For all the people who are just learning about the new form of media called social media, and for those of you who are taking those first baby steps setting up your Facebook accounts, there are multitudes more of us who have been swimming and often drowning in a sea of mistakes, miscues, false starts and falsehoods. Here’s your chance to learn from one real-life train wreck so you don’t muck it up yourself.
You might say, “That’s not what we meant!” But understand, blunders can happen. You develop a campaign for your brand (company or personal) and you put it out there through traditional media, online or both. You think you’ve got a great thing going and wham! The bad buzz gets unleashed like hornets from a nest you didn’t mean to disturb. And the hornets aren’t happy. What do you do? Panic? Swat them back, shout obscenities and tell them what you really think? Crawl into a hole and cancel your Facebook account?
Here’s what Ann Taylor Loft did when social media-ites turned on them. The company had uploaded a harmless post on Facebook featuring models wearing their new silk cargo pants. It started out innocently enough with this well-written copy and three photos.
“Introducing our drapey silk cargo. Your new go-to pant. They’re flowy, cropped, light as a feather and unbelievably versatile. We love them with a fitted blazer for work or dressed down with gladiators on the weekend. See our work, night and weekend styling suggestions in our new gallery.”
That’s all it took. People started posting that the only people who would look good in those pants were the skinny models in the photos, and the rants went on. One person even said she created a “Loft is Dead to Me” group on Facebook and that we should feel free to join. (With that, I feel the saying, “get a life” is appropriate, or maybe “save a whale” because, really!). But nonetheless, people complained publicly, and then there was the inevitable jumping on. ”Me too!” ”Those pants are horrible.” ”I’m cutting up my Loft charge card!”
What did Ann Taylor do? Brilliantly, they addressed the concern by showing how great their silk cargo pants looked on the non-models of all shapes and sizes who work at their offices. They posted the photos, politely addressed the concerns and angers of their Facebook “fans,” and moved on. At least that’s what they did outwardly. Recognize that just as there are people who live to find typos in otherwise stellar works of literature, there are people dying to have a voice in our very impersonal world. They view even a modest brand blunder like this one as a chance to climb on their own personal soapboxes and make mountains out of molehills. Some people have built mega-million-dollar careers doing just that, which means for some the motivation is financial. (I don’t have to mention names; you can fill in those blanks, I am sure.)
So before you post on social media or put your message out there, think through how your words and actions can be twisted, then if you are okay with that, and have planned a good response, go with it. Most important, however, is avoid the mountains entirely. Why rile the swarm when you don’t want to? Does this advice doom us all to becoming P.C. bowls of vanilla ice cream? Yes, it does, but as long as you stay true to what makes you genuine, meaningful and different, if it’s vanilla ice cream we must be, it can have a healthy dose of chocolate sauce and a whole lot of cherries on top.
What is branding? Heart & Mind® Branding.