Social media fails are an unfortunate byproduct of marketing—and life—on the web. But let’s be honest—they also provide for some major entertainment. So, we have a laugh at another brand’s expense. We sit back, roll our eyes, and pity the poor person who made such a thoughtless mistake. But if you think you or your brand are immune to social media fails, think again.
No brand, no matter how small or large, or how big its marketing budget, is safe from social mishaps. You can either choose to learn from the mistakes of others or be destined to repeat them.
The #FAIL: Being Shady
The social web has removed the barricade between brands and consumers, letting them connect directly to one another. While this can provide exciting new opportunities, it also leaves your brand vulnerable. Suddenly your image isn’t entirely in your own hands as your consumers can now express their opinions freely and for the world to see. You want to project the best image possible, but resorting to underhanded tactics to do so will not fly in social.
Of course it would be nice if feedback and opinions on your brand were all rainbows and sunshine, but like the real world, social media sometimes has rain. Negative feedback will happen whether you like it or not. Attempting to cover up negativity by deleting comments will only further enrage the angry posters and will make your brand look sneaky.
So while you shouldn’t remove unwanted comments you can choose to delete things you find to be inappropriate. But first you have to be very clear about what you deem unacceptable in your community. This is why every brand should have a moderation policy that clearly spells out what is allowed in the community and what is not.
If you are not sure what your policy should include, take a look at Intel’s excellent Facebook policy for inspiration, which clearly states what types of posts the brand considers inappropriate. The detailed policy confirms Intel is actively monitoring its community, and it protects the brand from backlash from those whose comments it chooses to delete.
Your brand is using social media to connect directly to fans, and guess what? Your fans are doing the same. Social media is a two-way street. Your fans don’t want to just hear from you, they want to hear back from you. Trolls aside, most fans that reach out to a brand have a real problem and want a real response. Take a look at those negative comments that you’ve been ignoring (but not deleting, right?) and really try to hear what those people are saying.
Do the comments touch on something your brand can improve? Is someone making a valid point on something your brand did wrong? Acknowledge the problem and express empathy for the person’s frustrations. Can you fix the problem? Tell them what you’re doing to help. Take action and follow up once you have a resolution. Helping to resolve an issue or simply just apologizing for an inconvenience can help change people’s minds and opinions about your brand.
Completely ignoring someone who is coming to you with a rational complaint could potentially turn into a major headache. Now not only does that person feel wronged by your company they feel insulted, which could escalate their initial anger into a very public attack on your brand.
It’s easier to respond to compliments than criticism, but by responding to both positive and negative comments you show that you are a brand that is not only listens but also cares. Responding only to positive comments will make your brand appear closed off, which is the last thing you should be in social media.
Brands, like everyone else in social, have a built-in opportunity to express opinions, explain decisions and even defend actions. If your brand finds itself under attack, make your statement and participate in the conversation when it’s productive—that’s it.
Fast food chain, Chick-fil-A, went to further extremes to defend its brand. The chain found itself in the middle of a publicity firestorm after its president voiced his opposition to gay marriage. A huge backlash ensued and people took to the social web to criticize the restaurant. Chick-fil-A allegedly used fake Facebook profiles to join the conversations and support the chicken chain. In a Facebook exchange that soon went viral (remember that screenshot army we talked about during Fail #1?) a user named Abby Farle fiercely defended Chick-fil-A so much so that other posters did some digging. It turned out that Farle’s account was created only eight hours prior to her comments and her profile picture was a stock image.
Rather than speaking its piece and getting out of the way, based on available evidence Chick-fil-A attempted to defuse the controversy in an extremely manipulative way. Creating a fake user to defend your actions suggests that your brand is either unwilling or incapable of defending itself in an official capacity. Neither bodes well for your reputation.
People will respect your brand a lot more if you give them the facts and let them make up their own minds rather than attempt to force their hand. This not only applies during times of controversy, but in day-to-day social activities as well. Attempts to increase engagement by using fake profiles (or even employee profiles) to comment on or share content will not add real value to your social communities. Instead of tricking people into interacting with your brand, aim to provide valuable content that your community will want to engage with.
Don’t be Shady
- Don’t delete negative comments that are not malicious.
- Have a clear moderation policy.
- Respond to both positive and negative comments.
- Don’t attempt to manipulate your audience with fake fans or comments.
Editor’s note: This post is an excerpt from uberVU’s newest e-book, Make your Social #FAILPROOF: 9 Types of Social Media #FAILS and the Lessons Learned. To find out how to avoid the 8 other types of fails and see real-life examples, visit here.