Applebee’s Online Firestorm

Your favorite company is in the middle of a crisis. The store has spoken on their political agenda, a racist tweet was sent out on the company Twitter account, or the CEO has been accused of embezzlement. These crises are real – and they happen.

Do you expect a press release to go out to inform the consumers? Do you have expectations that a company representative will go on a talk show to speak on the situation? This probably would have happened a couple of years ago, and companies may still try to resolve crisis in these ways today, but it is no longer a first reaction. Today, with social media being such a crucial aspect of public relations, companies are more likely to issue an apology via their social media accounts. An Adweek study shows that 9 out 10 companies with over 100 employees are using social media. You may not get clarification on the issue right away, but you do see immediate action.

To have successful interactions with the consumers during a crisis on social media, the responding company should be an active part of the online conversations. In a world full of online conversations, the company can do a lot of harm to itself by staying quiet. Not having a crisis communications plan for multiple social media platforms is a recipe for disaster.  

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For example, a waiter at Applebee’s posted a photo online of a snarky comment she received on a check. As a result she was later fired. Then the guest who wrote the note also apologized online for making the snarky comment. The internet took this situation by storm! Many social media users believed that the waiter should not have lost her job because it was not her fault. Applebee’s had an apology ready to send to their social media accounts, but what about a plan of the comments that were guaranteed to follow?

There was no plan for follow up posts and it got messy – fast. What followed was Applebee’s deleting its own posts, deleting comments, and lying about what was happening on its Facebook account. To top the situation off, Applebee’s Facebook account was seen arguing with others in the comments. This was an overnight crisis that ripped Applebee’s Facebook to shreds and really showed how unprepared for a crisis they were. The best they could do in the morning was apologize and move on. The damage had already been done.

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Don’t be like Applebee’s. Be prepared for a social media crisis and the comments that will follow!

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