How To Utilize Social Media: Don’t Be An Applebee’s

Social media has easily become one of the staples of our culture. I have not met many college age people without some sort of online presence Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, or Google+ (the minority intentionally belonging to this group), nearly everybody interacts with others online in some sort of fashion.  In fact, while writing this post, I’ll keep track of how many times I check the social media platforms that I belong to (predominately Facebook and Twitter) just to prove how often people in my age use social media. I may discover an underlying addiction that I never thought I would have. That being said, why should a company use social media to boost their online presence? Isn’t regular advertising good enough? Sadly, in this current day and age, that couldn’t be further from the truth. If a company strives to succeed in their industry, they need to maintain some sort of connection through social media.

First things first; Why should your company use social media? “Isn’t that just creating a job for someone who might be graduating soon and looking for a job?” Au contraire mon frere. Social media is vital to your company’s very existence. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but it is estimated that at least 79% of companies are either currently using social media, or are planning to use it in the near future. 79% is a very significant portion of users, and you can bet that some of your competitors will be included in that group. Even though that is a large percentage of users, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s still a good idea though, right? Wrong. As Moz states in their new Guide to Social Media:

“Because so much of the customer experience now lives on the web, social media enables brands to take part in customer’s online experience outside of the typical channels”

Another great point that Moz makes in their guide, through the use of social media, companies are able to evolve their relationships with their customers from “Like” to “Love” to “Defend”. This means that if you have cultivated your customer relationships well, then the people that give you their business will not only be loyal to buy from you, but also come to your aid and defend you when other consumers attack you. Not to sound like too much of a militia type thing, but you have pretty much created an army to help defend you. That’s nice, right?

Bruce Lee Fight

It’s like having Bruce Lee volunteering to fight for you.

Also, with the use of social media, your company is able to interact with customers in a variety of ways. One way that has become rather popular is content creation. I may have referenced it in a previous post, but My Starbucks Idea is a fantastic example of this. Even though that isn’t based on any “rented” social media platform (meaning something like Facebook), this still proves the power of something such as content creation, on the user’s side. Creating something very similar like that is easy to do on a site like Facebook, and with so many people on that site, it has the ability to reach a large audience.

The time has come. I have finally convinced you to use social media. But, what platforms should you use? Facebook and Twitter are both good starting points. 11% of Earth’s entire population is active on Facebook, and the use of Twitter is expected to continue to grow around 6% per quarter. The current average tweets per day is somewhere around 500 million. That’s a lot of information being transferred. Facebook has so many users on it, that attracting potential customers would not prove to be a challenge at all, and you could use Twitter to answer customer’s questions, as well as retweet praise that they give you. What it comes down to is; Social media allows for a more in depth relationship with your customers, allowing you to communicate with them from anywhere, on any device that can use internet. That’s some pretty powerful stuff.

A fair warning however: there can be a poor uses of social media. A perfect example of this is Applebee’s. In early 2013, a server at an Applebee’s restaurant received a note that said “I give God 10%, why do you get 18”. Personal feelings towards this message aside, a few things started to happen that caused a cavalcade of criticism (bonus points for alliteration?) towards the restaurant. First, they posted a statement on their Facebook page pretty much summing up why the server was fired, and issued a general apology stating that disciplinary action was taken. After the picture of the receipt was shared a few times, and 17,000 comments on the original Applebee’s status update later, at 2 am the restaurant decided to go on the offensive (or maybe it was the defensive?) and comment on their thread.

It was around this time that things started to get, as I would call it, Bananas. A few comments later (about 8,000) Applebee’s started to argue with people in the comments section, and in some cases delete comments or even ban users. They then posted another status , which also received a lot of flak from customers (at that point some would call them former customers). Eventually, Applebee’s deleted their status updates, along with all of the comments. This was, to put it mildly, an absolute disaster.

Oven Baked Salmon Infomercial

A visual representation of the Applebee’s status updates

So, what did Applebee’s do wrong? So so sooooo much. For one, it isn’t necessarily the best idea to start defending yourself at 2 am. That’s just a weird time to start. Also, picking fights with your customers is a pretty terrible idea. And those are just the “common sense” things. There was clearly no protocol in place for a PR nightmare such as this, and their Facebook engagement just made things worse. Banning users and deleting comments is also a pretty bad idea, since people are kinda smart and realize that they can post things not just on a company’s Facebook page. In fact, besides not having a protocol, Applebee’s was just not prepared for any negative feedback on Facebook in general.

For one, they probably should have been a bit more clear about how to handle a situation like this. They also should have had a clear plan in place for what to do during a negative press situation such as this. The biggest thing they could have done however was act human. Showing empathy can go a long way, and even though it would not have necessarily made everything “fine and dandy”, it definitely would have been able to contain the amount of bad press they received.

If only Moz had written their book a bit sooner

For the full story of Applebees’ disaster, check out this play-by-play:

And thanks to Moz for their awesome Guide to Social Media! Check it out here:


Twitter checks: 10

Facebook checks: 7


2 thoughts on “How To Utilize Social Media: Don’t Be An Applebee’s

  1. Pingback: Google Plus: Where Social Media And Searching Come Together | Digital Jungle-Gym

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