Daily Archives: February 18, 2014

Apology Accepted, Maybe.

The case study “When the Twitterverse Turns On You” looks at a common occurrence for companies and brands on Twitter – backlash and negative comments. It happens all the time, to all brands, good and bad. This particular case study is fictionalized, but portrays an all too common situation: a company that decides to use the power of Twitter to host a conversation or contest. The idea is to get people talking about their brand, which gives them visibility to the public as well as a platform for creating a positive relationship with the public. The one problem: the public is unpredictable.

In the fictional case, an airline decides to hold a Twitter contest that uses a hashtag and the creativity of the tweeting public. The problem, however, arises when the tweeting public decides to use the hashtag and get creative by bashing the airline with negative comments.

Some notable brands that this has happened to over the years include The Home Depot, Nokia, McDonald’s and Price Chopper. Price Chopper decided that when someone tweeted at them with a negative comment, they would respond with in a not so positive or understanding way. This was a mistake.

Negative tweet from Price Chopper customer.

Another brand that has had a notable fail is Nestle, who on Facebook rather than Twitter, decided that censoring negative comments on a post, attempting to delete comments, and pushing back at customers’ comments was a good move. You guessed correctly, it wasn’t.

Nestle’s negative comments on Facebook.

So what can brands do when no so positive comments or conversation comes up on social channels? The best thing to do is simply “be human.”When I say be human, I mean listen, understand, and fix. The reason customers complain is because they either genuinly care and want you to change, or because they are looking for a reaction. By reacting negatively, brands are only hurting themselves. It makes them look bad, doesn’t do anything to fix relationships with customers who care, and gives those making negative comments for reaction exactly what they want.

On the other hand, brands that take action to listen and do their best to fix the problem with the mentality that “the customer is always right” will usually see positive outcomes. Those who care will feel cared for and respect the brand, and that is what building relationships is all about. Many brands think that apologies are a sign of weakness, but in reality they are often a sign of strength.

How to Avoid A Social Media Crisis, While Encouraging User Engagement

image by dashburst.com

image by dashburst.com

Did you see what they posted on Twitter, #Fail? OMG, that twitter chat took a turn for the worse. Everybody loves talking about a good social media fail (ie: 2013’s Most Cringeworthy Business Social Media #FailsThe 18 Biggest Social Media Fails Of 2013), but nobody likes to be the culprit behind one. That’s why it is important to think before you tweet, and for community managers to take the time to plan out any potential social media brand efforts before launching.

The Case

A fictional case study written for Harvard Business is the perfect story to exemplify how to avoid falling down the slippery slope of social media #fails. This study discusses a woman named Charlene and her position as head of public relations for Canadian Jet. We find her in the midst of launching the airline’s first ever twitter contest on the basis of, the person who posts the most creative tweet using the hashtag #CanJetLuxury wins two round-trip tickets to any of the company’s destinations.

This campaign started as an effort to restore Canadian Jet to a good name, but quickly attracted more haters of the airline than fans. The slew of negative tweets caused the airline to begin trending worldwide, and the CEO was ready to shut the whole operation down. Other members of the team offered suggestions to start a new hashtag, or issue a public apology. This left Charlene unsure of how to continue…

What Went Wrong

It is clear that this company did not do enough research on twitter contests before launching one of their own. It seems they knew of a few social media fails, but did not read enough to learn from past mistakes. By nature of social media, negative comments are bound to occur in large numbers because of the anonymity hiding behind a screen provides. The company mentioned that they just dealt with a large public relations crisis, so clearly there are customers who recently had a bad experience with the airlines and are looking to take revenge. Maybe they should have held the contest elsewhere besides twitter, where they could have put all the contest entries on an approval system, or just accepted all entries but only showcased the finalists.

Another thing that was not brought up in the article, but occurred to me was the lack of a measurement system. The company did not state how they were going to measure what the most creative tweet was. Who was judging the contest and based off of what criteria? If the contest went on longer this would have surely enticed more negative tweets.

image by mybillboard.net

image by mybillboard.net

What Went Right

The fact that Canadian Jet looked to the community for their social media content was a great idea in theory. In chapter 3 of Buzzing CommunitiesRichard Millington provides support for user contributed content by explaining that “the best content for a community is content about the community.” This idea could have been achieved by the Canadian Jet twitter contest if there were more rules and regulations to keep the conversation about an idea such as a favorite flight memory. User generated content also keeps people interested in a brand page by providing relevant and interesting content, as well as an incentive to come back. The idea of being feature on a brand page with many followers provides a reason for members to visit the community every day or at least frequently.

Taylor Hawes also writes about user generated content in a HostGator company post where she states, “Users are most likely to continue to create and share content for you if they feel that you’re engaging back with them.”

What Should Happen Next

As far as what Charlene should do in the midst of a crisis, I believe she should:

  1. Acknowledge and engage those that are positive and thank them for entering the contest, as she does not want to get lost in all the negative tweets and forget those who are producing the desired result.
  2. For the Negative Nancys, she should feel free to engage them in a discussion publicly or privately and encourage them to reach out to a customer service representative. Sometimes people feel that they can be negative or even mean to a brand without a concrete reason because they forget that there is a real person behind the screen. If you remind them that you are human as well, it can produce changes in opinions. Almost immediately, I think the naysayers would change their minds or be buried in a sea of more positive posts. At this point though if the posts do not subside, I would just pick a winner and focus on featuring some of the best posts on the page.

How would you have handled the Canadian Jet case? Do you have any other tips to avoid a social media crisis?