How to Mitigate Social Media Disasters

This week on the Social Pros Podcast, Jay Baer and Eric Boggs take over when the scheduled guest has to cancel last minute so she can address a social media crisis in her own company. They discuss crisis management and mitigating disasters in social media with several fascinating case studies. Read on for some of the […]

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Full Episode Details

This week on the Social Pros Podcast, Jay Baer and Eric Boggs take over when the scheduled guest has to cancel last minute so she can address a social media crisis in her own company. They discuss crisis management and mitigating disasters in social media with several fascinating case studies.

Read on for some of the highlights or listen below for the full podcast.

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Social Pros Highlights For Your Reading Enjoyment, Thanks to Speechpad for the Transcription

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Wanting to be First, Not Best

Jay: We don’t have a guest on the show tonight for Social Pros. We had a guest lined up for the show who had to cancel due to a social media crisis. It got me thinking about social media in general, and we’re doing some crisis work for some of our clients as well. Nothing as egregious and freaky as our guest was having to deal with, but are we at the point, Eric, where this is just has all gotten a little bit out of control?

This news cycle, which doesn’t actually exist. That will be a good thing to talk about with our guest next week, David Meerman Scott, who wrote the book Newsjacking, and we’ll talk to him about the pace of media. It seems like brands don’t even have a chance to respond any more. The consumers expect them to have a hand on everything in real time, right?

We talked about this a few weeks ago, the social habit study that found that 42% of consumers expect you to answer tweets within an hour, even nights and weekends. It seems like everything becomes a crisis instantaneously, right? There is literally no chance to catch your breath.

via Mashable

I just don’t know if that’s the best possible scenario, not only for companies but even for all of us. When you think about all the fake photos that went around during Hurricane Sandy because people are just pressing re-tweet without even looking to see, “Well, jeez. Maybe Godzilla shouldn’t be in that photo.” I get really concerned about people wanting to be first rather than being best.

Eric: It seems that people don’t want to just think anymore; whether it be clicking re-tweet or responding without thinking. It seems that consumers don’t have patience in terms of response or patience in terms of understanding that it takes time to do something correctly, that it takes time to respond and right a wrong. Similarly, marketers and social professionals are so reactionary that often they can cause more problems for themselves.

The Oracle Debacle

Eric: I know one thing you wanted to talk about, Jay, is this issue with Oracle. I guess they merged all the Facebook pages for all the 8 or 10 companies they’ve acquired?

Jay: Primarily Involver, Vitrue, and Collective Intellect were the three big ones that were all social software companies, and they rolled them together into this new kind of gumbo Facebook page of Oracle Social. Obviously somebody at Facebook did this for Oracle. I’ve never heard of it being done before. I suspect it’s been done before, though I’ve never heard of it.

As you say, Eric, a lot of people all of the sudden saw this in their timeline, “You have liked Oracle Social.” I saw it myself, because I had liked Involver and some of the other guys, like Vitrue in the past, and I just sort of ignored it. But it has become quite a dust-up in the last couple of days.

Eric: People have gone ballistic. Screenshots of. . . just ludicrous comments, really. I don’t know, maybe it’s one guy’s opinion, right? But if I didn’t like it, I just clicked unlike. It just doesn’t seem to me like something like that is worth going crazy over, especially after Oracle explains what they did.

Jay: Yes. Let me give you a little backstory there. This happened, I think the initial kind of roll out, was maybe early Saturday morning this past week. Then people started to kind of say, “Hey, what’s going on here, exactly? Where did this come from? I didn’t ‘Like’ this page.”

It looked like spam. All of the sudden it says you like a page you were not familiar with. Oracle realizes this has not gone well because they didn’t message before this happened; it just happened.

Whether or not that was their fault or whether or not Facebook just did it and didn’t tell them they were going to do it? My guess, frankly, would be the latter.

So, here’s what Oracle says: A little while later they apologize on their Facebook wall.

There are 113 comments so far on this post. For example, here is a comment from somebody who says:

Eric: Yes. Oracle screwed up. This person over-reacted. “Unlike” the page, and get on with your life if it means that much to you.

Jay: If I wrote this kind of a missive every time a PR firm sent me a clumsy pitch about something to write about on my blog, all I would do was be angry. It just feels a little bit over the top. Now, was this poorly handled? I think we can agree that it was poorly handled. Is there some degree of sort of irony that it is a social software company?

Eric: Yes. That is not lost on me one bit.

Jay: That, I think, is a little bit ironic, and I wonder if one of the reasons this has become so nasty is that most of the people who liked those brands that got rolled together are social media people, right? So, they have a disproportionate sort of level of expectation or axes to grind or whatever this was. If this was a car dealer who rolled together three different car dealers, and all those people who liked those pages are not social media professions, I wonder if the tenor of this debate would be a little different.

Eric: This whole this is fascinating. At some point, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, there are going to be so many interesting psychology studies and so many human behavior studies that come out of this, that I think we’re going to point and laugh at ourselves at some point in the future when we see the way we reacted in online forums.

Jay: Yes, and I feel like sometimes we forget how new all of this really is, and you can’t hide behind “it’s new” forever, and I recognize that, but as I said, I don’t know of a single brand who has rolled together a series of major Facebook pages like this into a unified whole.

One of the comments that Oracle put on their wall a little bit later in the day, on Saturday: “As the post outlines, this transition by Facebook came about quite a few days earlier than anticipated.”

So somebody may have just pressed the button, right? And it feels like there are people out there who tend to engage in social politics of “gotcha”, who go out of their way to light up brands every time a mistake is made.

Now look, I’ve written plenty of critical blog posts. I’ve taken a lot of companies to task for doing stupid things, although what I try and do is take people to task when they have poor strategy and poor thinking, not mistaken execution, because you know what? The same damned thing could happen to you next time.

That’s what I really caution people, right? It doesn’t help anybody in this business to spend all this time and all this vitriol saying, “Oracle, you screwed up. You should have handled it different,” when this was clearly a mistake. To say that they’re a bad company, and you shouldn’t support them is crazy.

If they’re a bad company, they’re going to be a bad company regardless of how they handled one potential Facebook roll out.

Eric: Yes. You know, it is what it is. It’s just a highly visible mistake caused by probably some person 15 layers deep in the company that pushed a button or didn’t plan the right thing. It happens, and it’s unfortunate for the parties involved that it just happened on a page with however many hundreds of thousands of fans. Much ado about nothing, a tempest in a teapot. Insert Shakespearean quote here.

Jay: I just find that even though “like” is the coin of the realm in social media, the more I’m in social media, the more I find that a lot of its practitioners are not very likeable.

There’s just a lot of junior high going on in the world of social media. Look, I’m just going to run my business, do my thing and work for companies that I work for. I have made the mistake of getting sucked into that vortex in the past, and I will never, ever do it again because it is a colossal waste of energy, and everybody can and should be better than that.

Where Does the Brand Start and End?

Jay: Then there are other circumstances where the brand gets blamed for something that is not necessarily driven by the brand.

In fact, today’s guest was supposed to be Jill McFarland from Applebee’s. They have had a real dust-up in the last few days where individual franchisees, or franchise owners who own dozens of Applebee’s locations, have said things like, “We’ve calculated [Obamacare will cost] some millions of dollars across our system. So what does that say — that says we won’t build more restaurants. We won’t hire more people.”

Applebee’s, both in social and traditional media, has been scrambling for the last couple of days to stay ahead of this story. That’s a circumstance where that was not an official corporate statement, right? It’s a guy who owns a bunch of Applebee’s, and people don’t make that distinction when they’re talking.

Now it becomes an Applebee’s thing as opposed to a guy-who-runs-some-Applebee’s thing. That’s a really, really difficult scenario for brands in social media.

Eric: If this is your client, Jay, what are you doing? What do you advise? Or, what’s the course of action?

Jay: It would be the same course of action that we always advise in a crisis situation, which is you have to acknowledge first and make sure you knock down the flood of, “Hey, did you know about this?” You try to answer every comment, but most importantly you give people a pressure relief valve.

You create some sort of official forum, whether it’s a Facebook post that people can comment on, like Oracle has done, or it’s a blog that has open comments, or some other real estate that you control, and you let people have at it.

Because if you don’t give the angry mob an official place where they can be angry, they’re going to create their own place, and that’s going to be real estate that you don’t control, in which case you have no admin rights and no recourse.

You can’t delete anybody. You can’t say, “Hey, these are our terms and conditions.” You can’t do anything, so even though it’s sometimes counter-intuitive to wade into a burning building, you absolutely have to do that. Penn State did that, right?

I mean, Penn State handled the Sandusky thing very poorly in social media initially because they, for 10 days, acted like it didn’t happen. No tweets, no Facebook. Then they realized, like, “Oh, this isn’t going to go away”, and then on their Facebook wall said, “We know you’ve got a lot of things to say about this, and as long as you adhere to our terms and conditions, which is this, this and this, go for it.” Boom! A few thousand comments later on their Facebook wall, you known people had their say.

Eric: Yes. This is exactly the kind of human/crowd psychology dynamic that I think is so interesting. It’s the online manifestation of an angry mob with pitchforks, and they’re looking for a building to burn. They’ll burn down the whole town unless you corral them into a place where they can kind of do their rabble rousing in a more sanctioned, safe environment.

Anyway, to get back to an earlier statement about the speed of news cycles: the good thing for Applebee’s is that something else will happen on Wednesday, and this hopefully will be swept under the rug, and hopefully they can work through what they need to work through and endure minimal damage in the short term, and hopefully no damage in the long term.

That’s the blessing and the curse. This happens to brands. They have to deal with crises, and the blessing is it’s going to happen to somebody else in a few days or next week. There’ll just be a different angry mob, but the new cycle will be focused on someone else because this story is going to play out.

Jay: Yes, and it proves why every company, regardless of size and circumstance, needs to have a social crisis plan. Because, even if you aren’t in the kind of business like Applebee’s is, where they have many, many points of success and failure every day, if one of your executives, or your customers, or somebody else says something crazy, all of the sudden it lands in your lap, and you never know. It doesn’t have to be an operational circumstance, right? Most people think about crisis as something operational, and it doesn’t have to be.

Social Contacts in Crisis Management

Jay: Speaking of developments in the news, tell the folks at home and me more about the new product you rolled out recently with social contacts?

Eric: We just launched a new product at Argyle called “Contacts”. It isn’t very often that you add a new tab to your application, so it’s a pretty big deal for us. The long and short is that customer relationships are the underlying fabric of all your social media efforts, but very few social products do a good job connecting the dots between social relationships and customer relationships.

It’s a CRM inside of Argyle, which is your social media management tool, that provides a running history of conversation and social interaction with all your social audience, and we connect that with third parties, like Salesforce.

The example use case we have in mind is: a tweet lands in your Argyle inbox, and you don’t know who this person is, unless you have an amazing memory. This person might be your biggest customer. This person might be a huge deal that your sales guys are working that’s about to close, or it might be a customer with an outstanding support ticket.

As a community manager, it’s important that you have that context and you have that sort of history of business relationships, so that you can socialize accordingly. That’s an inbound example.

An outbound example relates to something as simple as making a tag in your Argyle CRM of your 100 biggest customers and giving yourself a to-do list of pinging one of your top 100 customers proactively every day just to see how they’re doing and see what’s up.



It’s this manifestation of a link between social and a link between monetary value or business value that we think is going to create a ton of value for our customers and a ton of value for the market in general.

Jay: It’s really, really slick. I was playing with it on my Argyle account a couple days ago, and if you’re familiar with Reportive or Gist, which I use extensively in my email, it’s the same kind of premise, but in social. I can look up all kinds of information, discussion history and everything else on all the people that are in my stream. It is really, really useful.

Eric: I appreciate you saying that. The long-term vision is about not just providing value for the community manager, but actually taking a lot of this social activity history and social data and jamming that into other systems. We already have an integration with Salesforce.

Jay: It’s interesting. I’ve been thinking more and more that we’ve always had this schism between marketing and sales, and I feel like social is going to be the technology that bridges that gap. Finally, at the granular operational tactical level, marketing and sales will come together in ways they never have in the past because that social layer helps both sides. All of the sudden, you really have that holy grail, holistic, marketing engine that we’ve dreamed about for 15-20 years.

Social Media Stat of the Week: 86% of Retailers Intend to Use Facebook for Holiday Promotion

Eric: The data points today come from Chase Payment Tech, so think Chase Bank, but their payment system. They work with a lot of huge, huge e-commerce retailers. They do an annual survey called the “eHoliday Shopping Monitor” that presents a lot of daily payment information and odds and ends about the commerce business.

The retailers that they’re targeting account for 50 of the leading U.S. online retailers, so it’s big organizations. Of these U.S. online retailers, 86% intend to use Facebook for a holiday promotion, and 70% intend to use Twitter for a holiday promotion, and this is interesting to us for a couple reasons: 1) This is a social media podcast and 2) Black Friday is next week. The overwhelming majority of these massive retailers are going to be running presumably very large promotions on social media sites to drum up holiday business.

When I read the stat, I tried to think back on Black Friday type promotions from this time last year, and I have to admit nothing came to mind.

I don’t know if that’s because I’m desensitized to promotions on Facebook and Twitter, or if there were no memorable promotions on Facebook or Twitter, so I’m excited to see what comes down the pike over the coming weeks as we head into the big holiday spending time.

Jay: Yes, I’m excited to see what people come up with. We’ve got a couple things cranked up for clients as well. Not too much. We don’t have a large number of retail clients right now, and most of what we do is strategy as opposed to execution anyway, but I’m a little concerned that, once again, we’ll be killing the golden goose, and there will be so many contests and promotions that consumers will be just like, “Meh. Quit clogging up my timeline.”

Eric: Yes, and I think that might be the case, right? I mean that might be why I don’t remember anything. Typically, you remember good marketing. I’m not recalling any interesting Twitter or Facebook promotions, certainly none that I took advantage of as a consumer.

Jay: I wonder, and this is maybe a leap that is unsupportable with data, but you see that Groupon is struggling at all time low stock price, laying people off, missed their numbers. There seems to be some daily deal fatigue with consumers, and I wonder if the next part of that is contests and promotions fatigue. We’ll see. I know having been down this aisle in the past, that there is a limit to how much of that people will participate in.

Next week on the show will be David Meerman Scott. Very noteworthy marketer, a super-smart guy, and a nice man. Author of Newsjacking among many other very well-regarded marketing and social media books. We’ll have him on the show. We’ll talk about Black Friday. We’ll talk about real-time newsgathering in this crazy twitter age.

Thanks as always for listening to Social Pros.

See you next week!

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