blogging and social mediaWhen you hear the names NYPD and US Airways, what comes to mind? If you’re an avid user of social media and what’s trending in brand communications, likely the words that come to mind are “Twitter” and “fail”. With major brands leveraging social media, namely Twitter and it’s fast moving conversation, perhaps a little more thought and preparation may help us to avoid their same mistakes. What did they do wrong and how can you avoid it?

Case study: NYPD

What they did wrong:

NYPD’s ambitious social media manager likely spent time convincing higher ups that #myNYPD was a good idea. Except is wasn’t. The utter disregard for the audience that follow them led to an embarrassing backlash from followers and others who joined in. What was thought as a way to get New York citizens to be publicity agents and grassroots praisers of the force, turned into a nationwide campaign to show how they really think and perceive–namely by sharing unflattering images that communicate abuse of power. Not good at all for NYPD’s reputation management.

What they should have done:

Ideally, NYPD should have figure out another way to approach the same situation or create a contingency plan, you know, in case people aren’t their clamoring-Bieber-Feverish fans. Like Newark New Jersey’s mayor, Corey Booker, whose efforts to truly engage his community and demonstrate concern, NYPD could have been listening more carefully and found a campaign that resonated with what people already had been expressing. Instead of trying to cover over a gangrenous wound with glitter spray paint, the better way to shift public opinion would have been for the marketing department and all stakeholders to discuss a real solution to citizen’s negative viewpoint. In addition to finding ways to stop police brutality or to investigate reports of such (obviously more than a marketing tactic), an initiative that allows citizens the same level of engagement of sharing pictures of police in action, with the messaging that “Help Us To Help You Better” may have helped say, “look we know you have complaints and we want to address them’.

To support future attempts to leverage social media for reputation management, social listening — monitoring the tone of what is being said, good or bad, about your brand — could help the NYPD understand their audience and find initiatives that demonstrate that they are truly in tune with the consumers they serve, in this case, local citizens.

Case study: US Airways

What they did wrong:

Just over a week ago, one of US Airways customers complained, as often people do via Twitter, and the social media manager whose job is to leverage the platform as a customer service tool, responded. Unfortunately, the response wasn’t well received by the insistently insulting patron. The social media manager then tweeted an awfully distasteful image to communicate what can be summed up as, “Take your complaint and shove it.” Ouch.

What they should have done:

The manager should have NOT tweeted that image. Apparently, the pornographic image had been tweeted to the brand, but was forwarded intentionally to the complaining customer by the US Airways staffer. First, when the manager received the image, they shouldn’t have downloaded it for safekeeping. Second, they should have stepped away from the keyboard when tempers or perversion began to flair. Third, they should have not responded anymore OR escalated the “case” so that a superior could advise of next steps or get the complainant on the phone and find a way to provide consolation or concession.

One bad tweet is not the end of the world, but the failure of US Airways to correct the problem–deleting the image over an hour later–shows a failure to understand the impact of bad customer service, the viral nature of obscenity, or reputation management and reveals a glaring need for better crisis management, especially if the crisis is an employee with no concern for the impact of their behavior on corporate communications.

True, both instances show that social media can always be done better. Afterall, with an ever changing communications landscape and the speed with which this landscape could give way, bad decision making or ignoring of best practices is bound to happen. The key in both of these cases seem to be a real disconnect with what corporate leadership wants the public to feel and what the audience truly feels. These decision makers or those executing outreach and customer service can be out of touch but must make efforts to understand and indicate a well-thought out plan to say, “We care and serve you.” Otherwise, mishaps like those mentioned above could cost these companies in a large way.

Jasmine Powers, Ambitious Diva Company

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