Avatar of Evan Hamilton

How a single customer can mortally wound your business, featuring Urban Outfitters

Forget “influential” bloggers and tweeters like Robert Scoble, Ashton Kutcher, and Drunk Hulk. Last week a blogger named Amber Karnes with a mere 1,000 followers on Twitter discovered (apparently just the latest in many) an Urban Outfitters product that was a rip-off of an independent artist. She tweeted about it. The result was that thousands of people retweeted her, she & Urban Outfitters became a trending topic, and Urban Outfitters removed the product from their shelves.

Amber Karnes tweet saying I think its time to boycott urban outfitters. They have done this to so many independent artists. NOT OK.

How did she accomplish this? By being influential in her small community and by posting something that was interesting and enraging to all of them. In her words:

“What I do have – and the reason that my call for a boycott on Urban Outfitters spread so fast and wide – is a tribe. A tight knit group of independent artists and crafters that follow me. My cause resounded with them. They spread it, and their friends spread it, and a few big influencers on Twitter spread it, and then it was gone.”

girl holding a banner that says tribe

This is why you cannot treat customers badly just because they don’t seem “influential”. We’re all influential in our own circles. And if I post something very relevant to my circle, and they all repost it to their circles, and they repost it, something can get big. Especially if they have a cause to get behind.

You can’t predict that. Even Klout, measurer of the influence of people on Twitter, doesn’t help customers based on influence. They know better.

Don’t look at your customers and try to analyze whether ignoring them will hurt you. Any customer can deliver a killing blow, and any customer can deliver a fame-creating endorsement. Feel free to focus on courting “big” bloggers and tweeters for press – but don’t risk treating any of your customers badly. You never know what might happen.

If you'd like to know more, check out Amber's great post on the whole event.

Tribe photo courtesy of camera.newbie.