Brands in social media: don’t create a crisis by ignoring trouble



A customer comes into your flagship store, walks up to a member of staff and says that they’re having a problem with their latest purchase. It’s faulty and they want a refund. Does the employee:

a.    Acknowledge that they are unhappy with the product, apologise, and help solve the problem
b.    Pretend they didn’t hear the customer and continuing to ignore them, carry on with what they are doing?

Offline, it’s a no-brainer. Any decent retailer or service provider knows that a dissatisfied customer can easily be turned into a happy customer if the issues that they are having a dealt with in a timely, polite manner. No store manager worth their salt would ignore a customer in store, but strangely some brands are less worried about how they treat their customers online. (Did you know that 71 per cent of people NEVER get a response from a brand on Twitter?!)

Businesses are turning to social media to promote their brands, with some even closing their websites down and using Facebook as their main online presence instead. But if a brand sets up a profile on a social media site, it has to use it – and not just for one-sided marketing speak, but to engage and respond to customers and fans. Recent research by Socialbakers revealed that a massive 95 per cent of wall posts on branded Facebook pages never receive an answer, and that’s assuming the brand even permits wall posts in the first place.

Now these questions could be simple enquires (such as opening hours, store locations, the release date of the latest much anticipated product), and the information may be easy for people to find elsewhere, but what about the other questions? What about the complaints? Or the off-topic questions buried in a cascade of wall post responses? Or the angry comments masked as questions?

For example, Top Shop recently posted a picture of a new jumper on its Facebook wall. It’s a very innocent looking jumper, and to date the post has received 742 likes, 26 shares and over 40 comments. One of the comments referred to a recent line of T-Shirts recently withdrawn from Top Man for being sexist.



At the time of writing the comment hasn’t had a response, though it’s been up for over three days.

Then we have the situation where a customer receives terrible customer service and takes to social media to vent their fury on the brand. Such was the case with fashion retailer GASP! and the very angry bride-to-be.

The tale went viral over Twitter and Facebook, with GASP! responding by deleting all critical posts as they appeared on its Facebook page and then finally giving up and deleting the page altogether. It’s almost a month later and the page is back online, with the brand posting its final defensive post on the 4th October, which resulted in critical comments being posted up until the 10th October. The commenters make it clear, they don’t know who was right in the original customer complaint, but that doesn’t matter anymore. It’s no longer the story. The story has become the way that the brand has responded to the complaint. In this case, the brand has made it a great deal worse with its response.

So, what’s a brand supposed to do? Naturally, it will have a social media crisis plan in place for circumstances such as these. Even brands that don’t buy into the power of social media, that don’t have profiles or engage with followers, will recognise the need to have a crisis plan … won’t they?

The fact is social media has changed the way people relate to brands, even those brands that remain social media naysayers.

Just because brand X doesn’t have a Facebook page doesn’t mean people won’t talk about it on Facebook. They may even set up pages of their own. Pages like, “We Hate Brand X!” or “Brand X SUCKS!” But brand X doesn’t care about social media, so why should it matter? Of course, it does matter. It matters because the people that are engaged in social media will be reading these comments and forming their own opinions on the brand, without the brand’s input. This makes it essential for even the most digitally naive brand to at least monitor its reputation online.

Even brands that are more engaged in social media may struggle to get through to fans. If a major issue occurs, and the brand decides to post an update on its Facebook wall, there’s still a good chance that people won’t see it – unless they specifically go looking on the page.

According to Jay Baer, 95 per cent of Facebook users only read their “Top News” in their News Feed. Top News is worked out using an algorithm which considers:
–    the amount of engagement the user has had with the brand
–    the recency of the post
–    the popularity of the post (how often its been “Liked”)
If your update doesn’t tick these boxes and fails to be in the Top News section when the user logs in, it’s unlikely that they will see your message, and the opportunity to engage will be lost.

Therefore, engaging fans on Facebook becomes not just about building brand loyalty, but about insuring against future reputational issues. If the brand has a strong history of conversations with a fan, that fan is more likely to see an important post when it gets posted.

In circumstances where a brand needs to disseminate a message as quickly as possible, it would be wise to communicate that message over more than one channel to reach as much of the target audience as possible and to engage with feedback over as many digital platforms as possible. The most important thing is that the brand looks engaged, informed and in control of the situation, ignoring or appearing to ignore the situation will not make it disappear.

For advice on how to manage should a social media crisis engulf your brand, see our white paper, When Social Media Bites Back.

This blog first appeared on


Discover more from Carrot Communications

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading