Everything about social media has evolved. Everything from your audience’s understanding of the power of their collective and individual voices, to the level of expectations that they have towards your brand in a crisis.
It used to be that a simple “we’re here, we hear you and we’re sorry” was enough to stop an issue in its tracks, but no longer is this the case. Things are getting more complex and brands need to be quicker on their feet and much more clever.
A simple apology and statement no longer cuts it. With the lack of trust people have in brands today, in an online issues situation, your audience wants proof that you mean what you say and you say what you mean. Take two recent cases as examples:
DKNY put out a timely and sincere apology for a simple mistake made, yet they still got slammed for not doing enough. In this case “not doing enough” meant only donating 25K to a foundation unrelated to the original issue, rather than the original request of a 100K donation. Even with their timely and sincere apology, the rectification of the situation and their generous, non-essential donation, DKNY was slammed with people publicly posting their disappointment in the brand all over the web. (My blog included!)
Another recent example is of a Dublin nightclub called Madison’s, that was under attack this past weekend after some bozo-head employee was beyond rude and discriminative against a customer in a wheelchair.
The abused customer took to social (of course) and all hell broke loose on Madison’s Facebook timeline. Even though Madison’s published an apology, fired the rude and abusive employee and vowed to make sure that all of their employees knew the consequences of such inexcusable actions, all of this – which was once enough to turn the entire situation around into Madison’s favour – did nothing to ward off thousands upon thousands of negative attacks on the nightclub.
This image was almost viral this past weekend – source here
With 3,000+ negative comments on their Facebook page and a continuous stream of discussions and discontent being voiced on Twitter, Madison’s needed to get more clever. For example, people were demanding proof that these actions are not the “Madison way” by posting pictures of past customers with physical disabilities to their Facebook page.
Of course Madison’s made some basic mistakes on their own (copy/pasting a generalized response to individual comments, not taking to Twitter to reach out to the other half of their unhappy customers, etc), but my point here, ladies and gentlemen, is that people have grown immune to the typical and once approved responses to social media issues and attacks.
Updating your social media issues management plan
Once upon a short time ago, your brand’s social media issues management plan could contain simple triage charts and “if this than that” scenarios, policies and procedures. Today, the same risks need to be managed and responded to cleverly, with visuals and campaigns that prove your brand’s response. These clever and strategic responses need to be outlined (as much as possible) and included within your social media issues management plan. Under pressure has proven not to be the most realistic or successful time to get creative.
It’s time to get clever, think outside the box and not underestimate the power of immunity.
This, of course, also means empowering and trusting your employees to get creative and do what it now takes to positively connect with your audience when under social media attack.
It remains to be about building relationships, but starting right now, the same old is no longer sufficient. People are demanding more and unless you want thousands upon thousands of lash-outs on your platforms, more is what you’re going to have to plan to give them.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.
KC Saling says
This is a disappointing trend. I don't know when we decided to give so much power to the magical incantation, "I'm offended." There's a point where we should definitely be addressing folks who are offended, but there's also a point when we're expected to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get over it – if we don't recognize that as fact, we're only going to feed this growing trend of social media brand bullying.
How does a brand bounce back from a situation where an apology is no longer enough (and when more and more folks want an apology, money, the deed to the company, and the CEO's head on a platter)? What can we, as either brand managers, brand audiences, or both, do to curb this trend? Would it be bad to come out in support of brands that we think are being bullied?
Melissa Agnes says
What you’re saying rings very true. However, my point with this post (and I apologize if I didn’t express it well enough) was to make brands realize that they simply have to do a little more.
Both sides have valid points. On one hand, we absolutely can’t give-in to, or encourage, brand bullying. But on the other hand, it is expected for social media, and with it social media crisis responses, to need to evolve. I still stand firm with my opinion of the DKNY banter being over the top and ridiculous. However, I also think that Madison’s could have done more than simply apologize to begin with. A simple photo showing that this is not regular behaviour for their brand would have been simple and convincing and honest.
All in all, there’s definitely a fine line, though we can’t expect the public to continue to be bombarded with the same apologies left, right and centre, and to not grow tired and expect more. On this level, it’s good to keep brands on their toes. The ones who truly care and connect with their audience will continue to survive – and thrive!
… And in response to your last question, personally, I will always support the brands that do in fact get bullied, even if its just by bringing awareness through my blog 😉