The author, Glen Suchitha, has worked in tech for a number of years with companies such as Amazon and Indavest Ventures. He also Co-founded SideStep Solutions, a startup that specialised in creating meaningful marketing experiences.

Last week, the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development launched a US$10 billion – yes, that is US$10 billion – programme that pools together the resources of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Science (IISC) to come up with solutions for our nation’s major problems in the fields of agriculture, water management and nanotechnology.

This is groundbreaking news for a developing country like India. The nation, however, did not wake up to this. It did wake up with a vengeance over a tweet from cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar against British Airways for the bad treatment meted out to his family during a foreign trip.

When Tendulkar, a god among men over here, tweets about the bad treatment by a company on the same day (the government announcement was made), it makes headlines! Here is what happened:

Oh, the horror of it! Tendulkar lost his bags and his ticket was waitlisted – a double whammy. What is even worse is that the poor associate managing the account did not know that it was Tendulkar himself who was tweeting, when he sent this generic tweet asking for his full name back. Twitter was outraged and soon the airlines was trending.

There are always two sides to every story and social media is all about telling your story. British Airways was prompt, courteous, apologetic and adhered to its standard operating procedure (SOP) on Twitter. So how did things go so horribly wrong and more importantly, what can we learn from this episode?

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1. In social media, not everyone is born equal – do your homework

Even though the Indian government has approved a US$10 billion initiative, no one cares about it because no one is listening. Influencers have eyes on them; you cannot treat them like everyone else. I’m sure Tendulkar has lost his bags before but with 8.4 million Twitter followers, it is a faux pas to not do your background work and not know who he is.

Takeaway: Treat every customer on your social media feed as an individual. You are having a conversation with them. You don’t approach someone at a bar before at least spending a good minute looking at them.

2. Amplify the positives, mute the negatives  

When someone on social media calls out your brand, put it out there for the world to see. No business is perfect and mistakes are bound to happen. If an angry customer walks through the door, a good associate would calmly pull them aside to have a civilised conversation.

Similarly, address negative comments and experiences privately aka Twitter’s DM facility or Facebook Messenger.

Takeaway: Your business might make a mistake, use this as an opportunity to get valuable feedback. Never push back on a public forum, the fans will trample you.

3. If you screw up, admit it

British Airways has unfortunately hit the Indian sentiment at its heart. Losing the bags of Indian cricket’s poster boy affects every cricket-worshipping Indian at a very personal level. Fans idolise their heroes and even though Tendulkar may move on, the fans won’t. Apologise immediately, which as the legend wrote on his Twitter feed, the airlines did in the end.

Takeaway: Any publicity is good publicity. Use this as an opportunity to carefully craft your point of view. For example, “We aim to provide our guests with the best service across every level.”

This incident only goes to show how important the right approach to social media for your business is. We live in a world where everything is out there, everyone has a voice. They are watching with preying eyes, looking to take you down at the slightest slip up. The stage is yours, make sure you have something to say.

This article appeared first on LinkedIn.

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The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email at writers[at]e27[dot]co

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