Case Study:

webuyanytoycar.comOn September 28, Twitter user Jamie Jones (@JamieDMJ) posted a picture of a letter he had allegedly received from We Buy Any Car in response to his request for a car valuation on a Little Tikes Car with “water damage.” Claiming that “We Buy Any Car wrote me back,” Jones’ picture immediate grabbed the attention of Twitter users and has to-date received more than 33,300 retweets, and was added to the favorites list of more than 15,500 users.

Comments and criticisms included statements like, “They call themselves ‘We Buy Any Car.’ They lie,” and “They could’ve turned that into a really good pr stunt….Fail!” The fact of the matter is that it was an unintentional PR stunt on their part because had no idea where this letter had come from and promptly responded to JamieDMJ’s tweet as much.

After much back and forth, it was revealed that Adam Jennings was not a We Buy Any Car employee and that he was in fact @JamieDMJ—the user who posted the fake rejection letter. In the spirit of the jest, We Buy Any Car’s public relations team made a brilliant move. They purchased the domain “” and started a campaign to purchase 100 Tikes across the UK. All people had to do was drop the Little Tike car off at one of five branch stores and they would donate “a tenner” to the road safety charity Brake.

This is a great example of what Jay Baer identified as social media listening because it showcases just how beneficial active listening can be for a company’s reputation management strategy. Had they not stepped in so quickly, they could have experienced far more backlash and negative publicity—and they weren’t even at fault! If We Buy Any Car was operating with just a passive listening plan, they would be able to collect the data and would eventually find out that someone was mentioning them online and negatively discussing their brand, but would they have an action plan in place for how to handle the situation? When would they even realize that someone was talking about them online?

social media complaints study

According to Edison Research, 42 percent of consumers complaining in social media expect a response within 60 minutes of posting their complaint. You should note that they responded within the first hour—meaning that despite the fact that the message was posted at (potentially) 4 in the morning, someone was monitoring their feed and was able to respond within the hour.

In my opinion, one of the best things to come out of this hoax was all the free publicity. This story was shared on major news sources like The Huffington Post UK, PRWeek, and Marketing Magazine UK as a featured story on social media management done right. Numerous Twitter users even chimed in to show their approval of how the company chose to handle the matter and complimented them on their ability to handle the situation “with humor and good grace.” One of my favorite touches is the We Buy Any TOY Car 8-second Vine video they produced to promote the Little Tikes donations. You can check it out by clicking here.

Suggested Reading

  • Jay Baer | “The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter and More Social.”
  • CorpComms Magazine UK | Thanks Prankster for Free Publicity.

Yasheaka Oakley Owens

Yasheaka Oakley Owens is the owner of YOakleyPR, a woman-owned small business that provides public relations, social media, and online marketing support services to small businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware.

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