The Modern Marketer

Keeping up with the times

Applebee’s: A Lesson in Media Mishaps

Talk about corporate and social suicide.

“While most marketers now use social media, too few have found the keys to unlocking its potential.” –Master The Next Wave Of Social

As Applebee’s demonstrated in an incident earlier this year, they have clearly not read The Social Marketing Playbook. They also apparently missed an important life lesson in not coming off as a complete schmuck. For those of you who haven’t heard about this, what it boils down to is that whoever was in charge of Applebee’s Facebook and Twitter accounts on February 2nd-3rd created an absolute PR nightmare. An incident occurred in which an employee was fired due to what Applebee’s called a “breach in privacy”. The story went viral, and Applebee’s Facebook page exploded with consumers’ negative feedback and outrage on behalf of the woman fired. Rather than waiting till morning and issuing a PR statement, someone on Applebee’s end began posting status updates, making argumentative comments on posts to their wall, and deleting comments and posts made by consumers. “Commenting on your own status update during the biggest PR disaster in the history of your company at 2:53 am is the exact definition of social media suicide.”- R.L. Stollar

This ungainly and frankly unintelligent response from Applebee’s led to a flood of even more negative comments, and a whopping 1.4 million views of the story. That’s a whole lot of customers to lose in a 24 hour period. Below are just a few of the more than 41,000 consumer comments.

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So Applebee’s PR failed. But responding to consumer concerns isn’t always bad.

“Pinpointing conversations for responding at a personal level is another form of social-media engagement. This kind of response can certainly be positive if it’s done to provide customer service or to uncover sales leads. Most often…responding is a part of crisis management. Last year, for example, a hoax photograph posted online claimed that McDonald’s was charging African-Americans an additional service fee. The hoax first appeared on Twitter, where the image rapidly went viral just before the weekend as was retweeted with the hashtag #seriouslymcdonalds. It turned out to be a working weekend for the McDonald’s social-media team. On Saturday, the company’s director of social media released a statement through Twitter declaring the photograph to be a hoax and asking key influencers to ‘please let your followers know’ The company continued to reinforce that message throughout the weekend, even responding personally to concerned Tweeters. By Sunday, the number of people who believed the image to be authentic had dwindled, and McDonald’s stock price rose 5 percent the following day.”-Demystifying Social Media

In cases like this one, McDonald’s helped their situation by responding…rather than furthering the damage as Applebee’s did.

And Applebee’s isn’t the only company making these social media blunders. Gap, American Apparel, Stub hub, KitchenAid, Microsoft, Chick-Fil-A, Celeb Boutique, American Riflemen and Snickers (just to name a few) had mishaps as well. Whether it’s an insensitive Tweet or an ongoing PR failure, companies are learning the hard way that they have to watch what they are saying online…and who they have behind their social media pages.


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