To every brand there is a social platform, and to every social platform there is a season. But when your brand is getting attacked on all sides from upset fans clamoring for apologies and expectations after your brand made a bad move—what can you do?
Always engage. Every time. Right away. Some brands take this in a complete opposite direction and perceive social media as the best platform for damage control.
Which it is. And it isn’t.
Let’s dive in to a prime example.
The Mistake that Threatened to Tank a Brand
The makeup community exploded earlier this year when Lime Crime cosmetics was accused of stealing customers’ credit card information. Angry customers flooded the indie makeup brand’s Instagram with questions, anger and frustration. Consumers’ lives were turned upside down as their bank accounts were drained due what turned out to be a data breach according to the new Security page Lime Crime created for their website.
But what Lime Crime proceeded to do, which none of these other heavy hitters who were heavily hit did, was to block their fans from posting on their Instagram page. Critical of Lime Crime? Ban hammer. Upset that your money was stolen and the company responsible for protecting your private information can’t be asked to apologize? Ban hammer.
Eventually, Lime Crime did apologize. Screen grabs of this are unavailable because Lime Crime broke the most sacred rule of social media—they deleted all of their posts relating to the incident and locked their Instagram page down for weeks. The only mention that remains is this post that points Instagram users to their Security FAQs.
The Repercussions of Repression
Anyone who works closely with PR is probably pulling their hair out right now. How could a company that was doing so well, with over a million Instagram followers, react so badly? And why?
Lime Crime, and many other brands that engage and dis-engage like this on social media appear to have a philosophy of “If you can’t see it, it didn’t happen.”
The Internet’s Elephant Memory
However, anyone who has spent any time on the internet knows that the internet does not forget. And in the event we do, there’s always the WayBack Machine. There’s no running from the mob anymore—their pitchforks are digital and their rallying cries are now vehemently angry tweets.
There’s no complicated algorithm for apologizing after a massive fail. The math is quite simple:
- Sincerely apologize. Take ownership of the incident.
- Concretely identify what went wrong.
- Engage with your users in a constructive fashion to help them determine what they can expect next.
- Follow through on your promises and don’t promise anything you can’t keep.
With Lime Crime’s apology came a year’s worth of identity theft protection for customers affected by the data breach. Seems like a fantastic idea on paper, and I agree that it’s generous compensation for their customers.
To Empower… Or Cower?
One of the main benefits of social media is the chance to showcase your brand in a way that you (or your digital agency!) create and continue developing with each interaction. Keeping negative comments and frustration on your social media page—whether its Facebook or Instagram—acts as a container for venting and frustration.
When customers have a reliable soundboard to vent their frustrations, they don’t need to seek outside solutions to talk about their concerns. Deleting customers and banning them from your brand’s social media page gives customers’ no choice but to take to other means to make sure their voices are heard. If you don’t provide that medium to hear their concerns—the rest of internet will.