Social Media can’t fix everything

I read an interesting article on Groundswell which highlights a very important aspect of BP’s current social media nightmare and what they should do about it.

Basically the suggestion is to do nothing and actually fix the problem of the spill. In fact all BP’s resources should be focused on this one problem.

BP OilIn the same way not every single negative piece of  social media press can be solved with social media management. You may need to throw all your energy into fixing the problem.

An example would be a public dissatisfaction with the level of service received at retail outlets of a major brand. The dissatisfied public have chosen to ‘vent’ on their favorite social media platforms and as a result their message is spreading like wildfire. A literal PR nightmare.

You can respond to every single comment and produce all kinds of interesting media into the social realm, but if the root of the problem is not fixed then the bad social media press will continue. My advice (and Harvard Business’s Advice) is to tackle the actual problem first and train your employees to deliver greater service levels to your customers.

Once the actual problem is solved, return to your Online Reputation Management and build a campaign/message around how you have dealt with the problem and how your customers can now visit the store and experience better service. This positive experience (subsequently felt by the customer) may make it onto social media and their opinion will be heard much louder than yours!

So social media might not solve the actual problem, but it was very helpful in identifying the problem and then promoting the solution back to your customers.

5 thoughts on “Social Media can’t fix everything

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Social Media can’t fix everything | Mike Saunders --

  2. John Gore

    Well said Mike.

    However I would not quite suggest BP do “nothing” on the social media front. It would be wise to post an official PR letter stating that all of BP’s resources are currently busy solving the crisis, and as such nobody will be responding to messages on the social media front at this stage, until the problem is solved.

    After the problem is solved as best they can, then I agree a positive come back campaign is in order, focusing on how the problem was solved.

    In the case of BP this is quite an extreme situation, and will take time to come back from.

    1. Mike Saunders

      Hi John

      Thanks for the comment. I agree that the basics should be covered. The main importance is to show the world that all their resources are geared towards solving the problem.

      By not spending/working in marketing and advertising campaigns BP would inadvertantly show their resources are pooled towards the crisis.

  3. Meegan Rourke

    I think there’s a middle ground here where companies should put all their energy into fixing a problem, but at the same time, manage their online reputation by assuring people that they’re doing something, and especially refrain from using the social media forum to lash out at customers. Nestle’s public relations disaster is a good example.

    Greenpeace targeted Nestle for their deforestation practices in harvesting palm oil in Indonesia, endangering the orangutan population. They posted gruesome hard-hitting YouTube videos showing office workers ‘having a break, having a kit-kat’ consisting of bloody orang-utan fingers. Rather than tackling the issue at hand, Nestle claimed violation of copyright and lobbied for the videos to be removed from YouTube. People then took to Nestle’s Facebook fan page, and Twitter as well, to have their say.

    Instead of dealing with the underlying problem with honesty and transparency, and assuring the agitators of their commitment to change, Nestle took a hostile approach and the Facebook page administrator threatened to delete unwelcome comments. Reactions on the Facebook page included comments like, “Hey PR moron. Thanks you are doing a far better job than we could ever achieve in destroying your brand”. Spot on. Removing comments from a public platform that’s supposed to be open and conversational is never a good idea! And although handling every negative comment may be impossible, it would be wise to acknowledge that the comments have been received and invite people to engage offline in a more meaningful way. Covering up bad press, getting defensive, and then retreating completely just made Nestle look worse.

    Nestle had a great opportunity to respond constructively to criticism and negative comments. The difficulty with social media, said Nestlé spokeswoman Nina Backes, is “to show that we are listening, which we obviously are, while not getting involved in a shouting match.” If a company is going to use social media though, it has to be willing to engage, through the good times and the bad. The fact is, when social media is mismanaged, even fixing the problem might not bring customers back to your brand. Social media has to be properly managed because there are consequences to keeping quiet or lashing out when what you should be doing is engaging constructively.


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