Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Social Media Fail
Nearly every business owner knows by now that they should probably have a Facebook page. The trouble is, many of them don't know why.
Most will say that it's to help their consumers learn more about their brand, or that it might in some vague way enable their consumers to spread their (the company's) brand messages. Or they simply want one because their competitors have one.
While none of this is untrue, the most important thing to remember is that it all starts with a strategy. Like any marketing activity, a Facebook page must fit with the overall brand message and be integrated into all of the other marketing activities.
Furthermore, any social media marketing activity must have a plan for when things go south.
Witness the recent activity on the Facebook page for ski resort Sunshine Village. It has been gathering interest for the wrong reasons.
Apparently several senior members of the mountain patrol staff were recently fired. The reasons for their firing have not been made public, but according to the rumourmill (on their Facebook page) the firings were controversial. So much so that a large majority of the staff chose not to come to work the following day to support their fired colleagues. This led to most of the mountain being closed, and a number of upset customers who had driven fair distances only to have the bunny hills available.
What has followed has been nothing short of a social media PR disaster for the mountain. One that every marketer should study.
On January 19th, it was announced that a number of the employees were sick, and that 9 of the 12 lifts would be closed that day. This post was made at 10:34 AM, not exactly enough time to allow people to make other plans. Following the post are 88 comments, many of them from locals who claim to know the real reason the lifts were closed; the staff were on strike to protest unfair firings. According to some posts, the original four were fired after confronting some people who were skiiing in a closed area of the mountain, one of whom is a family member of the owner.
The comments express some serious anger toward the mountain for decisions made that led to this. And for being essentially closed (except for bunny hills) on short notice. Among those 88 comments, many of which are scathing for the resort, Sunshine Village responded exactly zero times.
In another bit of storyline, two other staff members claim they were fired for participating in the non-work-day protest. Apparently some of the fired staffers are seeking legal advice.
Subsequent posts in the following days by Sunshine Village on their page offer status reports of which lifts were open. But none addressed the concerns raised in the comments. Each of these posts garnered significant comments, again many of them scathing.
In perhaps the worst bit of PR I've seen in a long time, the January 24th post by Sunshine Village on their Facebook page was this:
So instead of addressing the general concerns of their Facebook fans, they effectively accused them of collective bad behaviour. Instead of facing the issues, they became defensive.
This has led to a number of other scathing comments on their Facebook page. Clearly, Sunshine had no plan to deal with their public relations via Facebook in a time of crisis. And it has now also spilled over onto Twitter, Yelp and probably other social media areas. Not to mention the writeups in the local newspaper, the Calgary Sun and on the CBC news website.
Although they did offer a $20 discount that day (off a $70+ lift ticket), that wasn't enough. Anybody who showed up that day should have been allowed to ski their 3 open lifts for no charge, AND should have been given a voucher for another free ski day.
More importantly, at no time did Sunshine step forward and say (via their Facebook page) "Yes, we know there are some challenges with our staffing right now, and we are working to resolve those issues. We are also sorry to inconvenience anybody who was planning to ski at Sunshine Village on January 19th."
Instead they have allowed the rumours to fester and accused their Facebook fans of bad behaviour.
Marketers need to have a plan. Social media needs to be based around a strategy. And contingencies must be in place to deal with crises. Otherwise, you are just flailing in the dark.
(See the follow up to this post)