Social media strategy fail

Another big brand makes a social media blunder

By Rhian Harris

Only last week I wrote this article on a recentĀ British Airways social media fail, and yet we see another big brand hitting the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

Promoted tweet

In short, after a negative experience with British Airways, an unhappy customer had taken to Twitter to vent his anger, using a promoted tweet to bad mouth the brand.

BA failed to respond within reasonable time, and when they did, promoted their ‘opening hours’.

BA response to angry promoted tweet

The point of this and the reason why I called it a fail, was where BA seems to have overlook the role of customer service within social media strategy.

In digital, especially as a major brand a the customer-facing industry, there are no ‘opening hours’, and there is also a greater need to handle public complaints sensitively.

Epic fail

So imagine my surprise today, on a day that marks the anniversary of one of the most horrendous days people all around the world has ever experienced, to see another example of a shocking social media fail by a big, well-known media owner.

Esquire magazine had previously published an article by Tom Junod about the “falling man” – one of the many victims from the atrocities of 9/11.

But on 11th September 2013, the “falling man” image appeared on the homepage alongside a story from the style section commuting story. Clicking on the image took readers to the Style blog landing page, where the image did not appear.

It does therefore appear to be a genuine mistake, but that doesn’t help with the public response.

A mix of tweets flooded in commenting on shock at seeing the homepage, but also trying to inform Esquire and asking them to correct the error.

When the media owner finally did respond, it lacked sincerity, ignored any sympathy and significance for 9/11, and moreover described the upset caused as “confusion”.

esquire tweet 9/11

Esquire tweet reply about 9/11 image

So again, we see a social media fail and massive public upset caused by an ill-informed social media strategy.

Whilst massively inappropriate and shocking, the error is not the thing we are talking about here. Something on such a major scale was never going to be brushed under the carpet.

The key thing Esquire missed, is the method of managing the impact of the mistake, and in understanding the correct way in which to sensitively deal with it – both to apologise to their audience but also protect their own brand.

Their ill-advised approach highlights critical questions such as:

  • Who is responsible for social media marketing?
  • Have they been trained appropriately?
  • What role does social media CRM play and how is it brand-managed?
  • What processes have been put in place to safeguard against possible PR disasters?

I recommend Smart Insights’ social media strategy guide as a good place to start addressing some of the key considerations in social media marketing, and for Esquire, sometimes you just need to admit you made a terrible mistake and say sorry.

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