the whole conversation going

Want your customers to love you? Remember to love them back! That's how brand loyalty is created. That's how you turn customers into full-fledged fans. That's how ordinary companies become extraordinary!


  1. Amber, this is disappointing considering their blog and twitter are fairly active... slackers... maybe there is something in the mail

  2. Agreed Amber.  Didn't participate in hopes to get free Sharpie swag but I definitely thought the'd get a kick out of it and respond or chime in occasionally with other fun facts.  Smart branding would not only been to participate and say thanks but maybe they should take a hint from Amex, Wheat Thins and HBO, just SOME of the brands that include positive tweets in various forms of their advertising.  Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun:)

  3. they can't give sharpies to everyone lol but you're cute :)

  4. Great post Amber! It really niggles me when big companies don't think social etiquette applies to them. I'm sure if people were posting negative tweets about Sharpies they would have taken the time to reply ;-) A great reminder.  

  5. Thanks for sharing Amber. Like you, I was hoping they would at least say something about our 2 hour chat. It's a real bummer that they chose to ignore that and acknowledge some loyal fans. 

    I still think we should plan the Sharpie wedding. I'm dying to be a Sharpie Maid of Honor. :P Thanks for the shout out!

  6. Wow!! What an interesting story!  Really!  First, on an obvious level I just loved the community that grew out of your #Sharpie love fest.  It speaks so strongly to the power of social media.  And, because of that, shame on Sharpie or, as you point out, any brand for not acknowledging their supporters and, in this case, the FREE ADVERTISING!!!  What are these brands thinking?  So, do they really think that all they are responsible for in the social media forum is to create a FB Page, a Twitter account and NOT ENGAGE???  I actually see it a lot on FB...I tend to enjoy acknowledging other companies, people or brands by linking to them in some of my posts and I am appalled at how few ever respond...ever.  And some of these people are Facebook GURUS!!  If nothing else, where are there manners?  (Can you tell you hit a sensitive button for me?)  Amber, I think what you did was awesome for Sharpie and even more awesome, is that you wrote this post because it is VERY important for brands to get over their self importance and engage with their supporters.
    Okay, I think I feel better now! ;-)

  7. Hey Todd! Yeah, their stream seems to have picked up since #sharpiechat. I noticed that. Oh well. What can you do? We all still love Sharpies, just maybe not the folks on the social media team ;-)

  8. Hey Lindsay, my fellow #sharpiechat team member!

    I'm so with you. It just started off as joking about not getting the perk and then morphed into a really fun chat! You were a huge part of it! Had you not said Suki and were were being funny and then suggested the hashtag, we wouldn't have gotten the momentum we got!

    I mean, I checked their mentions the next day, they were all from our chat. There's no way they could have been missed. Oh, well, a wasted opportunity for them. As you say, there are other companies that get this stuff.

  9. Hey Dave! I totally didn't expect free Sharpies and my initial tweet was really a joke. I'm just a smart aleck that way. But a "hey!
    sharpiechat was cool!" would have been nice. I mean, we did talk about and promote the Sharpie brand for two hours. A tweet back would have been nice. Oh well...

    And, hey, I'll take the cute compliment any day of the week! Thanks, Dave ;-)

  10. Hey Vanessa! Always a pleasure when you visit us from Spain! ;-)

    You tapped into exactly the right phrase: social etiquette. That's exactly it. If a band of renegades promote your brand for two hours, isn't a lousy tweet in response the least you can do? I mean, that's how you keep the love alive, right???? ;-)

  11. Hey Sukhraj! Yeah, we came up with some stellar ideas during #sharpiechat, didn't we? Even more proof that we ran a darn good chat, baby!

    Sharpie wedding is a go. But one of us needs to find a groom first. Details, details... ;-)

  12. Hey Claudia! I find the humor in me hitting a nerve with you since you're a dentist. Nerve. Teeth. Get it? ;-)

    Anyway, yes, I'm with you 100%! I looked at Sharpie's stream since and there is some engagement. I think, perhaps, the problem is inconsistency?

    Even if not every tweet in #sharpiechat included @sharpie, every brand should be searching Twitter for their brand's name. Doing so would have brought up all the tweets from our two hour love fest. But, you're so right. Social media is not a megaphone. For brands to truly succeed, they need to get off their soapboxes and start mingling with Average Joe and Everyday Jane. That's how brand loyalists are created.

    And the irony is that I didn't get the perk because I was not a "Sharpie influencer". However, based on a single tweet I sent, a two hour chat with two dozen participants who were talking about Sharpie products was born. Maybe it's just me, but I think that makes me a Sharpie influencer...

  13. I thought we already had the groom? You were going to marry Sharpie, right? :)

  14. Oh geez. I'm so fickle, I forgot! Yes, I'm marrying Sharpie. What was I thinking????

  15. Wow, what a big #FAIL for Sanford! Thanks for sharing the story.

  16. Interesting, Amber. I'm surprised Sharpie didn't respond to such a spontaneous and informal product endorsement tweet chat. I like Sharpies too. Anyway, I noticed yesterday a Klout FB post that stated that Stephen King was offering an ebook to people who had Klout perks. I didn't have time to check it out though. :)

  17. Amber, I am absolutely in love with this idea! I love how you use social media with gusto and how this naturally turned into a full-blown Twitter chat with over 20 participants! Now that's what social media is all about! =)

    Kudos to you for making this happen even if Sharpie didn't take notice. Too bad for them!

  18. Hi.  I'm the face behind Sharpie's social media sites.  Actually there are two of us but I manage the Twitter account, along with lots of other duties for Sharpie.  No excuses here.  I simply missed all of this.  In the last two weeks, our Sharpie followers have gone from 9,000 to over 40,000 and it's been a whole new ball game for me trying to manage it. I know I'm missing a lot of the conversations and the great things fans are saying about Sharpie but I promise you I am doing my very best to keep up and respond to as much as I can. Given the recent growth and this situation (which I personally feel AWFUL about), we will need to re-assess how we staff Twitter.  We're a big brand with a small social team, trying to keep it real and personal.  I'm so sorry I failed you all on this one. I hope you'll give me and Sharpie another chance.

  19. you're welcome Amber :)

  20. Well, certainly a missed opportunity.

    Thanks for reading, Cheri!

  21. Hi Karen,

    Yeah, it was a wonderfully spontaneous occurrence that really attracted some great product awareness! We had a blast.

    As for the King book, I noticed it. However, I don't qualify. Won't be launching a #StephenKingChat this time, though ;-)

  22. Hi Samantha! Thanks for stopping by! It truly was a testament to the power of social media! I even jokingly mentioned a Sharpie tweetup and started to get RSVPs!

    Just goes to show you what some enthusiasm and engagement can do for a brand! Even if both come from a fan and not the company itself.

  23. Hey Susan! Kudos to you for the gracious comment. Too many companies ignore bloggers when they say something critical of a brand.

    I feel your pain. Although many companies have a social media person, it is rarely a dedicated one. Since you say you have other duties, perhaps you're in that boat, as well.

    For what it's worth, you have a lot of loyal fans out there. I got wonderful momentum going with #sharpiechat, even though it didn't get started until after 9pm. I even threw out the idea of a Sharpie tweetup and got some interest. If you'd like to hire me to do an occasional chat or a Sharpie-themed tweetup in Los Angeles, just let me know! I love to work with fun products!

    And, for the record, I still love Sharpies. I actually bought a brand new, fresh one today when I was checking out at the sporting goods store. Just put it in my pen cup a few minutes ago ;-)

    Thanks for stopping by and the comment, Susan! A simple response goes a long way. The lesson here? You have lots of folks who love Sharpies. That's a good problem to have.

    Thanks again for stopping by. Good luck as you fine tune your Twitter strategy. #SharpiesRule

  24. Thank you so much.  I know this may seem disengenuous or self-serving or something, but I'd like to send the list of fans who participated in the #sharpiechat some free Sharpies. If they could DM me their addresses (heading to Twitter now to make sure I follow them), that would be great.  Thanks for understanding and your kind reply.  ~Susan 

  25. Thanks, Susan! I'll contact everyone on your behalf, asking them to DM you their mailing info! Or, I can collect it all and then email it to you in one document. That way you know the folks contacting you are legit. Whichever is easiest.

    Thanks for the freebies! I know everyone from #sharpiechat will enjoy them!

  26. P.S. Would be great if you could send something extra special to @hughcmcbride @lindsayfultz @sbeasla. They were the three diehard fans who were with me for the whole two hours!

  27. Now THAT is a sad social media story! #majormissedopportunity

  28. And that begs the question, is a little social media better than no social media; or if you are not monitoring it, is it best to not have it at all? http://www.myrlandmarketing.com had a similar post concerning interns and the comments touched on, is some better than none; especially if nobody is monitoring it.

    We are struggling with that on our corporate @LanierUpshaw:disqus  site and who is responsible and what schedule are we going to set.

    I think you have to be 'all in', but what does 'all in' really look like.

    This was very interesting indeed. 

  29. I'm totally bummed about this particular perk because I really wanted the Sharpies, too. And I tweeted about it. A lot. Even directly to them. And I got nothing. So what's the point of having a high Klout score if you don't get perks you'd actually talk about? I mean, it was a cool gift for my little brother when I got the Kobe Bryant posted, but I didn't talk about it at all.

  30. If you're going to be using social media, you have to use it - monitor, engage, respond. It's better not to have a presence than to have one and not use it.

  31. The big fail is that they weren't listening in a space after suggesting they were. It's not that they would have to give everyone who ever tweeted them a freebie, but acknowledging your activity is "free." Now of course there are risks running customer service and support thru social media, the idea that you gotta give anyone who says anything nice about you a freebie and refunds to complainers. No, it's paying attention, using the info you learn to get better. FWIW.

  32. Yeah, I thought so too, Lisa. I mean, if someone got two dozen people talking about my product for two hours, I'd be pretty impressed and grateful. Maybe I'm patting myself on the back on this one, but I think THAT is a Sharpie Influencer, no?

  33. I agree with both of you on this.

    I've told clients this exact same thing. You can't open a Twitter account because it's the cool thing to do and then to let it just sit there or/and not respond to mentions. That's why social media is different than an e-newsletter. Some many big brands still don't get that. :-(

  34. Good point, Gini. I'm always curious about the criteria used for perks. My suspicion is that maybe "artists" were tagged for the perk. Although, @marianneworley:twitter said she got the perk and she's very similar to us.

    Oh well. I'm actually very grateful for the perks I do get. And, my initial tweet was a combo of disappointment and smart aleckery. But, I quickly learned that people feel very passionate about Sharpies when I started #sharpiechat. Just goes to show you, if you have an audience who is already excited about your product, it's even easier--and more important---to engage that fan base!

  35. I completely agree! As with everything, people just like to be heard and appreciated. I didn't get the chat going for any self serving reason, however a tweet saying they noticed my effort would have been nice.

    I think lots of companies are going to learn these lessons the hard way. Too many are seeing social as an afterthought. Staffing it part time or with interns. To maximize the opportunities, you need a full-time professional who understands customer service, brand loyalty, and how to effectively use social media.

    I'm sure many businesses will look back at these early days of social media and eventually realized how many opportunities were missed because they were worried about saving a buck here and there on the proper community managers.

  36. Hi Amber,

    I was surprised to hear that no one from Sharpie noticed the Sharpiechat tweets. I once sent a random tweet out mentioning a yummy Stouffers frozen meal, and they tweeted back within 15 minutes. Your post is a perfect lesson of why it is so important to monitor company and brand mentions on the various social media platforms. You never know how critical a single communication can be.

    I still don't know what made me eligible for the Sharpie Klout perk--other than another random tweet mentioning how much I liked their liquid pencil. Alas, I have not yet received the perk--another fail. When I got the Subway perk, they sent me the gift card within days.

    Like you, I still love Sharpies. And it's pretty cool that Susan Wassel stopped by to give her apologies.

  37. The information is very interesting. I like the post.  

  38. Hi Amber,

    I talk about companies all the time on my Twitter, sometimes I do it just to see if they're paying attention. 9 times out of 10, I NEVER get a response. It's heart breaking! It's like, I love this brand so much and they don't seem to care about me AT ALL. Sometimes, it really turns me off about a brand and I'll quit using them. Sometimes, though, I just love them too much to really care if they tweet me back or not. But this is just proof that it is SO important for brands to be more aware of what their people are saying through out the entire internet. Thank you for sharing!

  39. Great post!  Lessons for all.  New follower and appreciative of this information that I will be sharing with other mom-run businesses in our area.  

  40. Hey Marianne! Yeah, monitoring is crucial. If you make yourself accessible through social media, then you must be responsive. Just no way around it.

    I've had varying delivery times with the perks. Some fast, some slow. I'm sure it's coming, my impatient little vixen ;-)

  41. Hey Morgan! I know exactly what you mean. I sent an enthusiastic tweet about @peepsandcompany being on Twitter and generated several tweets from others and got their account several follows by doing so. Got no response from them. On the other hand, I've sent several tweets about how great in products are, and the person who runs their account always says thanks for the support!

    I mean, I realize the volume on some accounts has to be unreal. But, when the account doesn't follow back and won't acknowledge, it can be a real turn off for consumers. It's may take some extra effort on the brand's part, but making customers feel special, heard, and appreciated is really the sweet spot of social media.

  42. Thanks for stopping by, Carrie! Always love having a new visitor!

    I appreciate the comment. Good luck with your business!

  43. I have my loyals in a special list. It's important to know that there's people behind all those tweets.

  44. That an interesting way to use a Twitter list. So you have all the brands listed who interact with their customers?

  45. I am really impressed with what you were able to do, thanks for writing about it. Also, I respect Susan Wassel a lot for responding to this post/situation. I have sent several @ mention tweets to different companies, but they didn't reply to them. It's one thing to ignore someone if they just talks ABOUT you, but another entirely to ignore someone who's talking TO you. I appreciate Sharpie's social media participation.

  46. Hi Shelly! Thanks for stopping by!

    Yes, you bring up a good distinction. Talking about versus talking to. If companies really want to get the most from this social media stuff though, I think they should be aware of both. But, of course, always responding to each and every mention that's TO them is critical.

    Yes, Susan was brave to respond. Lots of companies hide their heads in the sand when they get called out. Never a good strategy.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Shelly!

  47. That is an outstanding thing you did and I can't believe that you didn't get a response. I notice that sometimes on Twitter. Crazy. I am off to find you on there now and follow. I liked the Facebook page, too. Glad I found your blog. I really like it.

  48. Thanks for saying so, P.J. Without sounding full of myself, I thought it was pretty darn neat, too ;-)

    Thanks so much for connecting here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. It's the trifecta, baby!

    Glad to meet you!

  49. Gosh.  How did I end up here...I think I followed your comment at Chris Brogan's.   Speaking of Sharpie Art my son went to art camp and one of the people had transformed a plain ol' plastic trash can with Sharpies.  I'm a sucker for Beauty in Surprising Places and wrote a post about that.   Not sure if a link is okay, if not you can delete it, but it leads to the Sharpie cans. 


    And what a LOST opportunity for Sharpie.  But maybe they're like me and don't know what a hashtag is.  ;-)   I


  50. Now THAT is what I love about the web. Click this, click that. Soon enough you have no idea how a page got opened on your browser! Ha ha! Welcome, Dixie!

    I'll check out the trash can art. You can do amazing things with those markers!

    As for the hashtag, perhaps they don't know. But they do know how to read their @ mentions. Oh well. I bellowed loud enough and Sharpie heard me after I wrote this post. I just love the web ;-)

    Thanks for stopping by, Dixie!

  51. I'm kinda bummed out about this one. I know my comment is a little bit late, and that Sharpie responded, but still, I feel like an opportunity was lost in the moment. 

    Even from a Customer Service perspective, all people want is to feel heard. I deal with this from the company side, we get clients who are either: venting, asking questions or praising us. Each of those is an opportunity in itself to turn a wrong into a right, help someone and turn customers into raving fans. I've dealt with each on the spectrum. 

    What did they want? A simple response. Acknowledgement. A chance to be heard and feel like someone cares. That's it. 

  52. I couldn't agree with you more, Ricardo. Being heard. It's so simple, yet so often overlooked.

    I mean if someone started an #AmberChat about how great I was and got people to chime in their Amber rocks stories for two hours, I'd certainly make sure to, at the very least, thank everyone. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences on the topic. Always good to have real life examples of what's working---and what's not ;-)


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