Every day we see ‘social media crises’ unfold on social media and spill into mainstream media. How a company deals with reputation management is critical to their brand and their ongoing customer loyalty or lack thereof. Today it is JB HiFi’s turn.
This morning a large Australian electronics chain is in damage control after one of their store managers allegedly refused entry to a man with Downs Syndrome after security said he looked like someone they had a picture of for shop lifting. You can read the unfolding story here.
This case, like many others, raises questions for brands who wish to garner the benefits from social media, without always putting in the resources and efforts required to make it work for not only their brand, but their customers.
At the time of the original message going up on Facebook the brand in question had 673,000 likes on Facebook. 12 hours, 40,000 shares, 15,000+ comments, and a few national and international news stories later they have issued a statement saying they are investigating.
This raises a number of questions:
- Monitoring of social media: 12 hours is a long time to wait to issue a statement, when you consider the damage already done. People tend to type their wrath and move on, rarely checking the facts or seeking to understand the issue further. Can brands who actively use social media afford to not have 24/7 monitoring of their communities?
- Staff culture and social media: if you do not have 24/7 monitoring, staff can play a vital role in protecting the reputation of a brand. Some staff from the store in question and other stores were commenting within a couple of hours of the post going viral. If staff were trained in social media and the culture supported staff taking responsibility for what they see and hear online, maybe someone in senior management could have addressed this more immediately. This requires a culture of transparency that encourages staff to act and systems and processes to be in place to ensure that people know who to contact in this kind of event. However if your staff don’t feel supported and or have any negative sentiment towards your brand, they are unlikely to act quickly in your defence.
- Building Authentic Communities: JB HiFi have posts to their Facebook page switched off. This means that people who wanted to protest or even seek to clarify, had no choice but to comment on the latest post by the page, which happened to be a competition. If you want to create a genuine community of people engaged around your brand and interested in your products or services, you must engage and show interest by allowing them to communicate with you, not just broadcasting for commercial gain
The difficult part for brands is that whether the original facts were accurate or not, the damage has already been done. People will quickly forget, but those who were once loyal and have an affinity with the brand, may take longer.
There are also opportunities in these crisis events for organisations that serve the target group (eg people living with Downs Syndrome) to become involved and use the ‘crisis’ to educate, inform and benefit the whole as well as the individual involved. But that is another article!
Many brands still use these platforms as a broadcast mechanism and expect the benefit of social media, but are unwilling to take the time, effort and resources to connect with their customers. These are their stories!