Reputation (mis)management??

‘I shop at Waitrose because… I don’t like being surrounded by poor people’: Internet jokers hijack ‘posh people’s supermarket’ Twitter stunt

Internet Lesson 1.01: Once it’s out there – you can’t take it back!

Whilst Waitrose would sooner like to forget this PR disaster the memory lives on thanks to the ‘www’ and  although this campaign took place in September it still has viral traction!  Last week I received one of those email ‘forwards’ from a friend and this was the joke being passed around – this one’s got a good shelf life!

In September The Daily Mail published the latest social media casualty: the Waitrose twitter (failed) campaign on why people shopped there.  It was a PR disaster!  Waitrose trying to shed its reputation for being just for the rich were doing a good job reinforcing the message; the ‘Waitrose Esssentials’ range and even their brand match campaign ‘Our prices on branded grocery products are now identical to Tesco’s’.  The twitter campaign was intended to get ‘regular’ shoppers to tweet the reasons they shop at Waitrose, however the campaign got hijacked with the majority of tweets reinforcing the posh positioning! It’s worth reading the full article but here are few of the ‘unexpected responses’ :

  • ‘I shop at Waitrose because Clarrisa’s pony just WILL NOT eat ASDA Value straw,’ one said
  • Another said: ‘I shop at Waitrose because the toilet paper is made from 24ct gold thread’
  • ‘ASDA peacock feed isn’t as nice’ was anothers response

So whilst this has been dissected many times over, it worth highlighting a few lessons on social reputation management that we can learn from this;

1. Be clear on the objective

Be clear about what you want to achieve and set your goals accordingly.  The open question Waitrose asked left them open to ridicule.  With a medium like twitter there are a number of free ‘buzz tools’ available that help you understand and gauge sentiment.  Let the data drive the decisions!  If you analyse the sentiment you’ll get a wealth of information what your customers are talking about.  Develop realistic goals for example, monthly campaigns talking about the key sentiments for that particular period.  No-one likes pushy sales messages!

2. The customer is king!

With social media the customers often have a greater share of voice than the brand – you don’t make the rules!  Social Media is about dialogue; engaging with your customers . You’re invited to their party not the other way around.  Find the ‘pollinators’- opinion leaders and influencers.  These are your brand ambassadors that influence your target audience.  Find effective ways to spread the message through these channels to the multiple existing social communities.  These numerous (actually in their millions) communities represent your earned media, and using these communities managers to socialise your brand is highly effective.

3. Have a Social Policy

This doesn’t have to be complicated.  When you send out a press release it’s standard that you know within your company who will be fronting the press calls. Just because twitter does not require the same process to sending out a press release doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be measures in place that help employees understand the social media ‘rules of engagement’.  For example, what they can tweet about, tone of voice, impact of personal handles (twitter account), chain of command for when it goes ‘pear-shaped’ etc. Everyone within the business should be encouraged to be a SM champion from the CE, to the development team, client services etc.  It’s less about control but more about putting guidelines and best practice in place.

Nothing is fool proof, so ensure that you have a fall back plan for crisis management – particularly who is the ‘go-to-person’ and how to approach the negative sentiment.  It also goes without saying, measure everything!  If you’re consistent in measuring the results you’ll soon figure what works best.

In conclusion, whilst everyone is busy with year-end results, consider your 2013 targets. Have you got a 2013 social media plan for your own, earned and paid media?

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