The social media mob is more violent-natured than Cosa Nostra. When brands screw up, the witch-hunt begins. You may have noticed this in the past couple of years. People of all kinds calling for brands' heads when an insensitive social media post is made.
In this post, we'll explore some examples of the mob mentality that emerges from these mistakes and a framework for your brand to handle these situations.
The most recent case of this comes from a racially charged tweet by Dave & Busters. (pictured below).
The reaction to this was fierce. Twitter users demanded that the account be deactivated and that the social media manager be terminated.
Within an hour, the tweet was deleted and the obligatory apology was posted.
We sincerely apologize for the tweet that went out today our intention was never to offend anyone please accept our apology— Dave & Buster's (@DaveandBusters) November 18, 2014
Yet people were not satisfied still. Further demands came for the deactivation of D&B's Twitter account, etc...
What can we learn?
Similar scenarios have played out many times over the past couple of years. A brand employee makes a (knowingly or unknowingly) distasteful post without considering the ramifications. The public outrage that follows. The demand for heads on a stick. The apology. Then people forget. But do they forgive?
I think it is important to remember in these cases that the loudest people on social media are not always representative of the majority. Many people get involved in the outcry because they like to watch a train wreck. The loudest are often sheltered somewhat by what I call keyboard courage.
If they were in a face-to-face scenario, would they demand these measures? Are the demands reasonable? What is the proper action for a brand to take? Fire someone? Delete their account?
Another way to handle it
I'll outline a process to be proactive about avoiding these situations in the first place.
- Publish a social media policy.
I wonder if D&B has specific guidelines around the subject of race in a documented social media policy.
- Implement a proofing stage for planned messaging.
I'm not a fan of roadblocks, but for a big brand like D&B it might not be a bad idea to have an Editor-in-chief for all social media messages. The example tweet was likely scheduled in advance as a part of its #TacoTuesday campaign. Most scheduling tools allow you to upload a spreadsheet with all the planned messages for the next period. The social media Editor-in-chief could review them all in batch and then easily upload for scheduling.
- Use common sense for real-time posts.
There are some occasions where real-time replies and commentary prohibit a proofing stage. There should be a sense of using discretion in messaging, voice and tone for these occasions. Have a control question in place for this. One method is to have the social media manager ask a couple of simple self-check questions like, "Does this follow our brand voice?" and "Could any group of people possibly be offended by this?".
This applies to B2B and B2C brands of all sizes. It is up to you to design a system that works for your company. The common sense angle should cover 99% of these problems. For the remaining percentile, it may make sense to put solid measures in place.
These mistakes can literally happen to anyone. We are all human. So if you do manage to step on some toes in one of your communities, have an action plan in place to apologize and move on. You'll have to deal with the HR matter on a case-by-case basis.
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