Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Jason Green.
You are an established brand that is active in the social media space but are struggling to constantly create fresh, original content. Now what?
Companies, whether they know it or not, find themselves in a rat race to remain relevant as the next generation of consumers have a short attention span, are increasing fickle, and have a declining ability to comprehend content that is longer than 140 characters. Not to mention, they have numerous platforms to trash your brand indiscriminately. This has created a fertile environment for innovative and fresh thinking social media gurus to flourish. But, are brands risking their reputation by outsourcing their social media efforts without taking the proper precautions? This recent article in the New York Times seems to indicate the answer is yes.
The Chrysler example illustrates the classic faux pas of an overeager agency employee operating off of the “Sarah Palin” model. Which is say what you want, when you want, how you want, and deal with the consequences later. A good idea in theory but not when put into practice. Turns out that the people of Detroit did not find the humor when their beloved Chrysler (@ChryslerAutos) tweeted “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f**king drive.” Instant online firestorm. Check. Agency fired. Check. Employee fired. Check. And just when the “imported from Detroit” campaign was taking off.
Another popular tactic that seems like a sure thing, given our country’s love affair with celebrities, is to give the celebrity of your choice free reign as a brand ambassador. OMG, did Taylor Swift just tweet about how much she loves Neutrogena’s exfoliating hand scrub?! A strategy that is easily facilitated by companies like ad.ly that “helps brands connect with consumers via today’s most influential celebrities, athletes and artists on Facebook, Twitter and more.” The website boasts clients such as Toyota, Microsoft, American Airlines, NBC, and Sony.
Unfortunately for Aflac, they seem to have gone rogue by selecting insult comic Gilbert Gottfried (yes, Gilbert Gottfried) as a social media ambassador. A great decision up until the point that he began poking fun at, according to the New York Times, a market that accounts for 75 percent of Aflac’s revenue – Japan. Too soon? Yes, Gibert, too soon. Good thing Aflac has a crisis PR team on retainer!
So, how do you ensure that your brand is taking advantage of social media rather than eroding years of careful brand positioning with one tweet? Take a step back, a deep breath and implement a social media quality control system.
It is critical to develop a process and system for engagement on each social media platform. Spoiler alert: social media is not as free flowing and organic as it may appear. It is essential to spend time developing a well thought out news flow with conversation topics and approved messages. We can’t give away all of the secrets but here are a few questions to mull over:
• Who will own and manage your brands social media strategy? Will it be in-house, an agency (is it the right agency?), or a combination of both?
• How is your brand perceived in the market place and is there room to push the envelope? How edgy is too edgy?
• Is any publicity good publicity?
• Will a celebrity partnership enhance your social media strategy and how do you align your brand image with the correct spokesperson?
• Do you want to participate in real-time conversations? If so, who is authorized to approve messages on the fly?
A brand is a terrible thing to waste, and one twitpic gone awry can sink your brand, cost your agency a client, or turn you into a 99er. So, think before you tweet.
Thanks and I couldn’t agree more, Julie. Social media must be used as a strategic communications tool for a company/brand/individual and is less of a stream of consciousness than people think. Unless, of course, you do not care about the consequences…
Great post. I think it’s wise to show discretion on Twitter (or any public platform) not only when posting messages on behalf of your company/brand, but on behalf of yourself, also. If one’s personal opinions on politics or anything else are deemed offensive and go viral for some reason, I am sure one’s job would be in jeopardy.
Only time will tell if firing the agency, its employee, and Gilbert Gottfried will allow Aflac and Chrylser to slink back into the darkness while licking their wounds relatively unharmed. Note the reference to a smart and capable crisis PR team above. I think the larger point is to use these examples as a cautionary tale of how one seemingly harmless social media slip up could potentially tarnish your brand beyond repair.
While I agree that letting Gilbert Godfrey go was the right thing to do, I wonder how many people actually knew he was the voice of the Aflac duck. Furthermore, if firing a celeb endorser negates any negative press that a company received (given the 1 hour memory of most), I guess that explains why companies choose controversial spokesmen and women and don’t really worry about the short term consequences that they may need to fix (i.e. fire).
Well said. Perhaps, Gilbert wore his Sunday best to the meeting and presented a well thought out strategy to enhance the brand through insensitive treatment of a natural disaster? Or maybe my suspicions have been confirmed, and his “voice” is a carefully executed component of his image that is rarely, if ever used in a business setting?
Very interesting topic and a great reminder to think before Tweeting/posting. One would assume that most PR professionals would be cautious when running any social media tool on behalf of a client, especially when it is that particular company’s brand on the line. Clearly, that’s not the case.
I do find it interesting that Aflac thought giving Gottfried (though an insult comic, let’s not forget his stint as the voice of a cartoon parrot) the reigns on their social media was going to end well.
A good question. Tough to speculate what led to this incident but I think that underscores the message of the post, quality control. Clearly, there was a break in the system or lack of a system that knocked over the first domino…
Nice post. A good reminder about the need for quality control especially considering the frequency of the incidents like the ones you mentioned. While I find the outcome of the Chrysler employee expressing his or her road rage via the employer’s twitter account amusing, obviously Chrysler, the city of Detroit, etc. beg to differ…
Do you think it was more of a deliberate attempt or an egotistical moment?
Thanks for getting the discussion going, Brad. While I agree, I wonder if his/her sloppy attempt at producing “buzz worthy” content has generated the desired effect. Are you more aware of Chrysler’s social media platforms and ongoing PR/branding efforts now? Dare I ask if you now count yourself as one of their 8.853 followers?
Who would have the audacity to besmirch the Great City of Detroit, home of… Jerome Bettis and location for the filming of “hit” ABC cop-drama Detroit 187?