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How Ryan Giggs Could Have Avoided The Twitter Crisis

British Soccer star, Ryan Giggs, recently took out a gagging order to prevent the press reporting on an extra marital affair he had.  There was lots of speculation in the British media about which celebrities had taken out ‘Super Injunction’ gagging orders and eventually he was named on Twitter.  When Giggs threatened legal action against Twitter tweeters responded by saturating Twitter with his name and what he had done.

It’s been interesting watching the super injunction story spread like wildfire across social media.  But there are lessons all businesses can learn about what happened to Giggs.

A ‘Super Injunction’, as it has been coined by the British Press, is a legal gagging order granted by courts in the UK.  It not only prevents media from reporting on the story that the order refers to but also prevents them from mentioning that the injunction is in place.

There were several celebrities that took out gagging orders named and shamed on Twitter but why has it all gone so wrong for Ryan Giggs?  What could he have done to smooth it over?

Research: Previous use of Super Injunctions

This isn’t the first time Super Injunctions and Twitter have clashed.  Back in 2009 Oil company Trafigura took out a gagging order to prevent the press reporting on issues relating to chemical waste.  The story was outed on Twitter and was shared and commented on across the internet.  A story that would have been almost ignored by  media now became common knowledge.

This was a high profile case and a little bit of research into Super Injunctions should have flagged that Twitter could be a problem.  Even if he still decided to go ahead with the order it surprises me that he didn’t put a plan into place in case something similar happened to him.

Put a plan in place

If you know you have done something wrong, or if there is a controversy within your industry it is wise to have a crisis management plan in place.  Think about what the worse case scenario is and decide exactly how you will respond if it happens.  For small businesses this could be as simple as thinking about how you will handle a disgruntled customer who decides to post on your Facebook wall.

BT described how to react perfectly in their social media policy

Keep calm: don’t pick fights by escalating heated discussions but be conciliatory, respectful and quote facts to lower the temperature and correct misrepresentations. Never contribute to a discussion if you are angry … leave it, calm down, and return to it at a later date when you can contribute in a calm and rational manner.”

Great advice but hard to achieve if you haven’t planned.  The situation can easily esculate if you don’t have a crisis strategy in place.

Giggs didn’t follow a strategy  he decided the best course of action was to sue Twitter for the personal details of  @SuperInjunct – the tweeter who broke the story.  Historically Twitter users don’t like their right to free speech being infringed, take a look at the Twitter Joke Trial for an example.  So what happened next shouldn’t have surprised anyone.

According to the Telegraph 75,000 people named Giggs on Twitter.  This in turn sparked MP John Hemming in the British Parliament to name Ryan Giggs as the celebrity with a super injunction.  Once mentioned in Parliament the press were free to comment on the story.

Again this mirrors what transpired in Trafigura case so plans should have been in place.  But what should he have done?

Made his own story prominent

As soon as the story broke Giggs should have made a public statement.  As the main attack was coming from social media responding with a blog post or a video seems relevant.  He should have explained his behaviour and made the necessary apologies.  Written in his own words this would have been a powerful centre to his social media crisis management campaign.

This is similar to the way that Skype handled their 2008 crisis.  It was revealed that China had been spying and archiving conversations from Skype users.  Skype immediately responded with a blog post written by their CEO.  He explained the situation and how they were going to address it.

They already had social media monitoring in place that flagged mentions of the crisis so were quickly able to respond by posting comments on blogs linking back to the statement by the CEO.  They also used pay per click advertising, utilising Google Adwords to link back to the blog post.  Within 24 hours their explanation took the number one spot on organic Google searches for ‘Skype China’ meaning  their voice was being heard first.

If Giggs had taken a similar honest and pro-active approach it is unlikely the crisis would have got so far out of control and all the inbound links would push his blog post up the Google rankings.

Responded on Twitter

Giggs was being attacked on Twitter so the best place to manage the crisis would have been Twitter.

Small businesses I talk to often site negative feedback on social media as a reason not to embrace it, however people could be out there already talking about your brand or business in a negative way.  Being an active participant in social media gives you the opportunity to respond and to showcase your customer care.  Look at Ryan Giggs, his lack of participation on Twitter at the time didn’t avert the crisis.

Yes it would be time consuming to deal with all the tweets, but armed with his blog or video response he could have addressed the most influential Twitter users helping to get his own voice heard.

And Finally

Threatening legal action against a social network or members of its community is generally going to provoke a negative response.  It was this action that tipped the Twitter users over the top provoking them to tweet about him en-masse.

Do you have anything to add?  What would you have done in Ryan Giggs place?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Hi I'm Amanda, a social media consultant and trainer who loves blogging. I work with small and medium sized businesses to help them develop social media strategies that work. I really enjoy developing my marketing and social media skills. I also love cats, cycling and cakes.

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  • Hi Amanda, great post and one that all business people should read asap. Another example of how not to do it came fromu00a0Fiannau00a0Fu00e1il, Brian Cowan and his disastrous interview on Morning Ireland last Sept. It was clear from the response that they did not have a plan or the knowledge to deal with what happened. You have to wonder if this government has learnt the lesson, and if they have a high level social media adviser in place?

  • Great post Amanda and I agree with Niall in his comment re Brian Cowen too – if using social media as a business, we really need to have a plan in place.,

  • Bock the Robber

    The Irish Red Cross made a similar mistake when they sued Google for the name of their whistle-blower. u00a0

  • Luke Abbott

    Good post Amanda, he did handle it wrong and was probably advised to take this action by his own PR people or maybe even those of Man Utd. I’m not sure there was a right way to handle this (maybe don’t have the affair!), but it could have been handled better. Similarly, in the case of Brian Cowan, I think it’s the speed at which these developments occur that most don’t understand. Within hours Cowan was the butt of jokes on Jay Leno and I’m sure he had advisors who didn’t get how fast this would travel. nnAlso it must be mentioned, in the last Irish general election FG had high profile social media advisors who also could have handled a crisis on their FB page better (Lucinda Creighton’s comments on same sex couples if I recall correctly). Posts were deleted and this just stoked the fire. Perhaps the advisors had a more hands off role in this, and the comments were deleted by the page admin’s thinking they were doing the right thing. Either way, in times of crisis, you need to have every possible angle covered. Sometimes even angles you can’t account for – the case of a Dublin hotel located near a large banner with The Queen’s & Obama’s image for example. It wasn’t the hotels banner, but it was near the hotel. Their FB page was inundated with anti-British messages attacking the hotel for supporting the Queen. In this case at least it was the anti-british fans blame and not the hotel at the center of it.

  • AndrewSuccess

    Great post Amanda and well argued (in a low tempreture and calm way!) nJust one question though; What would be the best way to respond to tweets who negatively judge a person or their business and/or make false claims about an individual, their life-style, business dealings, relationships etc…? Would one be wise to respond via twitter and if so, what way would be the best way?nAgain, well done re the Ryan Giggs advice!

  • Anonymous

    My inital response is that Irish politics knows it should be using social media but is still not quite sure what direction it should be going. u00a0I hated what Fine Gale did with it in the last election but maybe that’s just me *Twolicy* *sigh*

  • When I saw that awful platform game, I thought their site had been hacked 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Great post Amanda and very topical. u00a0I think this addresses a very important issue which is that the law has yet to catch up with the changes between New Media and Established Media. u00a0Giggs tried to apply a tactic that has been tried and tested over the years to prevent a story being reported in Established Media. u00a0It is apparent that these tactics will not work in the realm of New Media.nnnIt’s interesting to read quotes from the main legalu00a0adviseru00a0to the UK Government, whou00a0has insisted Twitter users in England and Wales are not exempt from the requirement to observe privacy orders. u00a0Dominic Grieve saysu00a0nu201cIf youu2019re a tweeter and youu2019re susceptible to the jurisdiction of our national courts in England and Wales itu2019s not beyond the bounds of possibility that you may find yourself being brought into court for contempt; and the fact that you’re doing it on Twitter doesnu2019t give you some blanket exemption. u00a0I will take action if I think that my intervention is necessary in the public interest, to maintain the rule of law, proportionate and will achieve an end of upholding the rule of law. u00a0It is not something, however, I particularly want to do.”nSource ( another case a UK Council was successful in the US courts in getting the identity of au00a0user behind allegedly libellous statements -u00a0 will be interesting to see how things develop. u00a0At the end of the day I think it is only a matter of time before u00a0the law catches up.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Andrew, u00a0That’s a hard one without knowing the details.nnnUsually a person who has a large following and is regularly re-tweeted and shared would be a respected member of Twitter, they didn’t get there by lying. u00a0This wasn’t the case with the Super Injunction tweeter but there was already a lot of interest in who was taking out the orders before the names were tweeted. u00a0In general honesty and integrity are attributes that are respected on Twitter. u00a0I’ve seen some spats emerge over the years and usually both parties involved in a public argument come off badly.nIf they are a well respected Twitter follower I would create a blog post with a clear and level headed blog post and direct anyone with enquiries about the comments to your statement.If they don’t have a large following my initial reaction would be to ignore them. u00a0By responding you are adding fuel to the fire.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds interesting, do you have a link to that story?

  • Bock the Robber

    That was all over the news about a year ago.nnHere’s a couple of links.nn

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant, thanks 🙂 u00a0I think Crisis management is really important so I’m always looking for examples.

  • Bock the Robber

    That was a classic example of a PR screw-up. u00a0A charity using money from public donations to sue a multinational giant in order to silence a whistleblower who had the good of the organisation at heart. u00a0

  • Twitter Advertising has been a big plus to everyones business in todays world we can update ourn customer inform them instantly about any maintainance we are doing ..I meann things are instant in today world.. thanks.nu00a0 Small Business marketing

  • So much bad will happen before “I fought the law, and the law won” such a grey area but on a personal level, one doesn’t slate and attack their “fanbase” and expect to get off lightly. Honesty early is best policy with someone in the spotlight me thinks. nAs frank mentions New Media – all will catch up eventually, but then we will have other worries (not invented yet!)nnGreat post – thanks

  • Tine23_s


  • Facundo

    Inspiring post Lewis. On the one hand I see that “need for meaningful involvement” when I speak to industry pairs and read all about it in posts like yours or other blogs. On the other, when I speak to non-industry pairs (mostly friends) I see that not all of them want that involvement and many embrace that wage packet you mention. It could well be that they are not part of that “why” generation so therefore have their industrial thinking residues. I sometimes hesitate when trying to understand in general terms, where is the relationship that people have with their jobs is really heading to and if there’s a paradigm shift happening or business are usual. Hopefully the former 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s a paradigm shift. Both the leaders and those in jobs working for them have the same resistance to change. The change will happen anyway, so it’s a good idea for the leaders to take the new thinking on board so they can be in a position to guide the employees – like your friends – who’d rather just keep doing what they’re doing and not be disturbed!

  • Anonymous

    We all do, really, don’t we! I just think that now we have a much greater opportunity to do so – if we choose to take it.

  • “Company pyramid structures and silo mentalities are being challenged as out-dated, irrelevant and unhelpful by a progressively connected business community.”
    I honestly think with the onset of pyramid schemes and the devastating effects they have on the community at large, helps everyone realise that the company pyramid structures do not work today either. We need the employee to realise this as much as the business owner, for proper integration.

    Accepting that there will always be change, and accepting that change, can do a lot to help us stay in the game.

    Great points Lewis!

  • Anonymous


    Your point about questioning everything is something I encourage business owners to do on a regular basis. When you’re not evaluating your business’ performance on a regular basis, it is so easy to assume everything is fine.

    My observation is that we are in a moment of huge change. A recent study by the Hay Group ( points out trends that we’re engaged in already or observing in our peers. Small to mid-size businesses are already having to adjust to dramatic changes in consumer behaviour, challenging economic climate, technology changes and employees wanting some kind of integration between work and personal time. After the relief of having a consistent wage packet and benefits has worn off, employees ask, “Is that all there is?” There are many business leaders who are flummoxed by how to handle what is swirling around them. Some are going to hang on the “old ways” while others are going to explore. Asking questions is paramount in identifying how business goals are being met and how a business responds to the social and economic changes surrounding us.

  • It’s on our development roadmap. We’re looking at a visitorM hosted check-in system as well as integrating with third party services like Foursquare

  • Thanks Sarah, it can make the job very frustrating for developers and users, hopefully Apple might change it eventually. Most developers have links on the info page for users,it would be useful if Apple told users to contact the developer directly. Hopefullyin the next blog I can give away some of the “magic circle” app developer secrets:)

  • Thank you Warren,means a lot coming from such a great blogger. We are trying to get the communication & education out there, watch this space for a book announcement:)

  • Thanks Heather, it’s simply a case of 2 great small biz communities working together.

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