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Social media seems like such an pleasant, magical journey for a business to embark on. Ask a mundane question on Facebook, tweet a photo of your lunch, and the world will love you (and ultimately buy whatever you’re selling).
But social media occasionally causes instant public relations disasters – and these crises can rarely be controlled or contained.
Take Progressive Insurance, for instance. The insurance company is currently embroiled in a social media scandal that accuses them of defending killers to avoid honoring an insurance policy. The story set the Internet on fire, and Progressive’s Facebook page was flooded with pledges from customers to cancel their service.
Here are some excerpts – just from the past hour:
If that wasn’t bad enough, Progressive responded to the crisis with automated robo-tweets that stated, “We feel we’ve handled the claim within our contractual obligations.” Ouch – that one will cost you. The company is now under hot scrutiny that has caused many clients to terminate their coverage. Maybe Matt Damon’s character in The Rainmaker should have taken his legal insurance fight to the social media battleground.
If you think this can’t happen to auto dealerships, I’ll direct you to Timothy Martell’s recent Wikimotive post about Clay Nissan, which came under its own social media fire after terminating an employee just three weeks after she returned from brain radiation treatment. Now her relatives have started a boycott against the dealership using social media, which (as Martell puts it) “can make or break a business with equal aptitude.”
Realize that your actions can become an instant PR nightmare when broadcast over the internet, and make sure you monitor your social media and adequately respond to complaints and mentions.