Everyone wants to go viral on social media. But sometimes your brand ends up going viral for the wrong reasons.
After every such social media brand fail, we experience a familiar cycle. Somebody (or multiple somebodies) instantly shames them on social media. The brand (usually) apologizes. The world moves on.
Then a few days later, it happens. A respected industry publication publishes something like this:
X Social Media Lessons From [Brand’s] [Social Media Update About Whatever]
In 2016 – truly a year filled with disasters if there ever was one (and one best summed up by Vice in April after Prince died) – social media blunders still managed to spark swift and bitter outrage.
You see, apparently there are still some lessons that social media managers, directors, and coordinators need to learn.
I disagree. There’s only one lesson. But first…
May the Delete Button Be With You
At the end of the year we were treated to several “Top Social Media Fails of 2016” types of posts. Coming in at number one of just about everyone’s lists was Cinnabon.
In case you missed it, Cinnabon caused a big uproar on Twitter after tweeting what they considered to be a tribute to Carrie Fisher. The actress, who died that same day (Dec. 27), appeared as a image of her “Star Wars” likeness, Princess Leia, along with this message from Cinnabon: “RIP Carrie Fisher, you’ll always have the best buns in the galaxy.”
A tasteful tribute? The Twitterverse didn’t agree.
Shortly thereafter, the tweet vanished. Cinnabon returned humbly to Twitter to say they were “truly sorry.”
Meanwhile, Cinnabon’s buns are as tasty as ever and people are still lining up to fill their bellies with tasty rolls at their local mall or airport.
Look, your company at some point is going to screw up. An employee at your company will screw up – heck, maybe it will even be YOU who screws up.
Or some person outside your company, whether it’s an existing customer, former customer, or person who would have never been your customer anyway – is going to cause a lot of noise.
It will be scary. But don’t panic. Remember, negative reactions don’t have any more power than positive.
Some people will always get outraged. And these people will be as loud about their outrage as they can. Because it’s really about them, not you.
If you want to survive a tweet storm of negativity, follow this simple advice from comedian Ricky Gervais:
“Twitter? It’s like reading every toilet wall in the world. You mustn’t worry about it. It will send you mad.”
Will these poor brands survive the outrage?
What do Comcast, Bank of America, Mylan, McDonald’s, and Wells Fargo all have in common? Well, this year they were all named America’s Most Hated Companies for providing consistently terrible customer service or doing something the general public didn’t like.
But even some of the most beloved brands have done some incredibly questionable things, yet never make these sorts of lists.
- Apple basically built its powerful brand using Chinese slave labor. Yet Apple devices still sell like crazy every year.
- Google (allegedly) avoids paying taxes and has a long list of privacy concerns. Google still makes billions of dollars every quarter.
- Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle got arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography and paying to have sex with minors. Customers are still “eating fresh.”
- Starbucks even somehow managed to overcome the most horrific scandal of all: changing their cups around the holidays.
Need we even mention the biggest social media disaster of them all? Hint: he was just elected President of the United States.
The only lesson
Here’s the real takeaway for marketers: a great product will always beat an epic brand fail. Customers who truly love you will overlook your faults because of self-justification.
They want to continue to view themselves as a special snowflake, which means doing the mental gymnastics of rationalization or simply ignoring the flaws of the brands they buy and love.
Any effects of what are often dubbed “social media disasters” are usually small and contained.
- People will still order Papa John’s pizza even if they briefly pissed off Iggy Azalea (and proudly have Peyton Manning as a paid spokesperson).
- Fans of the New England Patriots will continue to be fans even if their team autotweeted something incredibly racist.
- And people (even women) will continue to drink beer that once was sold as being “perfect” for removing the word “no” from your vocabulary.
So make sure your product or service is good enough to withstand any mistakes you make on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks. Build a loyal audience that loves you.