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Mar 8, 2012

Social Media Disaster? Get Over It

Are we really talking about this again? Another social media “fail” is in the headlines again – this time, its @Coles and a Twitter post.

But I’m not sure it’s the Twitter campaign that’s failed or just the existing Coles brand and its somewhat-infamous actions off line. As Jeffrey Hayzlett said at the Schmart Marketing Conference: If you suck offline, you’ll suck online.

In other words, that is the risk you take when entering any medium that allows the masses to share their opinion with you. If you have a business policy that rubs people the wrong way, it’s a problem both on and off the web, and people will criticise you the best way they know how. And in 2012, the web and social networks allow them to do so with more power than ever with easy information sharing, a direct feedback loop, and a way to rapidly escalate the pressure that’s put on an organisation.

We’ve seen it this week in America with conservative shock-jock Rush Limbaugh and the number of sponsors who pulled their advertising from his radio show. ProFlowers pulled out after over 7,000 people commented on their Facebook page. And let’s not forget Kyle Sandilands (or maybe we should?)

But this is not a good enough reason to abandon social media. And I’m getting tired of calling this stuff a “social media suicide”, a “social media disaster” or other over-the-top terms that inflate what was really a stupid mistake by Coles – hey, remember #QantasLuxury? But let’s stop calling them disasters. 

Where the big mistakes can happen is how an organisation handles an ill-thought (or ill-received) tweet or post. Do they delete the post? Ignore the complaints? Or wait too long to respond? Actions (or inaction) like these demonstrate how unprepared they were when they entered social media - and accepted the risks that come along with it.

Brands enter social media for benefits like the instant feedback loop, the engagement with customers, and to share information easily, and social networks are an excellent tool that we believe delivers stronger benefits for organisations to outweigh the negatives.

But these brands can’t control what feedback comes their way or what information about the brand is shared by others. And whether the organisation is on social networks or not, those conversations are happening anyway! So have a teaspoon of concrete and harden up, because social media can be an ugly place – let’s get over it!

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