Beware Anti-Social Media
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Beware Anti-Social Media

Beware Anti-Social Media

“In the beginning” (circa 2003–2006), some of the most popular and/or culturally relevant social media platforms launched, changing the Internet forever. In those early days, people connected through MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. For the business-minded who wanted to make connections with others, there was LinkedIn.

Social media for the most part truly was “social.” Facebook essentially eliminated the need (and people’s desire) for class reunions. You can connect with old school friends on your own terms and stay clear of the class bully who tormented you in middle or high school. Social media allows individuals to tell their stories the way they want to; one’s public life on social media is often, shall we say, “curated.” (There are pluses and minuses here, of course.)

People used the platforms to showcase their talents and promote themselves and their art, be it music, video, or photography. Commerce sites followed soon thereafter, and corporations followed, albeit hesitantly. Some saw the potential to build their brands; others saw real sales opportunities, especially once they figured out how to execute online sales and payments. Still others had the added complexity of conducting commerce with their franchise system… wherein the sales revenue went directly to individual franchise owners. Quite a task.

In the midst of all of this relative positivity, the darker parts of human nature appeared, in the guise of trolls, scammers, fraudsters, and hoaxers, hellbent on bringing people down, causing havoc, becoming “Internet infamous,” spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories, and ruining brands and reputations.

The word “viral” came to the forefront of our collective consciousness in a way it hadn’t before—it was connected to videos (primarily) that spread and whose audiences grew exponentially, often without any rhyme or reason. A viral video could damage a brand’s reputation in days, if not hours.

I was personally involved in 2009 (the “Stone Age” of corporate social media) in managing a crisis team when two employees of a franchise business posted a hoax video purportedly showing them tainting food before sending it off to a customer.

It's a long story, but we got it under “control” within 48 hours (an eternity now), and the truth came out with our brand—the victim—apologizing for the actions of two people who thought they were being funny. We were “lucky” in that the video never generated more than a few million views before the momentum stopped. In the end, for me it was a highly charged, well-publicized annoyance, not a crisis. I knew the franchise brand I represented was stronger than the people who had some free time, a camera, and a bad idea.

Add to all this the fact that real customers sometimes do have real concerns about the quality of the products or services you sell, and many of them are not shy in sharing those concerns. Best case, they come to you directly via your website, which should have an easily accessed page by which to reach you. You (and your franchisees) can also partner with service providers who read and respond to reviews for you, giving you notice if something is serious enough to require your personal and immediate attention. Franchisees and franchisors would be smart to take advantage of these services.

Social media safety tips

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to managing customer concerns on social media, here are some tips and things to consider.

  • First, don’t panic, even if someone posts a negative review and/or video about you. In 2023, according to the site Wyzowl, there are 34 million videos uploaded to TikTok every day. Meanwhile, there are 271,300 new hours of “content” uploaded to YouTube every day. That’s a lot of competition – something must be truly outrageous to go viral.
  • That noted, do take things like this seriously. Have a plan for and a program in place to address customer concerns. Have a place customers can reach you easily so you can address their concerns before they get out of hand.
  • Pay attention to social media platforms and respond as quickly as possible. Ask the customer to take their concern offline for direct conversation with you.
  • Most importantly: When addressing a social media concern, make it personal, but don’t take it personally. They’re not attacking you; they’re frustrated by how they were treated. You are the only one who can make it right.

Tim McIntyre spent more than 35 years working for a company that eventually became the largest practitioner in its category. The insights in this article come from more than 40 years of experience in journalism, communications, public relations, and crisis management. Looking for an honest assessment of your vulnerability to a crisis? Need a workshop for your leadership teams or franchisees to help them understand their role in crisis prevention? Check out his “What Could Go Wrong?” page at tmcommsllc.com for a list of scenarios companies can face.

Published: October 10th, 2023

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