Since 2011, I’ve covered social media PR disasters. It’s surprising how many big brands, with decades of competent public relations, have stumbled in the new world of two-way online communications — whether it’s allowing customers to make their own satirical commercials or driving a musician to write three songs of revenge.
In each case, I’ve shared the lessons of the disaster so that your brand can avoid similar crises. But many incidents have the same takeaways, so I thought I’d offer some general social media best practices here.
It’s an adage in customer service that many wronged customers simply want to hear an apology and have their concerns acknowledged. Before any spin or damage control, say you’re sorry to the wronged party.
When Jessica Bennett, Lean In’s Editor-at-Large, posted an ad for an intern on her Facebook page — in seeming contradiction to Lean In’s message of equal pay and female empowerment — the negative comments piled up. But Bennett’s response to, as she put it, “what appears to be my entire Facebook feed” said, confusingly, that the post was for a personal intern, not a Lean In intern, and “Let’s all take a deep breath.” Backpedaling? Yes. Apologizing? No. The result was 200 more angry comments.
Keep Your Cool
Some social media PR disasters spring from good intentions and simple misunderstandings. But when brands fight back, they lose a lot of sympathy from the public. Just because many people use social media to post cat videos doesn’t mean your social communications shouldn’t be restrained, mature, and professional.
After a Kansas City Chiefs fan tweeted a criticism of the team’s ownership, the Chiefs sent a direct message to him that included “Your choice to be a fan. Get a clue.” Maybe they thought that was the end of the matter — without even sending a link to where a “clue” might be found. The fan took a screenshot and tweeted the image to his 125,000 followers and posted it on Reddit, where it made the front page of “The Front Page of the Internet.” The next day, the Chiefs issued an apology, which they botched by tweeting in the first person (see Applebee’s below).
Present a Unified Front
As the Chiefs found, it’s possible to get even the apology wrong. If your organization tweets in the plural, as many do, then it’s jarring and puzzling to suddenly start using the singular. Your audience has to wonder: Who is talking?
When Applebee’s fired a waitress for violating a seldom-enforced policy, her defenders took to the restaurant’s Facebook page to complain. Applebee’s refused to respond…until 2 a.m. Someone from the company started posting replies to individual comments. This person went crazy, tagging some commenters and deleting others, in the early hours of a Saturday morning. The meltdown was complete when the unknown rep finally posted “No one’s asking me to comment at 5 a.m. I am because I care.” But who is “I”? A social media intern? A franchise owner? The VP of Communications? The CEO? By using the first person, it appeared that Applebee’s had lost control of its communications channels.
Just when you think the world has enough social networks, another emerges that changes the entire landscape: Facebook supplanted MySpace. Google launched Google Plus. Foursquare became more like Yelp. And visual sharing evolved from Instagram to Pinterest to Snapchat.
More social channels are on the horizon. While they all aim to be fun and useful, they’re not all appropriate for brands to use for marketing or recruiting. I’ve researched the latest technologies coming out of tech conferences around the world and found a few start-ups you’ll want to keep your eye on in 2014.
What it does: Thumb allows user to poll their social network for answers to questions such as what to cook, what to wear, and what movies to see. On Facebook, I often see friends asking questions like “Where can I get great sushi in Chelsea?” Thumb gives those queries a dedicated home and is aimed at getting instant answers and sparking conversations.
How your brand can use it: Thumb Pro allows brands to “get hundreds of authentic responses from real people in seconds.” It allows your organization to ask a question to a specific audience segment, get instant responses, and then follow up privately with anyone who responded. The website gives examples such as “Would you pay an extra 25 cents a can of Coca-Cola with real sugar?” and “Would you buy a reuseable Starbucks coffee sleeve?” You can conduct market research on logos, pricing, advertising, and even product design. You can use it for recruiting with questions like “Do you want to be challenged in IT every day?” or “What are some questions you have about working for a non-profit?”
What it does: Nextdoor is a social network for communities and neighborhoods. And the company means it — a physical address is required to join. Nextdoor allows neighbors to discuss local issues such as crime, garage sales, lost dogs, nearby bargains, and community events. The goal is to “build happier, safer places to call home.”
How your brand can use it: This social network is perfect for local businesses. It allows shop owners and their employees to participate in the community and build goodwill. Your business can be one of those “nearby bargains” or it can sponsor one of those community events. It puts a face and a name to your company. It’s also great for hiring locally and reinforcing that community connection. And if you’re the one who finds a lost dog, you’ll be a hero to dozens of people!
What it does: User post “wishes” for the public to see, usually based on tasks or knowledge, like “I wish someone could teach me how to make chocolate” or “I wish someone could change the oil on a snowblower.” Other users then contact the “wishers” and fulfill the task — for free.
How your brand can use it: Since you can’t sell anything on Impossible, you have to embrace the site’s generous spirit. In much the same way brands give away information through blogs or social media, your organization can answer questions and give recommendations, building a foundation of customer service. If you’re a tax preparer, you can answer tax questions; if you’re a landscaper, you can answer gardening questions. Many brands don’t know about Impossible, so your company can be one of the first to stake a claim in your area of expertise.
Finally, while Pinterest continues to grow, a number of similar sites have appeared that target a specific category. Depending on your industry, you may find these niche sites useful. Examples include Trippy (travel), I Wanna Nom (food), Dwelling Gawker (interior design), All I Really Want (gifts), and PolyVore (fashion). You can use these sites just as you would use Pinterest: posting images, liking others’ images, and making comments on posts that are relevant to your business. You create a selfless image for your company and brand it as an expert.
As you can see, social media is always evolving and it can be hard to keep up. At Brandemix, we follow the latest trends and investigate all the research to stay ahead of the game. If you’re ready to move beyond Facebook and Twitter for your marketing, branding, or recruiting, contact us. We’ll be happy to connect.
I’ve written a lot about the future of marketing and recruiting, from gamification to short-form videos. But there’s one development that I think will truly revolutionize communication: augmented reality.
Many mobile devices now have apps, made by various third parties, that “augment” reality by superimposing images, animations, or data on top of a “normal” view. For example, Yelp has an app, Yelp Monocle, that uses your phone’s GPS to display ratings and reviews over any restaurant you point it at. It looks like this:
So instead of looking at an overhead view of a map, you see information that matches your actual line of sight. And since you’re holding your phone directly in front of you, you’re less likely to bump into people!
Augmented reality completely changes your interaction with your mobile device.
Right now, most companies are only using for it special events and promotions — Christmas being the biggest one. Recently, Chanel, Bratz, and Macy’s offered augmented reality experiences for the holidays. In 2012, DreamWorks created posters for their animated film Rise of the Guardians that included an augmented reality element: people used their mobile device to scan a poster that featured one of film’s characters, which then became animated on their screen.
For several years, Starbucks has offered a free app called Cup Magic. When customers pointed their phones at their coffee cups, the characters on the cups came to life and acted out short holiday scenes like sledding and ice skating. There were five different character cups, so customers had to return multiple times to get the full experience.
Starbucks brilliantly added a social element to the app; customers could easily share the animations through Facebook or email. That spread the word of the experience even better than traditional advertising, since Starbucks was letting its customers do the marketing. Even smarter is that the animations have no dialogue, so they transcend age, gender, and even language.
Based on their success at Christmas, Starbucks brought Cup Magic to Valentine’s Day. These promotional cups feature a heart instead of characters; using the app to view the heart launches a short video of heart-shaped flower petals flying off the cup. As before, you can then send the video via Facebook or email. Starbucks calls this campaign “Celebrating Everylove,” which they stress is “not just the romantic kind.” And they’ve upped the urgency, since Valentine’s Day “season” is much shorter than Christmas.
Just to be clear: Virtually every one of these augmented reality apps is free. They don’t require a code or a password. Companies want to make it as easy as possible to get the enhanced experience and to be able to show it to their friends.
You can see how this could apply to recruiting. Imagine pointing a Monocle-type app at a building and seeing which companies are hiring. Or which companies are rated “best workplaces.” Or which companies will be at the next career fair.
What about Google Glass, you ask? While incredibly cool, that device isn’t made for augmented reality; instead of overlaying information on top of your normal view, Glass’ images are confined to a tiny screen in the corner of your vision. Still, some companies are trying workarounds.
Now that you know what augmented reality is and how exciting it can be, how will you use it in your branding, marketing, or recruiting campaigns? Brandemix can help. Contact me and we’ll discuss all the possibilities.
Earlier this month, I advised organizations on adding social media to their 2014 talent acquisition efforts. Since then, I’ve heard from many organizations who told me, “We’ve assigned our intern to handle that.”
I think that’s a mistake. Here’s why.
Social media is “social” because of the interaction between the poster and the audience. In talent acquisition, the conversation centers on job openings, the application process, and the company itself. Job-seekers expect a company’s social channels to have the information they want, almost instantly.
So why would this crucial position — charged with attracting the best talent out there — left to unpaid interns?
I recently did a search on Indeed.com for the term “social media intern.” Hundreds of results came back — all posted in the last few weeks. Some of them were specifically for recruiting while others included both marketing and recruiting, as if the two were basically the same.
As we’ve all seen recently, one social media misstep can lead to days of bad press, loss of income, and (worst of all) the re-evaluation of job-seekers who were considering your organization. Whether it’s a single angry tweet at a fan or a complete meltdown on Facebook, errors in judgment can mean terrible damage to your brand. Interns, who are often young and inexperienced, may not understand what they’re doing wrong until it’s too late — or, if they’re unpaid, they might not really care.
And you don’t even have to look to major disasters to see how social affects recruiting. A study by CareerBuilder found that 70% of job-seekers said the experience during the application process had an impact on their decision to accept a position at a company. A lot of that “experience” comes through social media, from job postings on Facebook to employee videos on YouTube to company pages on LinkedIn.
A few years ago, interns were given the social media reins because they were young, and social media was used primarily by young people. That’s not true anymore. And social media is no longer an afterthought to talent acquisition; it’s now front and center, as 94% of organizations use social media for recruiting, according to Jobvite. 33% of recruiters say social decreases time to hire, while 49% say it increases quality of hire.
I understand there are other reasons to rely on interns for social recruiting. Some organizations don’t have the headcount or the bandwidth to manage a successful social recruiting campaign that takes place in real time. That’s when you can bring in a cross-functional team of marketing, internal communications, publicity, and any other relevant stakeholders to help you in your efforts. Just make sure you implement guidelines to ensure they’re adhering to your brand voice and are aware of your hiring needs.
The better the talent supporting your social recruiting, the higher return on your efforts.
For more information, download Brandemix free Social Media Strategy Guide for Talent Acquisition.