When an American tourist got locked into Waterstones on the evening of Thursday 16th October he used social media as his outlet of choice in his attempt to get let out of the store.
Twitter users across the world jumped on the tweet, creating a Twitter storm to the point where #WaterstonesTexan was trending – David Willis had his 15 minutes of fame, eventually got released, Twitter was overjoyed and then everyone went to bed.
The whole saga, as amusing as it was for us outsiders must have been terrifying for Waterstones, where the possibility of everything turning sour could put their brand and reputation in jeopardy. Fortunately everything remained positive, with people seeing the funny side of the situation (and for this Waterstones have the gracious David Willis to thank – I am sure it could have been a whole other story.)
Nevertheless, #WaterstonesTexan happened and some Waterstones branches took the opportunity to use social media to get involved, build their presence (who knew different branches of Waterstones have their own accounts?!) and joke about the situation. It seemed that every Waterstones branch has something funny to say about the situation, a great way of ensuring everything remained light hearted and alleviating the potential for damaging the brand – something other brands could learn from.
As well as showing they have a sense of humour, Waterstones got the opportunity to gain insight into what people really thought about being stuck in their shop overnight – many of the tweets were about how lucky David Willis was.
Clearly someone listened.
Waterstones have just teamed up with Airbnb to run an online competition for a sleepover in the Piccadilly Circus branch – the perfect opportunity to continue involvement in the brand. The collaboration fits well with both brands, (Airbnb say they rent out unique places to stay) and could almost be thought of as a Twitter crowdsourced idea. The competition ran over the week following the #WaterstonesTexan incident with the sleepover taking place on the 24th October, (just over a week since the incident) again giving us a lesson in agile marketing – taking action before things lose momentum. Bravo Waterstones (and Airbnb.)
Waterstones have made the most of a potentially damaging situation to reaffirm their place in people’s hearts. The bookstore has not only given us a lesson in listening to the important insight provided by social media but has created an innovative by-product which has the potential to continue people’s engagement with the brand. As a book retailer, a tangible product (it does sell kindles), Waterstones has shown that it can be in touch with the digital world whilst still having a mainly offline proposition.
The #WaterstonesTexan debacle has highlighted the importance for all brands, no matter what their product offering, to have a digital presence. Having direct contact with your customers is not only important in terms of engagement and damage limitation but also gives invaluable insight into consumer’s lives and, as Waterstones have demonstrated, opportunities for innovation.
Hannah is a Digital Producer at Copper.