Battle of the Tweets – Why Corporations Can’t Just Talk It Out

Make your way around the tech blogs and you’ll find yourself reading about a “he said, she said” Twitter war involving three of technology’s giants – Microsoft, Google and Apple. No good fight is complete without an unlikely team of rivals – Apple and Microsoft, against Google in a war of words.

The dispute started when David Drummond, Google’s Senior Vice President wrote on Google’s official blog alleging that Microsoft secured winning bids on new mobile technology patents for “anti-competitive means” and that the Justice Department would look into the matter, according to eweek.com. No surprise that that this was shortly after Microsoft far outbid Google for the same patents which could give the Android, one of the leading mobile operating systems in the mobile market, a run for its money.

In an effort to save face, Microsoft fired back at Google’s “unfairness” claim with a tweet from their General Counsel, Brad Smith, saying:

“Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”

The defensive hits didn’t end there. Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of corporate communications fired back by also tweeting:

“Free advice for David Drummond—next time check with Kent Walker before you blog.”

Shaw’s tweet included a link to a prior e-mail sent to Brad Smith by Kent Walker, Google’s General Counsel, saying that Google did not find it necessary to bid jointly on the patents. Perhaps in a last attempt to avoid embarrassment from Microsoft’s retaliation, Drummond updated his blog post defending Google by stating that Google didn’t bid jointly on the patents because it would generate anti-competitive attacks from Microsoft and Apple partners against the Android market which shares a platform with Google.

Bravo if you’ve managed to follow this petty melo-drama without being confused. This back and forth banter over social media begs questions like “Is social media the appropriate platform to air corporate differences?” and “Why can’t these corporations just sit down and talk?” If we’ve learned anything about the role social media plays in corporate discord it’s that some things are better left unsaid or rather un-tweeted. Take for example Chrysler’s Twitter faux pas where an inappropriate word was used in a tweet referring to Detroit motorists from Chrysler’s social media team.

Corporations, celebrities, and anyone using social media should know that Twitter rivalries and tweets with TMI (too much info) never play out well. In Microsoft and Google’s case, had the dispute been discussed the old fashioned way with live one on one interaction, the temptation to be sarcastic would have been eliminated. The opportunity for an audience, that’s to Twitter derailed any opportunity for meaningful discourse as would be expected from such large corporations.

What we definitely can learn from all of this is that the use of social media to communicate between competitors can easily degenerate into a free for all, in which real progress will struggle to be met. Social media is a powerful tool for corporate communications, but it should never be used to air petty differences.

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Jessica Lopez

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