Earlier in the semester, we wrote about how to correctly use social media and the rules and guidelines to do so. Many of us found examples of how a brand can excel when they correctly use social media guidelines and create favorable conversations with their customers. Of course, just because there are so many obvious success stories, doesn’t mean there aren’t stories about companies who have mismanaged their pages.
Earlier this year, Applebee’s was a perfect example of what happens when the social media rules and guidelines aren’t followed. “The more clarification organisations can provide and communicate around the dos and don’ts of social media, the more chance there is of employees helping to build the brand online rather than bringing the company into disrepute” (Griffiths, 41).
At the beginning of February this year, an Applebee’s waitress posted a photo of a check from a local pastor refused to leave her a tip, writing: “I give God 10% why do you get 18,” on the check with the 18% crossed out. The waitress was immediately fired for this, Applebee’s cited posting personal information of a customer online as the reason for termination.
“In the early days of social media, emergent networks changed how people connect to one another and the information that’s important to them. With each update, shared experience, and event, the world shrank. People were and are becoming increasingly connected and as a result they are more informed.” (Solis, 2013). Since this is the internet, people heard about it and were in uproar. To vent their frustration, customers flocked to Facebook and Twitter to see if anything could be done. Applebee’s was getting hundreds of people giving them a hard time for terminating the waitress when their pictures contain some personal information of customers with no backlash whatsoever.
Applebee’s chose to handle this situation over social media sites by posting status updates and comments trying to ease their customers angry comments. The status updates didn’t help their case, but Applebee’s didn’t back down, they started copying and pasting the status in the comments several times and tagging the people who were complaining, thinking that it would make them read it and understand better that this was all just a big misunderstanding, but the numerous copy and pasted responses just angered customers more.
The PR team who worked on Applebee’s social media continued to handle this situation poorly by allegedly deleting people’s posts, arguing with the customers in the comments, and by writing a Facebook post over 1,000 words long to explain the situation in full. They may have thought they were doing right by explaining the whole story to their customers, but the length turned many of them off.
The situation did, eventually, blow over, but those posts and responses will always be on their page for everybody to see. Applebee’s PR team did not handle this to the best of their ability and it really showed. How do you think they could have handled this better? Do you think if their posts were more contrite they could have had a few better responses?
Griffiths, G. (2012). Share This: The Social Media Handbook For PR Professionals. United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons Ltd