A couple of weeks ago, Applebee’s faced a social media mess after a community manager made some strange responses to an already boiling over situation concerning the firing of a waitress after she exposed a customer for not tipping. It’s a tough spot to be in. Anyone who has worked as a waiter or waitress could probably attest to the fact that customers can be jerks. However, should employees be allowed to post negative things about customers online?
Applebee’s made the decision they felt necessary, but it brought the angry mobs to their social pages. That was probably going to happen no matter what, but the company could have responded so much better. And even though social pages are a great place to be open and communicate with customers, they aren’t always the best place to explain your side of the story, when your side gets complicated.
Case in point: Whole Foods. They are frequently praised for their activities on social media, even though it seems like everything they post faces backlash. People argue about veganism, GMO’s, corporate practices, and on and on. An unskilled team would probably drown in responding to all of those comments. Every post would have to be dedicated to explaining themselves, and the tone of the page would be destroyed.
Instead, Whole Foods stepped away from social media pages, and took their excellent communication skills to their blog.
I personally love the Whole Foods Blog, called Whole Story. It’s well written, has a friendly and personable, not corporate, voice, and mixes up hard hitting content with material like recipes and supplier features.
Whole Foods has faced some tough criticism in the past. People said they were partnered with the company Monsanto, that their employees were trained to lie about their products, and that their CEO was involved in unsavory business practices. These issues come up over and over and over again on their Facebook page, but they don’t get into it with people, or even explain themselves in great length. Why? Because they took the time to do so on their blog.
The company needed time and space to thoughtfully tell their side of the story. That’s not so easy in the heat of the moment on a fast moving social page. On their blog, they have been able to clear up rumors, talk straight about their mistakes and how they are fixing them, and let their CEO speak.
Of course, there will still be conflicting ideas and opinions on all of this, but by being able to reference these blogs posts, and snippets of information in them, when needed on social media, Whole Foods has allowed itself to do what it needs to, and not get bogged down in the negativity.
My searching has brought up no such blog at Applebee’s. That is a shame, because it could have been just what this situation needed. Whatever choice the company made, someone was going to be angry, so they would have been best off to make their decision and move on. But because their page was so flooded, and they let themselves get dragged into it, they couldn’t move on, and they made the situation worse. A blog would have given Applebee’s the time to write a real, human response explaining, in length, why they did what they did. They could have talked about how they will handle situations like this in the future, so they don’t have to get this far. They could have cleared up any misunderstood facts. Unfortunately, they didn’t really do any of this, at least not very well.
When you need to give people answers as a crisis develops, give them answers that are truthful, thorough, and not made in the moment. Social media is really important, no question. But a platform that gives you adequate space to write the response you need, and share long into the future, can save time and maybe even your reputation.