You're one of the world's iconic fastfood brands. Sure, you've established a presence on social media because it's part of your PR initiative and everybody does it. Suddenly, your kingdom gets invaded. You can't have it your way and it becomes a social media disaster for you.
Nobody is safe from hackers, even kings.
Things got out of hand for Burger King's Twitter account last week when hackers broke into the official Burger King Twitter account. They turned it into a doppelganger of McDonald's Twitter page and sent out offensive tweets. One tweet even showed a pic of a Burger King "employee" doing drugs inside the washroom. Hackers had fun messing around until Twitter suspended the account.
Obviously, it's bad PR for Burger King. A customer might think that BK isn't serious with its social CRM, let alone its employee relations. Twitter is serious business, it's a brand's podium to the world and every tweet presents your voice as a brand. Perhaps, the only fault of Burger King's social media team or agency is that they failed to secure a serious PR tool that is their Twitter account (I hate to think that they used "whopper123" as their password). It's a PR disaster in the eyes of customers and fastfood executives.
As a social media strategist, you'll probably see this the other way around. Every social media crisis is always an opportunity. Good or bad, PR is still PR, by that I mean the linchpin has been pulled and buzz is increasing. Online awareness is spreading, and it's how you'll make the most out of it. Need proof? Burger King's followers before the hack were around 84,000, after 30 minutes they got 23,000 new followers. Today, they almost have 112,000 followers.
So is this a win or a loss for Burger King? They have 20k+ followers and a free mention from rival McDonald's Twitter feed. What's not to like, right? Can Burger King turn a lemon into lemonade? It's up to them to sustain that online momentum by taking their social media outreach seriously.
Here are 5 ways for social media teams to turn a lemon into lemonade.
1.) Admit Your Mistake
It's a must for any brand to talk like a real person using their social media assets. You have to assume a voice to be able to connect with your followers. Talk to them like you're their bestfriend, an adviser, or neighbor. But avoid sounding like a salesman, it's not advisable to offer spontaneous discounts or rewards during a social media crisis.
Writing the apology on the corporate blog shows utmost sincerity on the brand's part. Apologize for the blunder and forge a fresh relationship with your community. The social media crowd is an unforgiving lot, but if you admit your mistake they will stick to your brand and even share your tweets. It's how you transform fans into brand advocates.
2.) Real-Time Monitoring
Social media never sleeps. This is why Gatorade and Dell have set up their social media command centers to track brand-related sentiments. It's not a question of how "socially-vulnerable" your brand is, it's a question of how meticulous and dedicated you are when it comes to analyzing sentiments and converting them into meaningful engagements.
Sentiment analysis can be tricky, listen to what people are saying and apply the personal approach when answering them. Using Radian6, Hootsuite, or any free social monitoring tool will help social media teams in their sentiment analysis. Don't get too comfortable with these tools though, it takes a lot of patience to monitor online sentiments. Recently, Oreo had a huge win on Twitter during the SuperBowl with its "You can still dunk in the dark" ad when a power outage occurred. Keep in mind that real engagement happens in real-time!
3.) Humanize and Humorize
One of the factors that fuels social media is humor. Once something becomes a meme it becomes a hit. When it becomes a hit it goes viral and creates awareness. While you don't need meme-making experts on your team, it's important to humanize your social media assets to connect with fans. You can't instill humor when you reply to tweets like a robot, right?
More often than not, some fans will ridicule your tweets which become an opportunity for a brand's social media team to respond with a witty feedback. This is how user engagement becomes a real conversation and promotes customer-company collaboration. Check out the funny tweet above, Burger King's social media team had a chance to make this a fun conversation and lighten things up during the crisis.
4.) Monitor Post-Crisis Sentiments
A single tweet can make or break any brand. Just look at how Jeff Jarvis turned a snowball into an avalanche of rants during the Dell Hell crisis in 2005. Jarvis blogged about the lemon he encountered with a Dell laptop. Dell's customer service was poor at that time, they ignored Jarvis. Little did they know that Jarvis' snowball started rolling, which eventually turned into an avalanche of online rants.
Lesson learned - Michael Dell launched a Social Media Listening Command Center to respond to customer complaints and queries. One thing that people enjoy are conversations, a customer doesn't want to talk to a robot when he's on the phone! Dell hit two birds with one stone with its command center - social CRM and online PR.
5.) Sustain Good Buzz Post-Crisis
After getting through with a crisis, it's an opportunity to sustain online buzz through content and user engagement. Michael Dell turned Dell Hell into a pitcher of lemonade when he launched the IdeaStorm blog and the Social Media Listening Command Center to collaborate with customers and address product complaints. Dell's IdeaStorm blog gave its customers a platform to share ideas with product development team and other key employees from the Dell team.
It sends a message that companies don't own their brands, customers do! It's an excellent way of promoting customer-company collaboration where customers become an essential component for brand innovation. Dell knows that establishing a presence on the Social Web will not only increase engagement but gain fans as well. Remember that positive customer feedback is more powerful than advertising. Before you know it, you've made an irate customer into a brand ambassador!