Creative thinking that delivers results

23 Apr

The ultimate social media fail

Category: Social media
Social media fail,  social media under the microscope

Clients often ask me what’s the worst thing a business could do on social media. My response has always been the same over the past few years – ignore your customers and fail to respond to their comments and feedback, both negative and positive. However, a recent experience changed all this, resulting in a new “lowest of the lows”.

The ultimate ‘roadblock’

So what’s my new winner of the worst horrific thing you could do on social media? Well let start by telling you a little story!

I was (once) the very proud owner of a GMC Acadia crossover vehicle. I LOVED this truck, its look, the features, the way it drove, you name it, with the exception of its lack of fuel economy, which was no real surprise to me. People would often admire it and ask me how I liked it, especially when it was new as there weren’t that many on the road back then. I always gave them glowing reviews and said the same about the dealership I bought it from, Budd’s Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC in Oakville, Ontario.

Unfortunately, this all changed a couple of months ago when my car died on me due to a defective transmission. One normally doesn’t expect this to happen to a relatively expensive car after only 99,000km! In any case, I tried to get some help and advice from Budd’s but for whatever reason (perhaps the fear of making a ‘promise’ they couldn’t uphold?), they provided me with no help.

Worse still, because I made the smart financial decision to have my transmission fixed through my local mechanic and not through them and their exorbitant labour rates, both they and GM head office refused to provide me with any compensation since they “weren’t able to make any money off the repair of my truck”!

The social media fail

Being very unhappy with this lack of advice and ownership by GM but especially by Budd’s I decided to voice my displeasure publically via social media. I was actually hoping this public declaration of dissatisfaction on Facebook on Twitter would open a dialogue with the dealership, which would hopefully lead to some reasonable resolution.

So what ended up happening? Well to put it simply, it was something I had never thought possible from a supposedly reputable business and brand. In spite of the fact that my posts were non-threatening, to the point, professionally written and simply outlined my displeasure with the dealership, within hours of being published Budd’s deleted all my posts and then proceeded to block me from their social media accounts! To say I was shocked by their reaction would be an understatement!

Lessons Learned

While I can say much about the behaviour of Budd’s from a customer service, communications and public relations perspective, I’ll focus my learnings on the marketing and social media implications of their actions. First off, we should all remember that social media is a two-way street from a communications perspective, and that your audience and customers have just as much a right (and opportunity) to talk to you as you do to communicate with them.

It’s great to receive praise and accolades from your audience, but brands also need to be prepared and adept at dealing with criticisms and complaints. Unless your audience is being abusive, irrational or threatening, the worst thing a brand could do is take a ‘legitimate’ complaint, provide patronizing feedback and then ban the customer from communicating further when you don’t like what they have to say about you!

If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen!

As I’ve often said to my clients, if you’re not prepared to deal with the negative fallout that could arise from social media, you shouldn’t be on it in the first place. That’s why businesses in more contentious industries are often very reluctant to engage in social. They often deem that the potential risks outweigh the positives; they then make the business decision to refrain from social media all together.

So remember this lesson the next time your business looks at either entering social media or reassessing your role in this medium. It’s not for every business and if you’re not willing, able or comfortable dealing with the negative repercussions that could result, you’re best to simply avoid it and spend your marketing budget elsewhere.

If you need help deciding if social media is right for your company, and then developing a strategy to optimize your results in this medium, we can help. Contact us today to learn how we can help guide you on the path to social media success.

P.S. Hard to believe, but this customer fiasco with Budd’s actually got worse. I won’t get into details, but suffice to say I’m no longer welcome in their dealership either, even if I want to give them some business!