Six Of The Best Social Brand Responses Of 2012: Part 1

It can be tricky for brands to strike the right balance with social media. On the one hand, brands need to encourage a certain standard of behaviour within their online community, yet the whole purpose of social media is to create a spontaneous dialogue. Brands can try to be selective, and only respond to positive comments and genuine customer complaints, but what about the rest?

You know the comments I’m talking about. They’re the ones that seem to have one purpose, to attack or embarrass the brand. Some of these comments may have no point to make other than to belittle the brand, while others will have a genuine grievance. Many brands choose to ignore these comments, you’ll often see the page admin skipping over the rogue comment to reply to the positive ones. This doesn’t achieve much other than potentially infuriating a disgruntled customer. Until you talk to them you won’t know the genuine reason for the message, and an opportunity for creating a good impression will be lost.

In 2012, several brands stood out for their social media responses. In May, Sainsbury’s sent this tweet in response to a popular blogger:

Great branded social media: attrib @GordonMacMillan

The blogger didn’t @ the account, so Sainsbury’s must have picked up the message through keyword monitoring, and because he didn’t direct the message to the brand it’s likely that he was making a funny comment, rather than raising an actual complaint. Sainsbury’s could have easily let the tweet slide.

Yet it didn’t. Rather it used the opportunity to show that: it had a sense of humour; it was “a good sport”; it knew its 80’s pop culture; and, most importantly, that it was listening and responding to its customers. Another Sainsbury’s account apologised in a similar tone and provided a customer care line for him to call. As a result of replying to this random tweet, Sainsbury’s generated quite a buzz on social media, blogs and the retail and marketing press.

Smart Car faced a similar situation in June. Only the Tweet that it responded to was clearly facetious and designed to mock the brand. Again, the brand wasn’t @ mentioned in the tweet, and the guy probably wasn’t expecting a response. What he got, two days later, was an infographic describing just how much bird poo the car could withstand before buckling under the strain:



SmartCar Infographic

Again, not only did the brand get a lot of attention for the response, but the original tweeter, who just happened to be an advertising blogger, was impressed enough to blog about it as a great example of social media management.

O2 faced a significant reputational problem in July, when a network outage sparked a tidal wave of trolling, threatening and abusive tweets directed at the account, as well as the more standard complaints.

However, whoever was running the Twitter account had the situation completely under control, replying to each tweet appropriately and with humour, and doing a pretty good job of defusing some of the tension.




Naturally, it didn’t detract from the reams of negative coverage that the brand got due to the service failure, but it did show that while there may have been an issue with the technology, the human side of the brand was working well. (It’s also important to note that the social media team continued to tweet service updates and respond in a less cheeky manner to polite complaints and questions.)

In part two we’ll be looking at another three brilliant brand responses, including: unicycling Kangaroos; the truth about periods and sneaking cookies into the cinema.


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