The Social Media Nuclear Option.

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen me tweeting about an unpleasant experience I had at a restaurant yesterday. In fact, if you follow me on Twitter, you probably see me talking to and about companies on a pretty regular basis. But yesterday’s incident got me thinking about whether it’s right or not. Is blasting out negative feedback at the first slight really the appropriate way to deal with a company?

These days it is so easy to fire off an angry tweet, attach a pic, throw in a hashtag for good/sarcastic measure and expect them to read it and come running to apologize. But maybe this isn’t the right thing to do. Maybe every incident of poor service doesn’t need be immortalized on the company’s permanent record.

Without going into details, I found a foreign object in some food I was eating. It may have been harmful had it been swallowed, but it wasn’t. I was grossed out. And I didn’t have a lunch to eat any more. But other than that it wasn’t that big a deal.

Did I owe it to the company, a company that I really like and respect, to try and solve things quietly and directly before going public with my complaint? They don’t hide their identity, they don’t make it impossible to contact them. In fact, the owner’s personal email address is right on their website.

So why was my first reaction to publicly scream my complaint to 700+ people on Twitter (not to mention any possible RTs)? I can’t help but wonder if the decent thing to do would have been to try and resolve this issue quietly, with the owners and let them do what they needed to do in order to prevent future occurrences. Because here’s the thing, when the owner called me, he had already alerted every manager of every store. He rang the alarm and put the crisis team into overdrive. They checked their food, they checked their restaurants, they alerted their suppliers.

This is the right response. But this would have happened whether I tweeted out pictures and angry messages. But now, rather than just making sure it never happens again, the owners of this restaurant need to be dealing with PR fallout. And for what? The food isn’t going to be any safer because there are pictures out there. And in speaking with the owner, I am extremely confident in their commitment to their values (plus he offered me a bunch of free food when I am ready to go back).

It was just so easy to lash out in the moment. But if I had been a little more patient, I would have gotten everything I wanted.

This isn’t always the case. When Dave Carroll‘s guitar was destroyed by careless United Airlines baggage handlers, he tried to go through appropriate channels:

“They didnt deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss.”

So Dave, and his band, took to the web. They wrote a song, and produced a video, and it has been watched over 11 million times.

I have no qualms that this response was totally justified. When you try to solve it the right way, when you give the brand or business the opportunity to resolve things and they don’t, then maybe you need to unleash the nuclear option.

But until then, why not give them the benefit of the doubt and try to work things out like reasonable people?

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About Ezra Englebardt
Account planner, digital nerd, marketing guru, tweeter, occasional blogger, cyclist, snowboarder, mountain biker, social media junkie and avid reader. CU-Boulder and Boston College alum. Frequent guest speaker in Boston-area universities.

3 Responses to The Social Media Nuclear Option.

  1. You’re makin’ great points. I wonder what the ratio of positive to negative tweets directed towards B2C companies is? Having a corporate Twitter account is a necessity now-a-days, yet it’s still also voluntary. Are companies just creating a place that stores negative feedback and is more harmful to their image than helpful? I think, like you said, giving them a chance to make amends before going nuclear is totally the best way to go.

  2. Hello!I am following your blog for some days now. I have to say that it is very easy to check out . It is added in my favourite list and i will try to track it recurrently. Thanks for the nice posts . On top of that, i actually like your web template and the way you have structured your page . Is it possible to tell me the name of your template ? Thanks

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