Social Media Lost Its Edge: Why?

Have you noticed that social media lost its edge? Everyone wants to be super nice, keep their nose clean, and avoid topics that could cause any dissent. Now don’t get me wrong, content that is considered prejudiced or intolerant can cause a lot of damage to a brand. And it doesn’t have to be posted directly to the company’s social media site either. It can be a mistake made by an employee that instantly smears a company’s reputation. But these overly nice, ‘how’s the weather by you?’ posts aren’t engaging by any means. So, where is the happy medium? Where is the point at which social media creates a dialogue without being shocking and detrimental to a brand?

Let’s take the Applebee’s scandal from last year as an example. A disgruntled waitress posted an obnoxious note on a receipt from a customer who was too cheap to leave a tip (we’ll leave it at that). They fired the employee who posted the pick siting privacy issues. If that didn’t get them enough negative attention, they then posted an apology for the employee’s actions, actions which the Internet seemed to support. In an effort to be overly nice to one customer who didn’t tip a waitress, a chain restaurant earned themselves tens of thousands of negative online remarks and threats of boycotts. That’s what happens when you are too nice on social media.

Just as an aside, Applebee’s also made the mistake of deleting negative posts. Just because you feel you have to be nice on social media doesn’t mean that everyone else has to live by your company policy.

That having been said, there are a few risks that you shouldn’t take on social media. The primary one is that you shouldn’t try to capitalize on a catastrophic tragedy that occurs. Yes, it’s on everyone’s mind. No, they don’t want you to try and turn it into a PR stunt. Also, it’s important to plan ahead for what you will do if a social media post does go awry. Be ready to apologize and take the hit—if your brand screwed up. Don’t apologize if the Internet is on your side or your employee’s side (refer back to the example above).

Social media lost its edge by trying to be uncontroversial. It may be time to flip the conventional wisdom on its head. Speaking on a controversial issue can start an expansive dialogue and give the opportunity to show customers your brand values.