Plenary: Saying ‘sorry’: Corporate apologies posted on Twitter

A session at Twitter and Microblogging: Political, Professional and Personal Practices

Friday 12th April, 2013

11:15am to 12:15pm

Twitter offers companies an influential environment in which to enhance their reputation and build rapport with existing and potential clients. The growth of customer care talk on Twitter is evident in the changing patterns of interactions as observed in a dataset of 177, 735 tweets gathered between 2010 and 2012. One important aspect of the customer care talk is the apologies made by companies in response to customer complaints. The analysis focuses on 1183 apologies, and considers the distinctive forms of their semantic components (the Illocutionary Force Indicating Device, Explanations, Offers of Repair) and their rapport building potential (as indicated through opening and closing moves, such as greetings, nominations, discourse markers and emoticons). Corporate apologies are distinctive for their under-use of Explanations, and their over-use of Offers of Repair, especially when combined with follow up moves such as imperatives and questions. They are also distinctive in their repeated, somewhat formulaic use of greetings and signatures which did not appear in the apologies posted by ordinary Twitter members. As such, the rapport building strategies used by companies appear less personalised and more formal, with less associative expressiveness than in the interactions of ordinary apologies. I interpret the distinctive distribution of these semantic and stylistic features in light of the companies’ imperative to save face and rebuild rapport with their customers, and to maintain a client base through Twitter.

About the speaker

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Ruth Page

University of Leicester

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Time 11:15am12:15pm GMT

Date Fri 12th April 2013

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