A brand meltdown of epic proportions that swept across the internet last week shows the importance of having a social media policy in place.
For anyone tied into social media, it was hard to miss the meltdown that Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique and Bistro had last week following an appearance on the restaurant reality show “Kitchen Nightmare.”
By continuing to inflame the readers, it was just a runaway train. There was no need for the kind of language that was being put out there, all of the typos, the excessive use of all-caps. It all just made it worse.
In the episode, the owners of the Scottsdale, Arizona restaurant, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, are seen screaming at guests, employees, and each other and are accused of stealing tips from their waitstaff on top of other service-related issues.
In response to their poor showing—which saw the show’s host, chef Gordon Ramsay, walk away from a job for the first time in the series’ six-year history—the Bouzaglos lashed out against their critics on their shop’s Facebook page (though they now claim the page was hacked and have hired a PR company to help rehabilitate their brand).
Hack or no hack, the episode serves as an example for associations, or any person or business, of how not to respond to criticism on social media.
“They should have made one post and gone silent,” said Amy Kinnaird, president of the Global Social Media Managers Association. “By continuing to inflame the readers, it was just a runaway train. There was no need for the kind of language that was being put out there, all of the typos, the excessive use of all-caps. It all just made it worse.”
From one extreme to the other, Kinnaird said that complete silence wouldn’t have been the proper response either.
“Even in this instance, at a minimum they should have made some banal statement of their position and that’s it,” she said. “Put it out there that you’re working to address the complaint and then just stay quiet for a while and let the controversy die down.”
Here’s one possible association scenario: A member has a bad experience with a staff member at a conference, which leads to a series of negative tweets and comments online. How the organization responds is crucial, Kinnaird said.
“If someone posts something on your Facebook page that’s negative, the first reaction often is, ‘Oh, we’re going to take that off,’ but you’re often being judged by how you react, and that wouldn’t leave the best impression,” she said. “Most people, all they’re looking for is an apology. So get out in front of the issue, apologize for their negative experience, and then offer to take the conversation offline. Responding positively gives you more credibility as an organization.”
Having documented social media policies and procedures helps avoid potential meltdowns as well, Kinnaird said.
“Organizations probably already have some kind of communication guidelines, so it’s just really an extension of that,” she said. “Take time to thoughtfully go through each scenario and document it, from things as basic as what social networks you are going to participate in and who has the responsibility for making posts. Have guidelines for the photos and videos you put up, and make clear the ramifications for anyone that violates them.”