Aaron N. Tubbs bio photo

Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

Twitter Facebook Google+ LinkedIn Github

Social Media Failure: Geico

This first bit is from memory, so the exact phrasing isn’t with me at the moment.

A few weeks ago, I was griping about Geico on twitter. My basic complaint was that I would be billed a convenience fee to automatically pay my Geico bill via credit card. I could manually submit my payment using the same card without paying the convenience fee. I could well be understanding that incorrectly, but that’s the (what the fuck, seriously) inane interpretation I managed to get out of Geico’s site. I thought that was stupid. Because it is.

Within a couple of minutes, Geico responded asking if I would like them to get in touch with me. I just needed to DM them my account number, phone number, name, etc.


So I said, on twitter, that really I just wanted confirmation that I wasn’t crazy, and that Geico charges me extra money to bill me automatically. It’s not something I really needed a phone conversation about. I was again encouraged to DM private details so I could be contacted by Geico. What I really wanted was “Yes, we suck, but we’re cheaper, so deal with it.” I mean, not really, but something pithy or just a simple answer, or even a simple case of “nah, we don’t do something like that, learn to read, ass clown.”

In the grand scheme of things, this is probably a useful response for most folks, and it’s a good way for Geico to prevent getting in a lot of trouble. They’re doing the right thing and playing it safe. Really, though, what I want is to bitch about something that bugs me, and for Geico to fix it, because it’s dumb. Or I want them to bitch slap me and tell me I’m dumb. I’m happy either way.


It’s just that what I don’t want is some lame cover-your-ass official response that puts the onus on me to fix things. Tell me I’m a shit or fix my complaint.

I know that big companies can’t work this way on the Internet. My problem is that a half-assed social media presence is more harmful and infuriating than none at all. It has to be something that the whole company is behind, I think; a disconnected marketing effort that doesn’t have backing from the entire workforce produces something a bit artificial at best.

Social Media Success: DuckDuckGo

Duck Duck Go works entirely differently. A couple of weeks ago, I mention on twitter that I’m giving DuckDuckGo a shot. A few minutes later, DuckDuckGo responds with something like “neat, let me know how it goes.”

Let me know how it goes.

It’s a smaller company, there’s more attention, but here’s somebody that gives a fuck about their product, and that is personally representing what they’re doing. That means a lot to me. A real human being that cares. That’s the impression I get. I ignore it, of course, but it gets tucked away in the back of my head.

I’ve been playing with Duck Duck Go as my search engine at work for a couple of weeks. Happy with it thus far, I decided to plug it in at home. Since I was at home, I could do stupid stuff like search for “penis.” Here’s what happens when you search for “penis” on DuckDuckGo:

Okay. On the one hand, it’s kind of lame. I don’t think searching for ‘penis’ really requires the same automatic safe search as some other things, but I suppose my standards for decency aren’t to be trusted. What if you’re, in all seriousness, looking for information about how to resolve “my penis is bleeding?1

Anyway, getting back to the simple “penis” case, DuckDuckGo doesn’t really screw around: Here’s the big red button you can push and you’ll get all of your nasty penis search results.

Or so I thought. I clicked the highlighted link text to be brought to my search preferences. I turned off Safe Search. I clicked the link to return to my results, and I got a blank page. Well, that’s stupid, so I of course did the mature thing and went out to twitter and complained. This happened:

21:41 [@atubbs:56] Disabling safe search for DuckDuckGo leads me to a useless blank page. I mean, I'm liking DDG, but it has issues.
21:46 [\--> @duckduckgo:18] @atubbs hmm -- can't reproduce. What browser? You should be able to click back and immediately see diff page. Also you can add !safeoff
21:46 [\--> @duckduckgo:19] @atubbs ok, now i can. hold on -- will fix.
21:51 [\--> @duckduckgo:20] @atubbs a little better. Now it says go home in that case. (have to refresh settings page to see effect). Let me know how else it goes.

Within ten minutes of me bitching about some relatively trivial feature being broken, DuckDuckGo noticed my complaint on twitter, reproduced the bug, and fixed it. Within 5 minutes a workaround was initially provided. While I was being ornery on twitter about it, it wasn’t even that big a bug in the first place. I didn’t even need search results for “penis,” I was just trying to validate that cablevision had restored my Internet service to a somewhat usable state.

This is what I want from social media. This sort of fanatical attention to the user base is what excites me and makes me want to tell all of my friends about DuckDuckGo. Are its results better than Google’s? Sometimes. Sometimes it admits when Google’s results are better. Sometimes it’s a bit of a mess. But, all of the time, it’s clear that there’s somebody behind it that gives a shit like it’s their job. That counts for a lot with me.

1 Well, in truth, what happens is DuckDuckGo tries to be helpful, and returns “My bum is bleeding” “my ear piercing is bleeding and crusty. what should I do?” and “My Heart Is Bleeding – Poetry Poetry – dying, love, pain.” This is arguably a disservice, but “Safe search is on. Your search was filtered to: my is bleeding” gives a hint as to what is going on. Google’s top three results? “bleeding from penis when aroused – Urology – MedHelp,” “My Penis Bleeding – HealthBoards Message Boards” and “Penis bleeding? …” I guess the take-home is if you have a bleeding penis and SafeSearch is on, check out Google first, because DuckDuckGo doesn’t really have the mainstream bleeding penis results covered yet.