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When Social Media Hits The Fan

By Sander Biehn | Jul 30, 2015

It was 7pm on Fathers’ Day. My kids and I were wrestling on the living room floor when my phone rang.

“Matt, we have an Emergency. A social media emergency”

Our client, a well-known, national brand was in trouble. Not only was a swift response critical, but we also needed to deploy the right strategy for the situation.

Here’s What Happened:

A Twitter post created by our client’s Marketing team was causing an outrage. The post was well planned, and part of a massive marketing campaign. It was sculpted to match the brand’s tone and messaging. In other words, this wasn’t just some random post.

While we can’t share the specific post, we can tell you that it contained some pretty tough language about how bad we were beating our competition. In the context of this marketing campaign, it was certainly not intended to infer any real violence though.

Marketing had done everything right. Unfortunately, they couldn’t predict the news.

This was the same weekend as the tragic, mass-shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. People flocked to Twitter to morn and discuss the tragedy.

In the midst of these tweets, our client’s tweet –promoted — was displaying prominently at the top of everyone’s Twitter feed.

Immediately, some people were offended by it… and others were even outraged. The complaints started rolling in.

In less than an hour, dozens of upset people Tweeted angrily at the brand and its CEO. The CEO (who is quite active on social) took action immediately. The post was removed quickly, but it was now a full-blown crisis.

Here’s what we did to help our client handle the situation quickly and with integrity:

1. We helped to remove the post and made sure that others like it would not go out.

2. Using Twitter, we acknowledged (on behalf of our customer) that people were offended by our post, and took responsibility for it. We personally assured those who had Tweeted to us that the post had been removed.  Then we offered a sincere apology.

3. We closely monitored the situation to any further comments or questions.

Then something very interesting happened.  The outrage turned to praise. People were genuinely grateful that the brand had quickly acknowledged the mistake and took the time to personally apologize. Additionally, people also praised the company’s CEO for doing the same with his personal Twitter account. He (and the brand) earned a ton of respect for “actually paying attention” and “taking the time to address the issue personally.”

In the end, we prevented damage to the brand, and leveraged the crisis (and CEO’s involvement) to leave a positive impression on many.

The moral of this story?

No matter how cautious you are on social, you can’t insulate yourself from everything. A crisis is inevitable, and part of the nature of social media (even when your business is B2B). The moral is not that you should therefore avoid social media.  Rather, it is a call to action to make sure you pay attention and react quickly.  Ignoring this kind of problem on social media is rarely the right answer.  Most importantly, you should look to use the opportunity to turn a potential negative into a positive brand interaction.


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