COM 0015 Blog Post # 2 – Strong and Weak Organizations

When we think of strong organizations in terms of social media Starbucks, Oreo, WestJet and Tim Horton’s are some of the examples that immediately come to mind.

The strength of an organization’s social media strategy  is especially tested in situations of crisis. The way an organization chooses to manage the problem  differentiates a strong organization from a weak one.

Gini Dietrich details the following great examples of both a strong and weak organization in her book Spin Sucks – Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age.





Strong: Dominos Pizza

The employees of one Domino’s franchise made and uploaded a video to YouTube for their friends to see. The video consisted of the employees spitting and sneezing in the food and then serving it to their customers.  As one would expect, this caused quite a stir on YouTube.

The way Dominos handled the situation differentiated itself as an organization with a strong social media and communications strategy.

Upon finding the video,  Dominos:

  • Said sorry – The CEO made a public apology and uploaded  it to YouTube soon after finding this video.   The franchise whose employees made the video also created a video apology and offered discounts or free pizzas to current customers.
  • Communicated the story – Both the corporate office and the franchise used their social networks to spread the apology and the message.
  •  Addressed the problem and took  timely action – They fired the employees; made sure their apology was heard and offered a solution to ensure that this didn’t happen again.

By doing all of the above, Dominos created  trust because they handled it properly and within days of the YouTube video release.

Weak: Applebee’s Restaurant

A waitress at the St. Louis Applebee’s was fired for posting on Reddit a photo of the receipt where a pastor who had eaten at the restaurant crossed out the automatic 18% tip charged for parties of more than eight and wrote “I give God 10% why do you get 18” above her signature.

Rage spread instantaneously across all social media platforms when an image of a back of another receipt where a customer praised the service he received was found on the same franchise location’s Facebook page.  Questions such as “Why wasn’t this person fired?” and “How can this still be on your page?” turned into further criticism and negative comments  around the double standard of Applebee’s company policy.

The real issue was how Applebee’s responded next.

They began to copy and paste the same preapproved message over and over again. They were also accused of deleting negative comments and blocking users.

Applebee’s should have:

  • Thought it through before reacting.
  • Actually addressed the problem and communicated properly.
  •  Apologized instead of getting defensive and backed down when they were wrong and admitted that there was a double standard in their policy.


Source: Both case studies and tips for managing a crisis from Spin Sucks – Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age by Gini Dietrich

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Mea Culpa: We’re only Human

All companies make mistakes. Humans run them, after all.

Social media has raised the potential that company mistakes will damage their reputation. There was a time when mistakes – perhaps an inappropriate comment by an employee, or rude behaviour displayed by a customer service representative – were covered up quickly, eventually dying with only a small number of people being aware of it.

Today, mistakes such as those can become an immediate concern for the company. With Twitter and other social media tools, everyone becomes a news reporter and the distribution of news can travel worldwide in seconds. People want to share stories, or support others who they feel are being treated inappropriately by a company. Companies need to respect that and act accordingly.

Can you imagine the horror when Chrysler management noticed that the F-bomb was dropped on followers of the official Chrysler Twitter account, @ChryslerAutos, in this tweet:

“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f**king drive”

Rather than attempting to delete the tweet and pretend it never existed, the company did the right thing by deleting it and quickly tweeting an apology.

They followed up with a blog post pointing out that the tweet originated from an employee of its social media agency, and that the employee was subsequently terminated. What’s very interesting is that the @ChryslerAutos account actually gained Twitter followers following this reported incident.

When employees make mistakes, it’s best that the company own them. Customers prefer the company acknowledge the mistake and apologize. It’s best not to hide these mistakes — customers prefer to see honesty and the human element. And just as social media can damage a company’s reputation if not handled properly, it can also be used to quickly stop the damage and even turn it into a positive event.

There are many examples of companies making social mistakes. This post offers advice to help you avoid getting there in the first place!

Have you had any social media mistakes occur in your company? If so, how did you handle it?