Baer Facts, Social Media Case Studies, Social Media Strategy, Social Media Crisis

The 2 Most Important Words in Marketing are What If

The Baer Facts Social Media Controversies

Social Media Controversies Addressed, Fresh Each Week

In this edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about the recent spate of real-time social media incidents, including the Poland Springs Water zeitgeist moment and the hack of Burger King’s twitter account.

Crisis = Danger + Opportunity

It’s widely believed (although perhaps inaccurately) that the Chinese symbol for “crisis” is danger + opportunity. Regardless of the linguistic veracity of this claim, nothing could be more true in the world of social media marketing. You must keep your brand’s antennae up at all times, as today – right now – could be your crowning achievement or crushing blow. It’s called a crisis because you didn’t see it coming. Increasingly, our opportunities are similarly packaged, obfuscated by the fog of social media. 

Nobody wakes up and says “I’ll bet a junior Senator from Florida will pull our water into the live shot of the Republican response to the President’s State of the Union address; we better have some pithy tweets and Instagram awesomeness at the ready!” Similarly, nobody wakes up and says “I’ll bet today our Twitter account is hacked and taken over by miscreants.” But both happened, and played out instantaneously on a large, public national stage. Both brands were pilloried by social cognoscenti for not taking advantage of an opportunity, or being too slow to remediate, respectively.

The 2 Most Important Words in Marketing are “What If?”

As we wrote about in The NOW Revolution (still #14 on this month’s 800-CEO-Read business bestsellers list!) brands must be prepared to act in near real-time. We saw Oreo and Audi (interview with the Audi social media manager on last week’s Social Pros podcast) and others do so in the Super Bowl, and that type of always-on marketing will increasingly become the norm, not the outlier, especially given swollen customer expectations around instant social media customer support.

It’s a daunting task, no doubt. But success in this environment isn’t based on software, or personnel, or even preparedness per se:

Winning in real-time marketing requires expanding your belief of what’s possible, and when. (Tweet this)

You’ll never be able to model and practice every scenario. But should you and your company role-play a real-time opportunity (Poland Springs) and a series of different real-time crises (Burger King)? 100% yes.

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  1. says

    I (obviously) agree, it’s the main reason we spent so much time developing a methodology for doing just that.

    What I’d also say is that people should look beyond just marketing/crisis preparedness/etc when it comes to scenario modeling, and I’m not talking about the social business stuff that we do at SideraWorks. The roots of our methodology were actually evolved out of Agile development methods that I used to use in 2000 for a completely different purpose. This ‘what if’ question can drive a tremendous amount of insight in all areas of a company if facilitated properly, and as you infer, it’s not done nearly enough.


  2. Morgan says

    Great advice. This is something we’re trying to keep in mind and organize a strategy for in the case of a crisis in our online presence. One really helpful resource we use is a proofreading site,, that checks over our company’s website and blog.

  3. says

    I have been observing a paradigm shift over the last year and the ‘what
    if’ thought process only solidifies this movement. Brand narratives are
    phasing out and being replaced by individual story. Before, it was
    common place for a brand to develop a story and invite everyone to be a
    part of it through social media and other campaigns.

    Today, the
    roles are reversing. As consumers are beginning to find their own story
    (and the collection of individual stories make up a grand narrative) the
    tables are turning and brands are now forced to become part of millions
    of smaller stories. Sure, all the small stories still fit under the
    brand’s central mission, but it is no longer the pied piper leading the
    mice. And as the mice go their separate way, they still expect the brand
    to be there.

    The game is changing and you hit the nail on the
    head with this quote – “It’s a daunting task, no doubt. But success in
    this environment isn’t
    based on software, or personnel, or even preparedness per se:
    Winning in real-time marketing requires expanding your belief of what’s
    possible, and when.”

    Great article Jay!

  4. says

    Right said, “What If” is very dangerous word. We all prey that we don’t have to tackle with “what if” situation at any time. But yes your presence of mind do play a crucial role in handling such situation.

  5. says

    Totally important to be prepared for these crazy situations on Social Media, and as you can see they can get out of hand very quickly. Absolutely, train & prepare your staff to play out the scenarios. The end result will be brand and corporate identity protection.

  6. Graciousstore says

    Crisis is always a very good opportunity for growth, especially if one recognizes it for what it is, and calmly walk through it, so it is with the crisis of social media, one can use social media to grow one’s brand

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