Does your company understand social media? Do they understand that it is ubiquitous, that ‘viral’ can be as dangerous as it is both significant and frivolous, that you are open not only to your local or regional market, but to a global audience?
Let’s face it, the phrase ‘All publicity is good publicity’ only holds true if your name is Taylor Swift.
We’re currently in an age where voices around the world are speaking up on a variety of topics once considered taboo. Racism, feminism, religious freedom, LGBTQ rights…these are conversations that were sometimes perpetuated via digital means before being picked up by mainstream media. Our world is small, and growing smaller as each year passes. Companies, across all departments and disciplines, need to understand this, because the sharing of information is no longer a confined activity.
Trinidad and Tobago has between 600k-700k monthly active Facebook users. Mobile subscriptions are around 1.9 million. Our small twin islands are very well connected and our population can become very vocal when the situation calls.
As I scrolled through Facebook on Saturday morning, I stumbled across a local insurance company that I immediately wanted to ask the question at the beginning of this blog, ‘Does your company understand social media?’. In a nutshell, an employee of the organization shared a warning letter reprimanding him for his hairstyle, stating that failure to comply with their policies can result in termination. He posted a picture, assumed to be taken on the same day he received the letter, displaying his attire and groomed hair. The gentleman in question is Afro-Trinidadian. Needless to say, the insurance company’s Facebook Insights will be artificially inflated this month as their page exploded with concerned, passionate and angry posts and memes from local and international onlookers. Other past and current employees have allegedly started coming forward to share their horror stories regarding this company’s working environment.
Much of the obvious has already been stated regarding the handling of the situation during the weekend and up to the media release which is debatable in its obtuseness. Any social media manager or 1st year Marketing student can tell you that for a situation as sensitive as this, deleting visitor posts before addressing the issue is PR Failure 101. As I type this, person’s are still logging their disbelief and disgust on the company’s Facebook page. The media release post has over 450 likes/reactions, 1k comments and 700 shares. Many of them are customers threatening to move their business to another insurance company (perception is a hell of a thing, which I wrote about here).
Apart from the many underlying issues surrounding this matter, as a marketer, I see it as a case study for other companies to take note of. This is not a #epicfail to forget in a week’s time. Times are changing, communication is changing, cultures are always intertwining, and the sooner companies embrace these rapid movements forward, the better they can speak with understanding to both their internal and external customers, and to the many topics affecting our global community.
Below, I’ve highlighted some other noteworthy social media fails and the lessons learnt in the aftermath. My advice to any company, be it small, medium or large, is to educate yourselves so you don’t make the same mistakes:
From SeaWorld’s fall from grace, to ESPN forgetting the basics of copy and paste, these mishaps will give insight into the mistakes that even multi-billion dollar companies make on social media.
DiGiorno’s horrifying insensitivity rivals US Airway’s NSFW reply to a customer complaint. These examples will teach you how not to make social your enemy.