The thorny subject of corporate social media engagement is on the radar of most people with an interest in business – after all, the corporate marketers have the largest teams, the largest Brands, the largest budgets – but, at times it seems, the least understanding of what it truly means to market effectively on social media.
However, given what’s come before it, that’s hardly surprising.
The old-school methods of command-and-control via direct marketing routes is hardly likely to cut it online with a discerning, intelligent, savvy social audience. Unfortunately, some corporate marketers are still believing their own PR – and their Brands are paying the price.
Less than a month ago, the Huffington Post carried a story about a spectacular fail by McDonalds on Twitter. And whilst some of the big boys have played the marketing game incredibly well on social media platforms, a few – such as Kwik Fit – have also failed in a major and long-term manner: to the tune of 100 customers lost per day via one blog post alone.
It was not a blog post I took lightly in writing, and had offered Kwik Fit the opportunity to resolve the situation before publishing it. They declined. It went live. The response from other aggrieved ex-Kwik Fit customers, however, has been staggering. Even ex-Kwik Fit mechanics and managers have contributed to the post.
Kwik Fit has maintained a strategy of silence.
To their detriment: the brand has been further devalued on Twitter, with the @Kwik_Fit Twitter account launching as a PR-based account, and now being forced to permanently directly tweet unhappy customers who are sharing their negative views and experiences across the Twittersphere.
The blog post grabbed the attention of BBC Watchdog, who ran a negative story on Kwik Fit – that episode caused a public stand-down from Kwik Fit management, stating they would be spending £1.5 million to improve their customer service programme.
The story was also picked up by various motoring blogs and customer service forums. All were equally condemning and vocal.
The eBook covering the whole sorry tale also sold well – and, interestingly enough, the first person to purchase a virtual copy was a London-based marketing executive, who – after further research – apparently worked for an Agency handling Kwik Fit’s marketing at the time. An example of too little, too late, really.
Furthermore, the anti-fan page on Facebook has gathered momentum, with more than 430 people sharing, talking, discussing, and generally running down the Kwik Fit brand, as they highlight their poor experiences from various branches across the UK.
The official Kwik Fit stance of silence has been doggedly maintained. The company is now £millions in debt and trying to sell up.
What lessons can be learned from such poor corporate social media engagement? I’d suggest a few simple tips here for us all:
* Avoid the situation
Avoid it going public in the first place – ensure that the corporate brand is protected and enhanced by delivering amazing service consistently. Happy customers share their experiences, but unhappy customers generally tell more people, more often.
* Deal with it
When trouble comes, why not capitalise on it? Kwik Fit could have turned the negative blog post and concurrent ex-customer comments into valuable marketing feedback to step up to the mark and improve. Did they create raving fans? No.
* Be real on social
Too many corporate marketing teams are engaging in direct marketing, old-school and sales-based ways. We don’t respond well to it. How to engage on social media? Be real, be engaged, be attentive. That’s the simplest way to avoid social media meltdowns.