Social Media Bloopers And How Brands Should Act – Tripti Lochan

Tripti Lochan, CEO at VML Qais shares her insights on how brands should act during social media bloopers, citing examples of Epicurious and Justine Sacco Twitter mishaps

online reputation management

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Tripti Lochan, Chief Executive Officer at VML Qais. With over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, specializing in marketing and sales, in this post, Tripti shares her insights on what actions should brands take during social media bloopers.

Social Media is not exempt from Murphy’s Law. Bloopers are many and varied – it’s how a brand handles the aftermath that defines its reputation! And we can learn from other people’s mistakes too. Here is an example that really has serious learnings:

Capitalizing on a tragedy

Real Time Social Media is the new mantra for brands, and Epicurious, a food website, created havoc on Twitter with these Tweets that it sent to its 350,000 followers:

epicurious_tweets

Twitter went aflame with condemnation, and Epicurious made two further mistakes. It deleted the tweets, and then spent the rest of the day “apologizing”.

Epucurious_tweets1

However, there was uproar on the choice of words they used “seemed insensitive” and the fact that the apology – while replying to each individual – were not personalized at all – but a simple copy & paste.

They finally acknowledged the mistake they had made – and apologized genuinely. Here is the tweet they put at the top of their Twitter page:

Epicurious_tweets2

While this was going on, people were watching and reporting what employees of the firm were doing – and Editor-in-chief Tanya Steel was busy tweeting about her travel difficulties – and not about the matter at hand.

Turns out that Conde Nast, the parent company, made a statement in a news article – but not on Twitter!

So, what could they have done differently?

On social media, your reaction needs to be decisive. And quick. Own up. Have the most relevant senior person take ownership. Tell people what action you are taking. Don’t be vague – and pretend that your account was hacked!

Justine Sacco, head of corporate communications for Barry Diller’s company tweeted this just before boarding a flight to South Africa:

justine_sacco_racist_tweet

The racist twist had gone viral on Twitter while she was on the 11-hour flight, having been picked up by Buzzfeed with a hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet trending!

She made a public apology in which she said she was in “anguish knowing that my remarks have caused pain to so many people”. She deleted her offending tweet and her Twitter account soon after landing – but New York based InterActive Corp which owns internet ventures like Daily Beast, Dictionary.com, Match.com and Ask.com sacked her when she landed for her “hateful statements”.

That’s decisive, unambiguous, action that was appreciated. But they humanized themselves even more by saying that they hoped that “time and action, and the forgiving human spirit, will not result in the wholesale condemnation of an individual who we have otherwise known to be a decent person at core.”

So how could Epicurious have recovered from its blunder on social media?

  1. Someone senior should have jumped in – Tanya Steel – and ensured they identified who wrote the offending tweet – and taken decisive action against them.
  2. They could have owned up to the mistake and said they are sending the entire social media team for training.
  3. They should have engaged 1-on-1 with the people they were replying to.
  4. They should have advised all staff on what was acceptable and not-acceptable behavior during this time and been sensitive to what their staff was communicating about.
  5. Conde Nast should have had a strategy that included the platform on which the blooper happened.
  6. Build your social media crisis manual – how to deal with such issues, escalation frameworks, and response time SOP’s.

Have a PR policy in place – who responds, what is the SOP, and what is the response.