Social Media Mistakes Companies Make, and How They Reflect Corporate Values: Part 2 in our Social Media & Values Series

Amber Johnson Values

This is the second in a four part series. For the previous entry, which featured the American Red Cross and Nestle, please click here.

Social media mistakes happen fast: often in 140 characters or less, as we saw in last week’s post on Twitter mishaps at the American Red Cross and Nestle. In a media environment where public opinion can change at the speed of light, a company’s best approach to their social media plan is to take a good luck at their corporate values. Using these as a guideline can prevent some mistakes and offer a road map for recovery when the inevitable mishaps do occur.
In Lessons 3 and 4, we look at how social media wildfires at three companies related to the organizational values the company holds.Vodafone | Lesson 3: Admit Your Mistakes and Take Care of Them Quickly

UK mobile phone company Vodafone went on the defensive last year after an employee managing the official Vodafone Twitter account posted a message that was offensive to women and homosexuals. (More on the post here.)

Speed is a core value of the company. They responded to this Twitter-nightmare with their values in mind, immediately removing the post (though not before it had been sent to their 9,000 users and it had been re-tweeted hundreds of times) and apologizing. Later they claimed responsibility for the post – saying it was a rogue employee, who had now been suspended – and apologized again.

The verdict? Vodafone’s timely and honest response actually earned them forgiveness and an increase in new Twitter followers.

Motrin & Chevrolet | Lesson 4: Don’t Make Light of What Others Take Seriously

Both Motrin and Chevrolet have had very public video debacles. Motrin’s 2008 blunder centered on an online video that suggested “baby wearing” (using a sling or other infant carrier to hold your child) caused back pain that should be relieved by Motrin.

The tone of the text was condescending – note the use of the word “supposedly” and the implication that baby-wearing mothers have reason to cry – and the online Mommy community jumped into action, hanging Motrin by their well-used slings.

In 2006 Chevrolet experienced a similar backlash when they asked the public to make their own Chevy Tahoe ad using supplied video. A vocal community of environmental activists created several ads – which gained popularity – decrying the oil and gas consumption of the Tahoe: “Our planet’s oil is almost gone,” one said. “You don’t need G.P.S. to see where this road leads.”

You can watch one of the ads here.

Both companies were reminded that the web gives voice to small but vocal populations of critics. Expose yourself to criticism of something others hold dearly and there will be consequences.

These consequences are unavoidable for companies who want an engaging social media strategy. It’s how you respond that is important. Motrin pulled their ad and apologized quickly – but the tone of the apology was stiff. Online marketing guru Seth Godin described it as a “carefully crafted non-statement of a committee.”

Chevy, on the other hand, had anticipated some negative responses and decided to stick with the campaign. Chevy, it should be noted, is owned by GM, who lists individuality as one of their core values.

“We anticipated that there would be critical submissions,” a Chevrolet spokesperson told the New York Times. “You do turn over your brand to the public, and we knew that we were going to get some bad with the good. But it’s part of playing in this space.”

Part of playing in the social media space is opening yourself up to criticism – as the Chevrolet spokesperson said. Sticking to your values gives you the grounding you need to advance a worthy campaign, or know when to pull a misguided one.
For more on our social media and values series, return to this blog on Tuesday, November 29th. ——————————————————–
Author Amber Johnson is the CVDL’s corporate relations and social media advisor, and a non-profit and small business communications specialist.

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