Every so often, a brand botches a social media interaction. Sometimes their response to that mistake is even worse. When that happens, it becomes one of Brandemix’s official Social Media PR Disasters, and provides a valuable lesson for the rest of us.
Black Milk Clothing
On May 4, Australian fashion retailer Black Milk Clothing posted two funny photos, joking that some women intend to dress like a “sexy geek goddess” but end up looking like Mayim Bialik’s nerdy character on The Big Bang Theory. Critics were quick to point out that the joke seemed to violate one of the company’s “commandments,” which include “You shall not make critical comments about other women’s bodies.”
As more complaints from BMC’s fans appeared on Facebook, the company began deleting them, explaining, “It was clear we weren’t going to be able to make some people happy, and they weren’t going to unlike the page, so we made the decision that was the best for the business.” The brand then went even further by banning some followers, even a few long-time, loyal customers. This violated one of the brand’s previous posts that promised, “We welcome your feedback and will do whatever we can to make sure this remains a safe, welcoming environment for all our customers.” BMC’s replies to commenters included, “If the [Facebook] fan page offends you and you don’t like the way we roll, you probably want to unlike the fan page.”
This made some fans apopleptic, not only at the strange logic behind BMC’s strategy, but also the randomness of how it was implemented. One commenter wrote, “…it’s just gone far enough. I keep seeing very reasonable comments deleted. I’m seeing reasonable questions go unanswered.” People felt betrayed by the brand they love. But BMC stubbornly maintained that it was just trying to keep the Facebook page “positive” and that a “vocal minority” was “dragging everybody else down with their complaints.” It deleted the original photo — and all the comments that were attached to it. Fans posted their own complaints and BMC deleted those, too.
Two days later, Cameron Parker, Black Milk Clothing’s head of sales and marketing, posted an apology on Facebook — which addressed only the original photo that sparked the debate. The strange policy of deleting and banning, which angered so many fans, received just one brief mention: “The senior management at Black Milk take full responsibility for the post and the way complaints following the post were handled. Any criticism should be directed there, and not to the social media team who were simply acting under the direction of management.”
That post generated more than 2,000 comments, which I’d say were evenly split between those will felt the apology was sufficient and those who felt larger issues still weren’t resolved.
What can you learn from Black Milk Clothing’s disastrous response?
– Follow your own guidelines
This entire affair began because BMC posted something that seemed to clash with its own mission and values. When dozens of fans pointed out the contradiction, the brand completely disagreed, stating that the photo was a joke; “harmless, not hateful,” despite all the harm it was doing to fans. It then spent six more posts trying to justify its actions.
– Don’t delete
I feel like I say this after every social media disaster: Deleting posts does more harm than good. Use the opportunity to reply to the complaint, explain your actions, offer options (like refunds), and try to turn a negative into a positive. You may create one of your biggest advocates out of your biggest critics. But BMC went even further by banning users, a terrible strategy that should only be used if posts are obscene or harassing. Banning someone whose complaint you don’t like is perhaps the worst customer service tactic of all time.
– See it from their point of view
None of the posts from BMC, including from Cameron Parker, ever quite apologized for the original image. An early apology would have gone a long way to stopping the disaster. Instead, BMC kept explaining why users were banned and posts deleted — even as fans who claimed they were innocent got swept up in the dragnet. One post from BMC actually said, “We didn’t do anything wrong, so we have nothing to apologize for!” When has that policy ever worked?
The Daily Dot has noted that, since the disaster, Black Milk Clothing has been “quite cautious” on social media, no longer signing its posts (as Alicia did, above) and responding to complaints about other issues right away. Cameron Parker himself has even stepped in to help — a sign that damage control will go on for some time.
Jason Ginsburg is Director of Interactive Branding at Brandemix.
I don’t say this very often, but it’s possible that recruiting is going to change forever, thanks to the “wearable visual technology” known as Google Glass.
Why? Because, as the economy improves and the competition for talent increases, Google Glass will allow organizations to show a job listing and a corporate culture instead of telling. From talent acquisition to employer brand, this technology can be used to engage job-seekers in several new and exciting ways:
A Day in the Life of an Employee
What does, say, an “associate director of strategic communications” actually do? A job posting for a position like that will likely have a long list of “Responsibilities,” “Requirements,” and “Qualifications.” But pictures can be worth a thousand words. Instead of a confusing job title followed by a page of unexciting text, companies can allow an employee to shoot a video of their daily routine using Google Glass. Job-seekers could see all the interesting, challenging, unexpected aspects of the job, which might not come across in a listing. A first-person video allows job-seekers to envision themselves working for the organization, a very powerful experience.
Meet Your Recruiter
Some brands, like Taco Bell, showcase their recruiters, putting a human face on what can be an intimidating process. Google Glass will let companies take that strategy to the next level, by showing what daily life is like http://translatingfashion.com for a recruiter. Job-seekers will get a behind-the-scenes look at the application and interview experience, seeing where to park, how employees dress, what the interview room looks like — even where the restrooms are. This sort of advance knowledge does wonders for nervous applicants who usually have no idea what to expect at an interview.
Inside the C-Suite
At Brandemix, we sometimes have the pleasure of producing company videos that star the CEO. But not all business leaders are comfortable with the spotlight. Google Glass can put camera-shy executives at ease by letting them wear the camera! Job-seekers love sneak peeks and inside information, so the unprecedented access allowed by a CEO wearing Google Glass is sure to be a hit. And the executive doesn’t have to take time out of her day to recite lines under hot studio lights. Everybody wins.
Welcome to the Neighborhood
Some employers, like Ann Inc., make a point of showing off their office’s neighborhood. Google Glass gives employers a chance to move beyond photos. Videos can show what restaurants are nearby, how easy the commute is, and area secrets that only locals know. If job-seekers perceive a company’s location as a disadvantage, a Google Glass video can be an effective way to change their minds.
Google Glass can have a major effect on recruiting for any employers who adapt it early and use it wisely. After all, many people, including job-seekers, would rather watch than read. If your office is lovely and your employees are friendly, you should show them off!
Want to learn more about Google Glass and other innovative talent acquisition strategies? Write to us.
Recently, I showed you how Jobvite’s latest survey revealed that recruiting via social media is increasing. 10% of respondents said they found their “favorite or best” job through Facebook; 6% found it through LinkedIn and 5% through Twitter. As for recruiters, 94% of them are on LinkedIn and 65% are active on Facebook — and, most importantly, 78% say they’ve made a hire through a social network.
In addition, social media is a great way for recruiters to engage passive candidates. So where do you start? There are some great new tools that integrate social media into your talent acquisition efforts. This isn’t an exhaustive list meant to exclude; it’s merely some of my favorite examples.
Several online tools allow recruiters to leverage the social networks of their employees. SilkRoad’s OpenHire works in both directions: it lets job-seekers see who they know within your organization and lets employees easily share open positions on their own social pages. Zartis goes a few steps further and lets employees actually add their social connections to your candidate pool. You can then see how many views, clicks, and candidates each employee generates, supercharging your employee referral program.
TalentBin aggregates information from more than 100 websites, offering what it claims is the world’s largest passive candidate database. For each job-seeker, TalentBin creates “a full picture of a candidate’s professional and personal interests,” and gives a score based on criteria you provide. You can then reach out to the job-seeker through one of their own social channels. I think that’s a great way to stand out from other recruiters, who will likely contact the job-seeker through conventional email.
PathMotion lets employers create branded Facebook pages. It displays current vacancies next to employees who actually have that job. Even better, job-seekers can directly engage these “employee ambassadors” and ask them questions. This is a fantastic opportunity to let job-seekers peek behind the curtain and learn what the company culture is like from a worker’s point of view. Recruiting Blogs calls it “Quora for careers.”
It’s hard to believe, but being just a few years old makes an online tool a “classic” in the social space! Two recruiting apps launched in 2011 that integrate with Facebook, allowing both recruiters and job-seekers to use it more like LinkedIn. The first, BranchOut, overlays employer information on top of users’ Facebook interface. This lets recruiters search by company, job title, or even an individual’s name. BranchOut then displays relevant candidates based on your search criteria and your connections to those candidates. Because of its use of Facebook’s API, BranchOut can claim it allows access to 800 million searchable profiles.
Monster offers a similar Facebook app, BeKnown. Employers can create company pages so they “showcase your recruitment brand and your open positions” that are already on Monster. Job-seekers can use their own BeKnown accounts to follow your company, search jobs, and connect with your employees. If you’re already using Monster for job posting, integrating BeKnown is a great way to expand into social with little effort.
Many other social recruiting tools, including BullHorn Reach and Jobvite, let recruiters automatically push job postings to Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social sites where your organization has an account. TribeHR has this feature and lets job-seekers apply directly from LinkedIn, storing their profiles for future use.
I hope you can see how social recruiting can transform and improve your talent acquisition efforts. Many of these tools I mentioned have free versions or free trials, allowing you to pick the one that’s right for you. But once you’ve made your choice started recruiting with social, how do you measure success? What’s the ROI of all these fun tools? I’ll take a deeper dive into tracking social recruiting metrics next week.
I’m always looking for brands that are doing exciting, unconventional things on social media, whether in marketing, branding, or recruiting, and designated them “Superstars.” Past honorees have included Chitpotle and State Farm. Today, I’m recognizing a brand whose every piece of content is injected with fun and whimsy: Oreo. Everyone knows they won a Clio and a Cannes Lion Award for their clever and timely tweet during last year’s Super Bowl blackout, which changed social marketing forever. But their daily social efforts are equally engaging and effective. Here’s how the cookie crumbles:
Despite being “just” a simple dessert product, Oreo has several ongoing mini-campaigns. One of them is Oreo Snack Hacks, which is centralized on the brand’s Tumblr. “Whether it’s putting cookies in a pepper grinder to make sprinkles or freezing cookies in milk to make cubes for your iced coffee, we’ve shown you unexpected ways to enjoy an Oreo cookie,” reads the Snack Hacks main page, “Now we want to see the clever ways you snack an Oreo.” Fans and foodies concoct all sorts of delicacies — red velvet cookies with Oreos inside, for instance — and submit them. Oreo shares it, the fans share it, and everyone wins.
The takeaway: Take a cue from Oreo and determine how you can get fans more involved with your brand. People have been using Oreos in recipes for decades before the brand realized it could leverage that enthusiasm to create content that goes viral and inspires millions of aspiring pastry chefs.
Perhaps the best way to get a sense of the brand’s social media frivolity is its Facebook page, which boasts an impressive 36 million likes. Besides posting much of its Twitter and Vine content, the page also features humorous images, like this “lost” poster:
Oreo has no qualms about leaving up kooky posts and comments by its Facebook fans, since it matches the brand’s personality; if it’s silly and has anything to do with Oreos, the brand allows it. And why not? One photo posted by a fan showed an entire box of Oreos that had been separated into stacks of cookies and one giant tower of creme. This unsolicited post, which cost the company nothing, got 224 likes and 13 comments.
The takeaway: Sure, Oreo has it easy, being a cookie brand, but there are lots of ways to provide compelling content that suits your voice. Hotels, airlines, and even Amtrak post travel photos of beautiful locations. Pepsi posts videos of the musical artists they sponsor. Bank of America devotes an entire Twitter account to its community service. What content matches your brand’s mission and values?
#OreoSnackHacks is just one of the brand’s ongoing series. Another uses a format even shorter than 140 characters — the six seconds of a Vine video. #OreoMagic is a series of tiny magic tricks and illusions starring the cookie. The dialogue-free videos are funny, short, and accessible in any language. They don’t have ads running at the beginning or take any time to load on a mobile device. And that’s in addition to Oreo-created hashtags like #DunkFail, which gives a humorous spin to the popular image of dunking cookies in milk, and #Ollusions, a variation on #OreoMagic that features mind-blowing optical illusions — again, in six seconds.
The takeaway: Creating a series can create regular visits to your social channels or your website. Oreo uses Vine, but your series could involve photos on Pinterest, longer videos on YouTube, podcasts on EarWolf, or even blog articles on a certain topic, such as social media superstars…
Oreo has a presence on even more social channels. The brand has more than 300 images on Pinterest, including “Daily Twist,” a gallery of clever and timely images using Oreos; for example, a cookie slipping into a ballot box celebrates National Voter Registration Day. Other galleries provide recipes for Halloween treats, images of Oreo art (using the white creme as a tiny canvas), and — of course — a gallery of “Oreo Moments” submitted by Facebook fans. Oreo uses YouTube to host its commercials from all over the world, highlight some of its most popular Snack Hacks, and feature some fun videos that seemed to be made expressly for online viewing. The result is more than 50,000 subscribers and more than 43 million total views.
The takeaway: All your fans may not use all social channels. Oreo posts the same visual content on Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Pinterest, and YouTube, ensuring that everyone sees it. But they also post content unique to each channel, so their social media super-fans see something new and different every day.
There are few better examples of maximizing a product’s potential than Oreo. From recipes to tiny artworks to comic statements, the brand brings a sense of joy to all its content — and encourages fans to create their own. This philosophy makes the famous Super Bowl tweet seem less like a lucky fluke and more like the culmination of a brilliant and perceptive marketing effort. For all these reasons, I name Oreo a Social Media Superstar!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to eat an entire carton of a certain sandwich cookie…
Jason Ginsburg is Director of Interactive Branding at Brandemix.