If you know me, my blog, and my social media channels, you know that I never go negative. It's not my thing and from my perspective, it's a huge waste of energy when you could be saying something positive and encouraging.
But recently, I had two very not-so-pleasant experiences with two different brands, and their responses where vastly different. Despite having a negative experience with Brand #1, I left feeling like they listened to me and responded in a swift and respectful way. Thus, creating a life-long customer, and more importantly, a life-long brand champion. I'll tweet, text, and talk to my friends about how amazing Brand #1 is due to their ability to engage with their consumers in a meaningful, transparent, and authentic way.
However, Brand #2, was extremely sloppy in their response. Perhaps not maliciously, but it still showed their lack of knowledge of how to effectively engage with consumers from a place of service and integrity. Brand #2 held an Instagram contest in which whoever posted a pic that received the most “likes” using a specific hashtag and their brand handle would win a prize.
Sounds pretty simple right? Wrong.
One would think that it would be safe to assume that the “likes” would have to be real “likes” not fake “likes” that someone bought. The Instagram contest failed to provide any clear language on when the contest would conclude, but again, one would think it was logical to assume it would end at midnight on the day before the winner would be announced, which is the standard practice in contests and giveaways.
Alas, I casually entered the contest and then realized it was basically just me and one other woman who were contenders for the prize. The moment my photo surpassed hers in real “likes” her photo went up by 2,000 “likes” within the hour. It was extremely obvious that she was buying “likes” in order to out bid me in the contest.
Even though she was blatantly cheating, and it was irrefutable as I documented each instance, rather than expose her to the brand for buying “likes” I chose to make sure to have more “likes” at midnight and to reach out to the brand directly both via email and Instagram to confirm as I didn't think it was ethical to lose to a cheater but I didn't want to call her out either. I know that blogging and social media can be some people's livelihood and I would never want to jeopardize another person's source of income by outing them as a fraud.
Nonetheless, after a few hours, Brand #2 claimed that the other woman was the winner as she continued to buy more “likes” for her pic. At that point, I reached out to the brand directly, again, and told them exactly what happened. Their response, via Instagram DM, not even a proper email, was basically, “Oh well. Better luck next time.”
Brand #2 never confirmed a cut-off time for the contest even though midnight is usually the industry standard and I asked them multiple times. Brand #2 also seemed indifferent to the fact that their contest was clearly compromised by a cheater.
So this got me thinking, was I wrong to assume that a brand would care about running a clean contest? Was I wrong to have not spoken up sooner? If the brand didn't care about the integrity of their own contest, should I? After much thought and conferring with my other influencer friends, my answer was yes.
Not to get political, and regardless of which side of the political spectrum you reside, if brands have learned anything from the current political climate of today's world, it's that integrity matters. Transparency matters. Standards matter. The way in which you respond to your consumers matters. A single hashtag, #DeleteUber, thwarted Uber's CEO political aspirations from joining Trump's Advisory Council, and severely jeopardized the brand's reputation and bottom-line. Obviously that's a more extreme example, but you get my point.
To be honest, if the woman who won wasn't going directly against me, I wouldn't have even noticed that she was cheating, but since I did and I spoke up to the brand, the situation deserved a better response than a virtual shrugging of the shoulders.
It should be noted that Brand #2 got the majority of things right. They have an amazing, super friendly, and helpful concierge service, and what the brand offers is an innovative way to get access to pleasant experiences. So it's unfortunate that this one misstep has tainted that overall experience with the brand.
So based on this experience, I've compiled three ways that brands fail at consumer engagement. But in true Candy form, I'll never give the pit without the peach, so read on for how brands can correct these missteps and turn consumers into life-long brand champions.
#1: Being social without a strategy
Jumping the gun to grow your social media channels and engagement without having a strong strategic plan when it comes to planning, implementation, and follow-up, can have detrimental effects to your brand's business, reputation, and eventually, your bottom-line.
Brand #2 did not have clear guidelines regarding the contest. If exactly what the contest is, who can win, when the contest officially begins and ends, and any other relevant stipulations for entering and winning, isn't crystal clear, then you're not doing your job.
The contest also stated that the “winners” would be announced on March 15th, but yet, only one winner was announced. If you're claiming that your brand followed the contest rules which stated the photo with the most likes, with no clear cut-off time, then how are you not upholding the rest of your contest guidelines? As a brand, you cannot have it both ways, as you can see, your consumers are watching, blogging, and commenting.
Correct it: The devil's in the detail.
Be sure to thoroughly proof read your guidelines when holding any social media contests. Make sure that you have your contest and giveaway rules extremely buttoned-up, so that there's no wiggle room for error and assumptions.
If you're unclear on how to run a clean, successful, and honest contest, then you shouldn't be running one until you get your fine print in order. And don't forget to have standards.
Of course, we can't control if people win contests through dishonest methods, but if the issue is brought to your attention by a consumer, then you should address it in an ethical way that shows the consumer exactly who you are as a brand. If a consumer feels scammed based on an experience that you provided, then you it's your obligation to correct that experience.
#2: Responding with your future strategy rather than a current solution
Brand #2 made me feel as though I had done something wrong by speaking up. They didn't offer any solution to the issue but rather they responded that “moving forward they would have more contests that didn't include likes.”
Well, that's great for future contests, but that doesn't address my current issue. I know that if I held an event, contest, or any type of experience and a consumer told me that the integrity of that experience was compromised, my response would not be, “Oh well.” I would at least look into the situation. Shrugging your shoulders at a consumers concerns is sure fire way to lose them, and quickly.
Additionally, Brand #2 made it seem as though my issue was all about the prize, but it was always about the principle. I felt scammed during an experience that they hosted. As a brand, you have to take ownership and accountability for that. We live in a transparent and social media-based world, and we will happily forgive your missteps, intentional or not, if you own them, but we will meme a brand, literally to death, for not stepping up when they falter.
Correct it: Offer a carrot to your consumer rather than a stick.
Showing them that you care and that their concerns have been addressed goes a long way and is easily done by simply offering an olive branch. If Brand #2 had shown any level of interest into converting me into a brand champion rather than treating me like nuisance, then this article would never have been written.
There's a reason why smart brands offer free returns, free shipping, gift bags, and comped services. They know that giving their consumers a carrot, regardless of how small, will convert them into loyal customers that will then give them their business and praise time-and-time again.
If Brand #2 had simply responded in a way that showed that they cared about me on very basic consumer level, then I would felt about them the way I felt about Brand #1 and would have happily given them my business and word-of-mouth praise to my friends and social media audience. It could have been as simple as sending me one of their mists, that I actually use on a daily basis and love. But honestly, a simple apology, would have been enough to suffice and correct the situation and gain me as a brand champion.
The entire point of social media, globalization, and transparency, is to humanize brands and to create authentic connections between the consumer and the corporation. You need to treat your consumer as if they were your best friend.
#3: Forgetting that tradition trumps trends
Brand #2 only responded to me through Instagram DM, and even though that's “so 2017,” when it comes to creating authentic connections with your consumers, upping your communication game is key.
The fact that I emailed about my issue and then received an Instagram DM with a lackluster response, seemed dismissive and unprofessional. Yes, I'm a tech-savvy, digital-obsessed millennial, but I'm also a person, and they way in which a brand humanizes itself is by offering to communicate with their consumers in multiple ways.
Correct it: Offer options
When a consumer comes to a brand with a concern and they only address that concern through Instagram DM, it can come across as a bit dismissive. To easily correct this, simply offer options.
Ask the consumer how they want to communicate with you regarding the issue. For some consumers, Instagram DM is fine, for others, they would prefer email, a phone call, or live chat. Simply asking the consumer goes along way and it's an easy way to show the consumer that you are putting them first and thinking about their needs.
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