How to Respond When Social Media Attacks Your Brand

For all the praise that brand advertisers have for social media, they must be aware that it’s very much a double-edged sword. And for all the free marketing, advertising and brand promotion via Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and other platforms used to help build an identity and relationship with your customers, it can just as quickly turn on you and your brand.

Social media disasters occur for a number of reasons, the first being that your company probably messed up. It may not have been intentional, but something, somewhere down the line, went wrong enough for someone to complain and was wrong enough for others to vocalizing that complaint en masse. One mistake is all it takes for social media to turn against your brand.

No one is perfect and you can’t expect to please everyone all the time, so the best trick is to be prepared for how to handle things if your company finds itself under attack in the social realm. Here are three examples of companies who were attacked by social media and how they handled, or should have handled the situation. Learn from their mistakes or successes so you can stay on social media’s good side.

1. Ann Taylor

This past July, LOFT, a brand owned by Ann Taylor Inc., posted photos on its Facebook page of a tall, blonde model wearing LOFT’s new silk cargo pants, with a click-to-buy link in the captions.

What happened next is a perfect example of how social media can suddenly turn on you, even when you’ve done nothing “wrong,” or seemingly out of the ordinary. Fans of the brand complained that while the pants looked good on the model, they weren’t so flattering on anyone who wasn’t 5’10 and stick thin.

Fans requested that LOFT prove their pants could look good on “real women.” And they did. The following day, the company posted photos to Facebook again, this time with their own staff posing in the pants. The “real women” came from different company departments and ranged from a size 2 to size 12, and in height from 5’3″ to 5’10”.

What to Learn from Ann Taylor

This is a perfect example of how to turn a possible threat via social media into an opportunity. Ann Taylor had the good sense to stop the attack before it escalated. Here customers had a direct and valid complaint about a product and how it was featured. The company did the best thing possible, they stayed calm and listened to the comments. They took the comments into consideration and came up with a constructive resolution.

By responding to Fan requests to post photos of women of different sizes wearing the pants, the company proved that they really do listen and care about their customer concerns, and they were able to back up the product. It’s a double win for Ann Taylor as they actually gained customer support, while avoiding a potential disaster.

2. Southwest Airlines

This past February, Southwest Airlines kicked director Kevin Smith off a flight from San Francisco headed to Los Angeles for being too fat. Smith had apparently failed the armrest test, meaning that because he couldn’t fit between the two armrests, he would have to purchase an extra seat. Since he was flying standby and the plane was full, there were no extra seats for him to purchase and he was asked to get off the plane, and was offered a $100 voucher by the airline, but the incident was far from over.

While it’s somewhat refreshing that Southwest provides the same customer service to all their customers regardless of their level of fame, it might not have been the best idea to tick off someone who is very vocal on Twitter and has 1.6 million followers.

Smith countered that he wasn’t large enough to be the safety risk Southwest claimed he was, and he tweeted up a storm that caused a social media disaster. According to Position², a search and social media marketing firm, in a span of six days, the incident generated 3,043 blog mentions, 5,133 forum posts and 15,528 tweets.

For their part, Southwest was quick to respond — 16 minutes after Smith’s first tweet regarding the incident, they tweeted: “@ThatKevinSmith hey Kevin! I’m so sorry for your experience tonight! Hopefully we can make things right, please follow so we may DM!”

Of course, it didn’t stop there as Smith continued rant-tweeting about six tweets for every one response from the airline. The tweets finally stopped as Southwest posted the whole story, including a briefing of a later conversation with Smith, explaining to others what had happened on the plane, and the company’s explanation for why it happened, which included an apology.

What to Learn from Too Fat to Fly

Southwest had a plan, which is something that is necessary if you want to avoid being burned by social media. They monitored their online presence, quickly identified a problem brewing, and responded in a quick and friendly manner.

Because of this, many of the responses on their own blog were sympathetic to the company’s side of the incident. Not only did the company apologize, but they offered a refund as they had clearly embarrassed a customer. But they also made sure to take the opportunity to restate their police of requiring larger customers to purchase two seats, so as to make people understand why the incident occurred in the first place.

Make sure your company is alert and monitoring your presence on social media sites, and make sure you are ready with a plan to remedy the situation. Here, responding quickly saved the company a lot of time and effort later.

3. Pretzel Crisps

Most recently Pretzel Crisps launched an ad campaign in New York City with four slogans, including “You can never be too thin.” The campaign launched in early August with that slogan gracing bus shelters and ad stands and caught the attention of the blogosphere after a photo was posted online.

The photo was re-posted to the women’s blog Jezebel and was followed by condemning posts, tweets, and videos from other bloggers. In fact, I was one of the people who vocalized a problem with this particular campaign. The slogan the company picked is a “thinspiration” motto used by the pro-anorexic community, and was called “irresponsible” and accused of promoting unhealthy weight loss.

The company responded first on Twitter to offended tweeters with replies of, “Thin just happens to be a good word to describe the shape of our product.” As outrage escalated the VP of Marketing participated in interviews with bloggers and explained, that they were a small company and simply wanted to launch an ad that would grab people’s attention. As bloggers continued to post, a video made its rounds of one New Yorker’s protest calling the ads a “disgrace” and listing facts about eating disorders.

The same day, Pretzel Crisps sent out an e-mail to bloggers thanking them for their feedback, as well as tweeting, “We didn’t intend to advocate unhealthy weight loss with our ads. Thanks to all for the feedback. The ads will be taken down asap.”

The blogosphere rejoiced feeling that they actually accomplished something, only to learn that the company replaced the offending ad with another play on a pro-anorexic slogan, “Tastes as good as skinny feels,” from the initial campaign.

Further outrage from bloggers was met this time with the brush off: “While dialoging with some of the bloggers, I mentioned that ‘you can never be too thin’ was just one of four tag lines that we had running throughout the city…The only one that people commented on was the ‘too thin’ ad. So we removed them and replaced them with one of the other three.”

The ultimate fallout from the campaign is still yet to be seen, and many blog commenters agree that it was probably the company’s goal to anger people and get the free publicity. But is free publicity really worth tweets like, “Congratulations; you have ruined your product for me forever with your pro-ana ad slogans. It’s too bad–I loved you,” and “How can you people sleep at night? No matter how you may try to justify it, you are promoting eating disorders.”

What To Learn From Pretzelgate 2010

For all intents and purposes, Pretzel Crisps did a great job of responding to a social media attack on their product. They directly and individually responded to complaints over Twitter, and made themselves available for interviews.

The company offered their reasoning, and then listened to the reaction of the blogosphere. They took responsibility, they apologized, and they swiftly took action to fix the problem.

And then they messed up: they lied. They lied and they refused to understand why their other ad was just as offensive as the one that had been taken down. The company claimed they didn’t receive any negative reaction towards the other campaign slogans, which simply wasn’t true.

If you want to maintain integrity, you need to be honest and transparent, and if you’re not, your customers won’t want anything to do with you. Honestly is the best policy. Your company needs to be open and take cues from its customers, and know when it’s time to quit.

These three case studies illustrate how your brands should (or should not) handle a social media crisis. Let us know which tips you’ve learned along the way in the comments below.

This article was extracted from:

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Bosses Behaving Badly

Are you a good boss? Or are you a bad boss? If a twister dropped a house on you in the middle of Munchkinland, would the Munchkins weep—or rejoice?

Mindy Fried, a Boston-based sociologist who has spent much of her career studying workplaces, says many factors contribute to bosses behaving badly. In a recent blog post she identifies several, including the following:

1. The myth of the ideal worker.
The ideal worker is one who works throughout their career in a continuous and uninterrupted manner, taking no time for non-work (like personal or family) activities.

In other words, Mindy says, “work comes first. When managers perceive that’s not the case for one or more employees, it’s viewed as an affront to the company, a deviation from employee loyalty.”

Bosses or employees who buy into this notion are likely to be critical of others who challenge this perceived norm, she says.

2. A culture of competition.
Creating competition among workers is often seen as necessary to fostering productivity in a company, Mindy says. Therefore, long hours, compressed deadlines and a drive to produce more becomes the norm. In these company cultures, Mindy says, middle managers are often in a lonely spot; they face pressure from high-ups to produce, and they have little time for those who report to them—even if they empathize with those employees. “This makes these managers depressed and grumpy,” Mindy says.

Related: Managers who are promoted for a job well done in such a culture may not really be ‘people’ persons. “Their ‘management style’ may look good to upper-level managers… But they may be making the people who work for them miserable,” Mindy says.

3. A lagging economy.
This one is obvious, but bosses struggling to show results tend to both push and control their employees. “Managers are being more closely monitored on financial performance, and they may be even less likely to take the time to attend to employees’ feelings or needs under these conditions,” Mindy says.

4. Graduate of the School of Hard Knocks.
Scrappy bosses who are alums of the School of Hard Knocks sometimes have less empathy for subordinates, Mindy says. “Some managers worked hard to get where they are, and along the way, they experienced a lot of pain themselves,” she adds. Unprepared to provide a supportive, nurturing work environment, their response is “deal with it; I did!” Mindy explains.

5. Lack of management training.
Without sufficient support and management training, some bosses are inherently uncomfortable in positions of power. They aren’t sure how to motivate the people who work for them, and they are clueless about how to challenge the system without jeopardizing their own rep, Mindy says.

So what makes a good boss? Well, lots of things (there’s a pretty comprehensive list here), and Mindy highlights a bunch. Here are eight of my favorites:

You remember that real power comes not from those above you but from those below you.

You are a good communicator, responding to concerns and questions.

You are self-aware and attempt to understand how your behavior affects others.

You forgive when people screw up.

You aren’t intimidated to surround yourself with people who are as smart (or smarter than!) you are.

You offer room to bloom.

You remember how you felt about bosses before you were one.

You know how to apologize and how to laugh, even at yourself.

This article was extracted from

Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and the co-author of the brand new book Content Rules (Wiley, 2011). Follow her on Twitter:@marketingprofs.

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What else would you add? What ways are you a good boss? Share your ideas below on the comments.

Work Less And Live More

Tim Ferriss is best known for The 4-Hour Workweek, a book about how not to work hard. On his blog, Ferriss drops wisdom on how to overcome self-doubt, how to become better at empowering yourself, and how to make sure that you can live a life of leisure. He himself runs a multinational firm from wireless locations worldwide and has been a guest lecturer at Princeton University since 2003, where he presents entrepreneurship as a tool for ideal lifestyle design and world change.
What’s the ‘DEAL’?

In his book and on his blog, he outlines four steps to creating the life you have always dreamed of:

‘D’ is for Definition.
You need to figure out what you want, overcome the fears that prevent you from going for it, and determine what it will really cost to get to where you want. It may seem like a difficult task, but he provides ways of answering these questions. He also makes the point that the opposite of happiness isn’t sadness: it’s boredom.

‘E’ is for Elimination.
Elimination is about applying the 80/20 rule and focusing only on those tasks that contribute the majority of benefit to your life. Ferriss recommends applying it mercilessly to all aspects of your life to eliminate the small minority of factors that waste 80% of your time. Forget time management, he says. Focus instead on getting the really important and results-producing tasks done, because there is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness.

‘A’ is for Automation.
Automation is all about building a sustainable, automatic source of income. This section is about business management. The trick, Ferriss says, is to avoid building a business that demands your presence all the time. Having made that mistake once, he now has hundreds of people working on his behalf through multiple outsourced vendors.

‘L’ is for Liberation.
Once you’ve successfully automated your lifestyle, you can liberate yourself from your geographical location and your job. With mobility comes the ability to leverage economic advantages across the world. Living in a tropical paradise and eating at 5-star restaurants every day can be cheaper, he maintains, than watching TV in your own home. He offers the example of his friend who spent a month in China getting married, but was just as productive as if he were working remotely so no one was the wiser. It’s important to note a few things: you have to be able to define what you want, communicate effectively, work hard to get all the essential tasks done, and be discerning enough to know whether you are moving in the right direction.
The “not-to-do” list –

What you don’t do determines what you can do.
Remove the constant static and distraction to get things done. If you have trouble deciding what to do, just focus on not doing. Here are some stressful and common habits that Ferriss says entrepreneurs should strive to eliminate.

1. Don’t answer calls from unrecognised phone numbers.
This just results in unwanted interruption and poor negotiating position. Let it go to voicemail and use a service that lets you receive voicemails as SMSs.

2. Don’t email first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
The former scrambles your priorities and plans for the day, and the latter just gives you insomnia. Email can wait until you’ve completed at least one of your critical to-do items.

3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time.
If the desired outcome is defined clearly, no meeting or call should last more than 30 minutes. Request them in advance so you “can best prepare and make good use of the time together.”

4. Do not let people ramble.
Forget “how’s it going?” when someone calls you. Stick with “what’s up?” or “I’m in the middle of getting something out, but what’s going on?” A big part of getting things done is getting to the point.

5. Don’t check email constantly.
Focus on execution of your top to-do’s instead of responding to manufactured emergencies. Check your email two or three times a day only.

6. Don’t forget to prioritise.
If you define the single most important task for each day, almost nothing seems urgent or important. Often, it’s just a matter of letting little bad things happen (return a phone call late and apologise, pay a small late fee, lose an unreasonable customer) to get the big important things done. Define the few things that can really fundamentally change your business and life.

7. Don’t carry a cellphone 24/7.
Take at least one day off from digital leashes per week. Turn them off or, better still, leave them in the car. Leave the phone at home if you go out for dinner. So what if you return a phone call an hour later or the next morning?

8. Don’t expect work to be life.
Schedule life and defend it just as you would an important business meeting. Force yourself to cram so your per-hour productivity doesn’t fall through the floor. Focus, get the critical few things done, and get out.

This article was extracted from entreprenuer online mag
To read moreabout Tim Ferriss, go to: and

10 Ways to Grow Your Business, Despite the Economy

Here are 10 pieces of advice:

Differentiate yourself

“Web developers can be a dime a dozen,” said Leila Johnson, founder and COO of Rio Rancho, N.M.-based Data-Scribe, a website solution company launched in 2003 that has experienced steady growth each year and now has 20 employees (up from 2 at its inception). “So we created a short list of what makes us unique and we present that first instead of discussing our services. For other small business owners, look at what makes you stand out from your competitors to see how you can put your best foot forward.”

Grow Naturally

“It is important to grow at a pace that you can keep up with,” said Zander. “If you jump in and grow as fast as possible and you are not a good manager with good systems in place, you will go insane or the business will go under, or both.”

Focus on customer service

“We live in an age in which businesses in general are looking for efficiencies by lowering customer service, and that frustrates customers to no end,” said Ron Holifield, founder and CEO of Keller, Texas-based Strategic Government Resources, a consulting firm that has grown year over year since its inception in 1999. “Customer service is incredibly important. We have almost 200 customers and every one of them has my cell phone number. It builds loyalty among customers.”

Say no

“Don’t be afraid to say no,” said Renee Chronister, co-founder and CEO of St. Louis-based Parameter Security, an ethical hacking firm that has added two additional employees each year since it was launched in 2007. “Many entrepreneurs feel that they need every sale, but you have to make sure your relationship with your customer is a two-way street. If you are spending a ton of extra time with one customer, that time translates into money that you could have been using to drive new business.”

Go the extra step

“There is a donut shop near my house that gives you a free cinnamon stick each time you order a dozen donuts, and as a customer I notice that they are going above and beyond, so it makes me want to go the extra step for them,” Holifield said. “I always empty my change in their tip jar; I’m happy to.”

Hire smart

“If you want to work on the company and not in it, hire people smarter/better than you,” Chronister said. “If you are good at marketing, but are doing it on a day-to-day basis, you can’t focus on the bigger picture of the company. Get someone who can take that aspect over for you.”

Take responsibility

“Most customers will tolerate an honest mistake if you take responsibility and make it right,” Holifield said. “Making it right will build incredible customer loyalty and convey how much it matters to you how well you are taking care of your customers.”

Don’t skimp

“Sometimes it is easy to think that since we are in a bad economy, we should skimp on customizing things for clients,” Johnson said. “Instead, look at unique things that can be offered to clients and within those, look at things you can do to streamline your processes.”

Provide information

“We are in an age of information overload,” said Holifield. “To get your customer’s attention, provide valuable information that they can’t get anywhere else. First, ask yourself what mail you immediately throw into the trash and what you look at and say, ‘Wow, that was helpful.’ Look at the world through your customer’s lens. What do they want and need to know?”

Take a break

“Be prepared to eat, sleep and live your business, but don’t forget to take time for yourself and your relationships,” said Chronister. “If you are not mentally sharp and focused and physically well-rested, you will make poor business decisions.”

Katie Morell is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in small business concerns.

The story was extracted from and edited by us ;

Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Brand

Shawn Parr is the CEO of Bulldog Drummond, a design and innovation consultancy headquartered in San Diego. Shawn has worked with companies such as Starbucks, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Virgin, Disney, and Nike. As we enter 2011, I asked him for a list of the top ten goals that brands should aspire to achieving in the New Year.

This is the list he came up with:

1. Dare to be different.

Be daring and take steps to ensure your company and your products stand out from the crowd. Look at what you did well in 2010 and what you could have been different. Take bold steps to help your brand stand out in 2011.

2. Have a clear purpose.

Make sure you go into the New Year with a clear and compelling mission and ask if you were living it in 2010. Make sure everyone on your team knows what it is, what business you’re in and what is expected of them. Look for creative ways to bring it to life with your team.

3. Listen and have something compelling to say.

Make a commitment to be a better listener in 2011. Commit to listen and then formulate your response. Actively seek your team’s input and feedback for new ideas. Listen to your consumers and understand what makes them tick. Listen to what they have to say and build a relevant and compelling conversation with them. Remember, if you’re not interesting or relevant, people will ignore you.

4. Pick a fight.

When you’ve got an opponent to beat, it increases your motivation to win, so choose an enemy to fight and rally your team around this battle. Make the enemy a competitor, a trend or an element of your internal culture, and put it up on the wall so your team can find motivation and focus in it.

5. Set a big goal.

Set at least one wild and audacious goal for 2011 — something you’ve never tried before. Outline the goal, share it with your team and challenge them to play their part in achieving it. Make sure you celebrate the small victories and successes along the journey.

6. Inspire your team.

There’s nothing more important than your people, and there’s nothing more engaging than a team who feels acknowledged. Inspire them with your own attention and regular updates on the business. Also bring in relevant speakers and articles to keep them challenged.

7. Laugh a lot.

One of the best motivators for your team is a great work environment, and one of the best elements of a vibrant team environment is laughter. Next year do small things that make your employees smile. Along with laughter and a light-hearted environment, small gestures or events can make a big difference. And the benefits won’t just stop with your team — they will show through everything that your brand does.

8. Plan the plan.

Commit to setting time aside to plan your year next year ahead. Set two days aside at the end of November every year to plan for the following year. Then take a day out every quarter to review how you’re doing against the plan and revise it where necessary. Every brand needs a plan. Make a commitment to write one.

9. Make friends.

Chart a “circle of love” and identify brands with similar values that you’d like to partner with in 2011. Assign someone to explore potential relationships and collaborations. You’ll be surprised by the results, even just the initial conversations you’ll have about your own brand.

10. Show your appreciation.

Do what your mother told you! Thanking people goes a long way to create valued and appreciated fans — internally and externally. This year, find new ways to show you appreciate your team, your customers and your partners, in ways that truly make a difference in their lives. You’ll be surprised and delighted by the results.

Shawn’s list is a great list of marching orders for the New Year. Hope you achieve all ten and make 2011 the best year ever for your brand!

This article was extracted from: