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No Laughing Matter

Social media hoaxes may be funny to the perpetrators, but they can do serious damage to brand reputation

Social media hoaxes may be funny to the perpetrators, but they can do serious damage to brand reputation

 

Social media is manna from heaven for pranksters. Even though some brands and companies seem to be experts in making social media faux pas, satirists and spoofers have embraced the medium as a means of freeing their inner David Thorne.

Of course to those companies being spoofed, these hoaxes are no laughing matter – as Just Jeans has discovered recently. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, the fashion retailer recently experienced a hoax account on its Facebook page that ‘played havoc on users’.

Visitors who posted comments on the page received responses from an account registered as ‘Just Jeans’ and featuring the retailer’s logo as its profile image. Which is precisely what you would expect, given that Social Media Marketing Lesson 1 is ‘engage with your customers’.

 Except…

The respondent wasn’t Just Jeans but a hoaxer masquerading as the store. As a result, as the Herald reports, ‘One customer was told their comment was “so last year”, while others directed to an online “voucher” that showed an offensive picture of [AFL] footballer Ben Cousins.

‘Another customer, who left a positive message about customer service, was told the staff member involved had “filed a complaint” against her.’

Needless to say, these people were less than happy, but the fact that it took Just Jeans 12 hours to realise the problem, block the person responsible, delete the fake comments and assure their customers that they were doing everything possible to rectify the problem is a cause for concern.

 The importance of monitoring

Monitoring your social media presence – be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or whatever – is an essential part of any social media and content marketing strategy.

To begin with, monitoring is a prerequisite for engagement. After all, how can you have a conversation with people if you don’t know what they are saying? But careful, close monitoring also enables companies to avoid the sort of situation being experienced now by Just Jeans and Jetstar in November last year when a hoaxer hijacked its Facebook page.

Moreover, as The Message reported at the height of last year’s Target fiasco, ‘companies are responsible for the comments posted by others on their corporate Facebook page. So if someone has posted something racist, sexist, otherwise offensive or libellous, the company is responsible’. Which means there is now a legal necessity to closely monitor your social media output.

Of course, that doesn’t mean deleting every single post that criticises you. Weeding out trolls is fine, but taking criticism on board and showing that you can learn from it is crucial when it comes to creating meaningful relationships with customers.

Simply deleting posts or suddenly changing privacy settings sends out one of two messages: either that, despite your rhetoric, you don’t really care about the thoughts and opinions of your social media audience (your customers, in other words); or that you don’t really understand social media – in which case you probably shouldn’t be using it.

Regular contact is crucial

Perhaps the most damaging detail to emerge from the Just Jeans hoax is not the hoax itself but the fact that store’s Facebook page, which has a reasonably impressive 18,600 ‘likes’ had not been visibly active since December. Even allowing for the Christmas break, that hardly speaks of a company that wants to engage with its customers.

With social media, it really is all or nothing. As Just Jeans has found, simply setting up a Facebook page is not enough – indeed, it can be quite disastrous if not supported by a cogent strategy for monitoring and managing all social media output.

 

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