The last thing any company wants to do is associate their brand with domestic violence, child murder or any other horrible event ripped from today's headlines. Effective campaigns need to be timely and relevant--proven by Oreo's big win for its quick-witted "You Can Still Dunk In The Dark" response to the Super Bowl blackout.
For every hit, however, there are misses, exemplified by DiGiorno's recent ill-considered response to the trending #Whyistayed hashtag, "#WhyIStayed You had pizza."
To their credit, DiGiorno's damage control has been textbook, responding with personalized tweets with what appears to be genuine remorse. Social media mistakes are going to happen at all levels, because brands are run by humans, and humans will make mistakes. How a company responds to the error is crucial. Here are a few guidelines for cleaning up a social media mess:
1. Don't Double Down. Contrast DiGiorno's handling of the #whyistayed with Kenneth Cole's (@KennethCole) tone deaf tweet during the 2011 Egyptian crisis: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online."
Delete? No, repeat. Cole went at it again with a tasteless "boots on the ground" post, pimping their sandals, pumps and loafers--in reference to military action in Syria.
2. Don't Run Away--Live and Learn. After Entenmann's (@Entenmanns) tweeted gleefully about donuts with the trending #notguilty hashtag--which referenced the verdict in a child murder case--the company left twitter for two years. Entenmann's twitter feed now confines itself primarily to National Donut Day. But on Memorial Day it still couldn't resist a graphic of its donut mascot waving an American flag. Tip: Promoting your brand doesn't "honor" anything.
3. Just Say You're Sorry. We all learned this in kindergarten, but it bears repeating. America loves to forgive and we're a country of comebacks. Just think of all the politicians and movie stars who we've hated, then loved. DiGiorno's social media team immediately took responsibility, with no "if you were offended" shrugging things off. "I screwed up. It was a mistake. I'm sorry," goes a long way. In today's news, "sincerely apologizing" by saying that your "vintage" Kent State sweatshirt was not actually designed to look bloodstained will not, in fact, appease your critics.
But better than cleaning up a mess is not actually making one in the first place. "Real-time marketing" is great, but it requires more than encouraging inexperienced interns to hop on any trending bandwagon. Your social media team needs tools, training and feedback to prevent problems in the first place ... and to handle them when mistakes happen anyway. Having a team and plan in place is more than half the battle. It is essential to the health of your brand on the social media battlefield. Are you ready?