Avoiding (and recovering from) Social Media Disasters
Chris Whife 30th November 2016
They’re pounced upon with something akin to glee, pored over and dissected, reblogged, retweeted and forwarded with increasingly scathing – and sometimes quite ingenious – commentary; they’re taken out of context (at least according to some), and held up as shining examples of stupidity, ignorance of social norms and the failure of corporate companies to realise that the world no longer belongs to them. They are social media fails, and the public (admit it, you’re one of them) loves them.
Social media is a vital part of any company’s marketing and branding presence. Although, as we’ve mentioned before, social media should not be your primary hard sell option, but rather a brand awareness and passive marketing option, it is still very important to get it right. Your potential customers, regardless of who they are, spend at least some time on social media and positioning yourself as being racist, sexist, or in any other way bigoted or biased can cause a media frenzy that doesn’t reflect well on you. This has happened to companies both large and small – and frequently to individuals as well.
Over the next few weeks, we’d like to take a close look at a few social media disasters, how they could have been avoided and where the company in question either failed or successfully cleaned up their mess.
Think it through
Back in 2013, one of the world’s best-known financial firms, JPMorgan Chase, felt it was a good idea to host an open, public Q&A session via Twitter. Unfortunately, for them, hundreds of thousands of people still bore the company a lot of ill will following the massive global financial crisis which had begun just a few years earlier and was still affecting many around the world.
The Q&A session was an unequivocal disaster, with the vast majority of the 80 000 tweets received being negative. Sarcasm abounded and a great deal of scathing commentary about the company’s morals, ethics and direct role in the economic collapse was hurled, unapologetically, using the #AskJPM hashtag.
The company eventually cancelled the Q&A session, calling it a “bad idea” and saying they were going “back to the drawing board”.
What they did wrong
This social media disaster came as the result of a complete failure to think it through. If your company has a negative public image, opening yourself to abuse is not going to help you improve that image. The internet and social media are notoriously unforgiving and people will leap at the chance to point out your failings if given the chance.
What they did right
Sadly, very little. The company simply cancelled the event and moved on to the next marketing attempt. There was no attempt to address any of the concerns raised by the public and business carried on as usual.The company’s reputation – along with that of their peers – is still struggling to recover.
Lessons you can learn
Granted, the chances are good that your company won’t be partially responsible for a massive international financial crash – at least, we hope not! Nonetheless, there are a few things you can learn from this, regardless of the size of your company.
1 – Don’t bait the bear. If you know your company’s reputation is currently negative, don’t invite them to criticise you. You may receive criticism via social media anyway, but if you don’t specifically ask for it, you may be able to keep it at manageable levels.
2 – Respond. If and when you do receive criticism in a public forum, make sure you respond to it, and make an effort to keep that response appropriate. We’ll go into this one in more depth with our next article.
3 – Own your mistakes. JPMorgan Chase basically ran away from the problem and ignored it by cancelling the event and moving on. This did their reputation further damage and allowed the internet to “win”. If you make a mistake on social media, own up to it and take measures to make it right.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at more social media gaffes and try to learn how your company can avoid looking foolish, creating a negative perception or just plain angering people. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.