There are plenty of articles, blog posts, videos, and testimonials out there demonstrating that businesses are having tremendous success using Facebook and other social media sites to communicate successfully with their customers. Those aren’t the stories that you ever hear about, though. Instead, many are terrified of a major Facebook misstep such as what recently happened to Applebee’s. Those are the stories that are told, the ones that gurus discuss and warn about in blog posts to keep pageviews going to their websites.
Just as the real world news has always had an attitude of, “if it bleeds, it leads”, news in the social media world likes to highlight the negatives. It’s no wonder that many businesses would rather see Facebook burn rather than get on and participate.
The worst part about the Applebee’s story was that they were in the right. It wasn’t a case of a bad customer experience or hidden camera video of animal abuse. It was an idiotic employee who went after Reddit karma by posting a bad tip she received. She posted an image of a credit card receipt with her less-than-sattisfactory tip that contained the customer’s signature. It went viral. She got fired. The ignorant and empowered users of Reddit and other sites came to her defense. It didn’t go well for Applebee’s on Facebook as the situation tumbled out of control.
These things happen. It stings. In a world of smartphone cameras and unprecedented exposure capacity given to anyone willing to take it, there is no way to completely safeguard against negative backlashes on social media. It can happen whether you’re on there or not. Applebee’s didn’t handle the situation properly. What’s worse is knowing that there may not have been a “proper” way of handling it. They could have done nothing which may have been better, but we’ll never know. Hindsight on social media is not 20/20. Had they not replied at all, not fired the employee, rehired the employee, taken a stronger stance, redirected out of Facebook onto their website, or any combination of possible actions, the situation could have turned out better or it could have been worse.
The bottom line is this – wishing that Facebook and social media in general never existed is not an option. Avoiding social media is an option, just not a very good one. Apple can pull it off. 99.997% of the other businesses in the world cannot. It’s best to go in knowing there’s a risk, knowing any action may be a mistake, and realizing that most of the major challenges and landmines that happen on social media are isolated. Don’t get scared by Applebee’s challenges. Be more worried about what would happen if you’re not in the conversation at all. People will be talking about you whether you’re there or not.