Had an interesting experience on Twitter tonight. I’m not terribly prolific there, any more than I am here. Occasional commentary or sharing of articles, some conversation with others, usually EV related and almost never “breaking news”. Tonight I ran across an article from the New York Times, by a writer who had a Nissan Leaf for the weekend and learned what many of us already know: that a couple of days in an EV tends to cure range anxiety.
Not an earth-shattering revelation, but one that makes it into the media rarely enough to be worth sharing when it does. So I tweeted: “EV light goes on at NYT: “If anything, the Nissan Leaf taught me that I don’t drive nearly as far as I thought”, along with a link to the article.
Immediately, I got an answer back from the Hertz Rent-a-Car corporate account. “We need 2 get U in our Chevy VOLT. If long distance is important 2 you, U’ll like the VOLT”, with an invite to “follow” them for more info.
On one hand, I liked that they reached out. On the other, it showed so clearly that they’d not paid attention to what I’d actually said that I assumed it was spam- and I called them on it with my next tweet. (Admittedly, the short, 140-character form that is Twitter tends to occasionally be pretty conducive to my feisty streak. Though I did also ping them privately and offer to chat more about how they could start off better in the future.) I like that large, well-known companies such as Hertz are entering and doing potentially cool things in this industry. And while not without challenges, offering plug-ins in rental fleets is a great way to let consumers experience them before fully taking the plunge, and to allow travelers to lighten their footprint. But I’m less patient when those companies don’t do their homework and aren’t thoughtful of their approach. It shows a lack of awareness of the history and market they’re entering, and doesn’t bode well for their interaction in it. Some even end up doing themselves and the industry a disservice by partnering with less-than-credible companies for highly visible projects, when a simple Google search would have prevented it.
To their credit, Hertz didn’t let it lie. Gulsah Boye, their social media manager, came right back- initially suggesting that I’d misunderstood, then re-reading her first message and conceding that it didn’t come off as she’d intended and could be seen as a little spammy. Which led to an extensive (for Twitter) back and forth on both public and private channels about different EVs, an upcoming event, and linking of different bits of the community to each other. Ironically, it was probably deeper and more effective engagement than if her first message hadn’t irked me into calling them out- though it’s not a tactic I’d suggest repeating. The lesson, of course, is that you don’t have to be perfect; we expect a little clumsiness here and there, especially among the new entrants, and regardless of size and resources of your company. But we expect you to listen and do your homework before you engage, and continue to learn as you do. (Heck, it’s so rare among new entrants that a bit of humility tends to earn extra points!) We want to know that you’re going to bring something additive to what we’ve worked pretty long and hard to build in this industry, not merely take advantage of a new trend. And you have to get comfy with the fact that in most cases, this is a far more community oriented space than the one you’re used to.
But if you’re game for that, we’re all ears. To wit: I’ve been paying attention to what Hertz is doing all along. But thanks to Gulsah, I’m a lot more genuinely interested than I was an hour ago.