Sarah Lester bought a new refrigerator in March. In June it stopped working. No problem, it's under warranty, right? Well, 12 days later, she's gotten nothing but the run-around from Curry's, the British shop where she bought the refrigerator.
In the old days, the only people who would know about this would be Lester's close friends and family. But now? In the days of social media, Lester waged a social media war. She posted to Curry's Facebook page, people commented, and whoever manages the Facebook page started deleting posts and replies. They explained that they were doing it because of bad language, but that wasn't the truth.
In the midst of this mess, Curry's CEO, Sebastian James posted the following tweet:
Thank you for another great year with profits up more than 17 pc. In all the noise we need to be the grown-ups and be lovely to customers.
-- Sebastian James (@DCSebJ) June 29, 2016
Being lovely to customers is a lovely message, but with social media, the CEO's statement that they need to be nice stands in stark contrast to the lady with 5 kids and who has had no refrigerator for 12 days. (I reached out to both Mr. James and Curry's public relations firm and neither responded.) Lester's case got resolved late yesterday-she still doesn't have a refrigerator, but at least there's a plan in place to fix it.
Curry's isn't the only company or person who doesn't understand how social media works. Another mom, Nicole Nichols, faced a more deadly problem-even though the state of Mississippi said that Medicaid covered supplies for diabetics, she couldn't get coverage for her child. She emailed state representative, Jeffrey S. Guice and asked for help. His response?
I am sorry for your problem. Have you thought about buying the supplies with money that you earn?
This was a private message, but Representative Guice forgot that a response that, in the past stayed private, can go public in a big way very quickly. Nichole posted her letter, his letter, and her response on Facebook and it went viral.
The Sun Herald summed up the mess with this headline: Guice probably wishes he hadn't hit the send button. His snarky reply, which probably took him 15 seconds to write is giving him far more than 15 minutes of fame. Fame that a politician would like to do without. Guice did issue an apology:
"I realize my remarks to Mrs. Nichols were completely insensitive and out of line. I am sorry and deeply regret my reply. I know nothing about her and her family and replied in knee-jerk fashion. I'd like to think the people of Mississippi and my constituents know that I'm willing to help where I am able."
The old statement, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything" really rings true here. Nichols emailed all the representatives, but only three responded. The others aren't being excoriated for their silence.
Remember, if you write it in an email, post it to a blog, or tweet it, it's forever and it's public. Even if you go on a deleting spree, assume people have screen shots. (Lester does.)
Also, the person running your social media should be careful to be aligned with company values. Having the CEO tweet about customer service at the same time a customer is receiving very public poor service makes it seem like the goal is lousy service and high profits.
Social media can make or break you. Make sure it works for you.