I am loathe to blog about a topic when it seems that everyone in the ‘Social Media Bubble’ has already covered it, but the recent spat between Ragu and Social Media-savvy dads just keeps pulling me back in.
First, above is a list of the tweets that @RaguTweets sent out to ‘influential’ dads on Twitter pointing them toward this video:
As you can see, that video is pretty condescending to dads. So when you purposely target dads that you deem to be influential and social media savvy with a video that talks down to them, guess what happens? Thaaaaaaat’s right! Those dads turn to social media to call your brand out as being clueless idiots.
Did we REALLY not see this coming?
As C.C. said on his blog: “When my first interaction with a brand is an @ spam on Twitter … and when I engage and yet see nothing to welcome me … that is a turn-off. Follow that up with a video that insults me and my friends? Yeah, not exactly the welcoming committee I would have expected.”
What made this situation worse (as it usually does in the case of a ‘social media firestorm’) is that Ragu took a half day or more to respond to the dads they had spammed with the above tweets. As I keep saying, most social media firestorms aren’t caused by the brand’s/org’s initial action that triggers the discussion, it’s by how the brand/org REACTS (or doesn’t), to that firestorm. Here’s a couple of examples:
1 – Motrin Moms. The discussion started I believe on a Saturday on Twitter, and Motrin never responded. By Sunday, the anger had reached a fever pitch on Twitter because the brand wasn’t addressing the complaints over one of their ads. So someone figured out who their agency was, and contacted them to ask for a response to the outcry on Twitter about the Motrin ads, to which the agency rep gave the now infamous response of ‘What’s Twitter?’ Motrin’s mistake was that they weren’t monitoring online conversations about their brand, and when you drop a new ad on Friday and go home for the weekend, you run the risk that said ad might generate some discussion that you want to be aware of, over the weekend.
2 – The Red Cross and #gettinslizzard. The Red Cross did the exact opposite in handling a ‘rogue tweet’ from an employee that was accidentally sent from The Red Cross account instead of the employee’s account where she MEANT to tell her friend that she had the beer they were going to be drinking that night. So it looked like The Red Cross was tweeting that they were #gettinslizzard. There was an immediate reaction to this tweet, but to The Red Cross’ credit, they quickly jumped all over this, and within an hour had deleted the tweet, and explained the situation. This totally changed the reaction to the event, and turned detractors into evangelists, and The Red Cross actually ended up seeing a nice bump in blood donations as a result.
So in closing, I think there are two key lessons that brands need to take away from this whole episode with Ragu:
1 – If you are going to use social media sites and tools to promote yourself, you have to be prepared to respond to customer feedback via those same sites and tools. Again, what Ragu did was effectively spam these dads with links to videos that talked down to them. That’s a recipe for backlash from those same dads that anyone can see coming a mile off. But when Ragu didn’t respond to criticism via Twitter till the next day, their slow response time became part of the frustration for the dads, and only made a bad situation worse. As Gini says, you can’t commit to using tools your customers are using to be social, as sales channels only. Your customers have an expectation that if you are going to use social media, that you will be….social.
2 – Understand that reaching out to influencers is a double-edged sword. The great thing about influencers is that they have reach and the ability to connect with large networks. The bad thing about influencers is that they usually have little to no affinity for your brand. When Ragu targeted influential dads and then spammed them with a condescending message, they were setting themselves up to get slammed. And then they haven’t helped matters with their response in MediaPost which basically reads as ‘sure, we got some things wrong, but so did the dads as well’. The very thing that attracted Ragu to reach out to these influencers (large network, they are influential) is the very thing that sparked this brouhaha because of a poorly-conceived strategy and message.
This is also why I think that brands need to invest more time in connecting with their advocates and fans. Look at what Dell (Disc: I’ve worked with Dell on this project) has done with #DellCAP. They have a Customer Advisory Panel in place made up of Dell brand advocates. These are special customers that Dell can bounce ideas off of, and get direction from. If Ragu had a similar group in place, they could have reached out to them and gotten feedback on this idea. My guess is Ragu’s advocates would have seen what would happen, and advised the brand to try a different approach.
In closing, I wanted to share an ‘old’ video from Gary Vee recapping how he handled a potential social media firestorm that affected his business. As you watch this, pay close attention to how Gary explains that he responded to the criticism via the exact same channels and tools where that criticism was occuring.