by Ted Rubin (@TedRubin)
What do “butts,” “ChapStick,” and “social” have in common? They are all part of a recent huge—and very public – series of poor choices that have seriously impacted the reputation of a major brand. I actually pulled those three words from the categories assigned to Tim Nudd’s recent AdWeek article, ChapStick Gets Itself in A Social Media Death Spiral.
So what happened? Long story short (read the article for full details), ChapStick posted an ad that was offensive to some people, and when those people voiced their opinions on ChapStick’s Facebook Fan Page, ChapStick deleted those comments… and kept deleting them as they were posted.
As I see it, the top three poor choices ChapStick made were as follows:
Poor Choice #1: Staying quiet
Poor Choice #2: Trying to whitewash their public space
Poor Choice #3: Trying to make the whole situation go away
ChapStick’s controversial ad did not need to start a firestorm of negative feedback and perception; if it had been handled differently, it could have been a powerful opportunity to strengthen and broaden the ChapStick brand reputation:
Fix #1: Respond – “out loud” – as soon as the first customer speaks up.
When it comes to social media, silence is often louder than words. A quick Facebook post from ChapStick in response to the first customer complaint could have opened a conversation, providing a chance for ongoing interaction and the start of a mutually-respectful relationship between brand and customer. Other Facebook fans (or Twitter followers) who read that exchange would also get a chance to build a positive opinion about ChapStick because of their willingness to listen to – and really HEAR – the customer feedback.
I did notice, however, that fans also spoke up on ChapStick’s behalf. They acknowledged the strength of the ChapStick product and judging by the intensity of some of the fan Facebook responses, they actually CARED about ChapStick’s reputation. It got personal.
That is ROR – a strong Return on Relationship: your customers/fans/followers going to bat for you, standing up for you and your reputation, and staying loyal to you even when you make mistakes or show your imperfections.
Fix #2: Be Authentic and transparent
What brand would you be more likely to do business with: one that encourages and engages in open, honest (authentic) conversation with customers/fans/followers, or one that filters their public persona to portray a squeaky-clean whitewashed image?
The true display of transparency is having the courage to admit possible imperfections and respond to negative customer feedback – not to simply remove a piece of the picture and then not admit to the action when confronted! This response from ChapStick is, in my opinion, just more side-stepping and more reason followers might lose their trust in the brand: “We apologize that fans have felt like their posts are being deleted and while we never intend to pull anyone’s comments off our wall, we do comply with Facebook guidelines…”
If your customers think you messed up (whether YOU think you did or not), take responsibility for the problem AND the solution. That is how credibility is strengthened and relationships are built.
Fix #3: Embrace criticism
Criticism is a great opportunity to show what your brand is really made of. Will you run from it, or take it as a chance to learn more about what your brand’s customers/fans/followers REALLY want and need from you?
ChapStick tried, eventually, to leverage this situation as a chance to state their appreciation of customer feedback with this statement: “We’re aware of the discussion going on across social media, and we’re listening. We love our fans and adore your passionate voice around ChapStick®.
The problem is that after someone has their “passionate voice” (their comment) deleted, the declaration of love and adoration no longer means much. You can say you’re listening, but until you ask your customers/fans/followers clarifying questions and share your resulting ACTION plan, words are just words.
Listen, ask, listen again, ACT … then do it all over again. THAT is how you turn criticism into the chance for ongoing relationships and a high ROR (Return on Relationship).
Actually, we should all thank ChapStick ….for “taking one for the team” by showing us why every brand needs to have authenticity, transparency, and huge dose of courage in their social media strategy.