How to avoid your own social media crisis
C’mon, Cracker Barrel. You’re smarter than that. At least I thought it was. After all, the brand responded diligently when Facebook fans inquired about opening restaurants in new locations. Its social media team was on it when people asked if the menu would ever see that yummy cherry pancake topping again. But for reasons unknown to me, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store decided to go mute when an Indiana man, Bradley Byrd, asked why the company fired his wife, Nanette, who had been employed there for 11 years.
Deciding not to answer one little question not only caused outrage among Cracker Barrel Facebook fans, but it also demonstrated what PR professionals have been preaching for years. How a business decides to respond – or not respond – has the power to turn a simple comment into a major crisis.
Can one lack of response on social media really cause a crisis?
In a word – yes. Right now, #JusticeForBradsWife and #BradsWife are trending topics, the corporation’s digital content engagement has increased by 226 percent (in a not-so-good way) and the whole debacle has been picked up by media outlets across the country. What's more, fans have started a change.org petition (with more than 25,000 signatures!) and even created a Brad’s Wife Facebook page. Oh, and the memes.
While the brand continues to ignore the thousands of posts rolling in, the outrage continues. The real crisis, perhaps, is that Cracker Barrel is coming off as uncaring and cold.
Responding to online haters makes alllll the difference
Reputation management in the digital age requires taking control of your message before somebody else does. Negative brand chatter can escalate at an alarming pace. But, here’s the good news – responding doesn’t take much time or effort. If Cracker Barrel would have simply acknowledged the concerned husband’s initial comment, this entire social media fiasco could have been avoided. Maybe you’re thinking, “Yeah, but that was an awkward question!” Sure was. Yet, the brand could have avoided crisis by simply:
- Making a statement thanking Brad for his question
- Explaining that Cracker Barrel can’t make any comments on employment records due to confidentiality (and letting him know how to contact HR!)
- Asking Brad to send the company a personal message
Any one of these five-second replies could have protected Cracker Barrel from the trolls and positioned the company as a caring corporation that does, in fact, care about its customers.
Add these 3 tips to your social strategy
Social media has made it difficult for brands to control their online reputations, and it has empowered customers to proactively voice their opinions about companies and their products and services. But you’re definitely not powerless here, especially if you incorporate these tips into your everyday social media strategy:
- Respond to every post – Sure, it feels easier to just hide or delete those undesirable comments that pop up on your company’s Facebook page, or to ban anyone who posts something negative about your business. If nobody sees it, it didn’t happen, right? But think of it this way. If a customer was at your place of business with a complaint, or if they called or emailed you, would you ignore them? No way! So why do the same on social media? It happens.
- Take the conversation offline – Social media is not the best place to resolve problems or complex issues. Always offer to continue the conversation in an appropriate forum – whether that’s the phone, email or an existing support forum online.
- Say you’re sorry when it’s your fault – Aaah. This is always a tough one. No one likes to apologize. Especially big brands. Often it’s because they don’t want to take blame. Or they don’t agree with the customer’s point of view. Of course, if it is clear that your business or product somehow failed consumers, give them a sincere apology (possibly followed by a quick replacement or refund). You’d be surprised by how far a genuine apology can go with people.
Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters, said that if businesses want a competitive edge against competitors, they’ll find it in the customer service realm. He also said that while 80 percent of businesses believe they offer “superior” customer service, only eight percent of customers agree. That’s a huge difference, right?
Having some Cracker Barrel type issues of your own? Contact the experts at WhiteSpace and we can help craft the right message for your brand.
Have you seen any other major brands ignoring minor comments on social media? How do you handle negative feedback on social? Let us know!
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