When Social Media Backfires

Social Media: You’re Doing It Wrong…

I came across this incident more by luck than anything. I was following our Tumblr feed when this popped up:

Did Chick-Fil-A falsify a Facebook profile to enter dialogue with their customers?

Everything surrounding the incident with Facebook is circumstantial at this time. We are not endorsing this as proof of any wrong doing on the part of Chick-Fil-A or their representatives.

Questionable Conduct:

For those of you who may be unaware, Chick-Fil-A a fast food restaurant in the United States recently took a stand in the controversial “Same-Sex-Marriage” debates (they stand on the side opposing the idea).

This has lead to multiple conflicts within the business, political, spiritual and social communities.

Recently the Jim Henson Co. slammed the Chick-Fil-A CEO and declared they would be dissolving any future partnerships with the fast food entity, due to their stance.

Chick-Fil-A reacted by pulling a series of “Muppet” toys from their meals.

Ok, that’s fine and dandy, even if it does brings me back to First Grade.

However Chick-Fil-A then went on to backpedal, by stating they had pulled the toys not due to internal business conflicts, but due to Safety Concerns

Was this just a massive and convenient coincidence? Or was Chick-Fil-A embellishing a little.

Needless to say they have come under some heavy fire now, not only due to their same-sex-marriage stance, but this subsequent and questionable conduct.

Amazingly it gets worse.

Ladies & gentlemen, meet Abby Farle aka Shutterstock 3117967

Social Media Misconduct?

Consumers took to Social Media channels to voice their displeasure and to question Chick-Fil-A’s actions. That is when the communication portrayed in the above screen shot took place.

“Abby Farle” took to Facebook in defense of Chick-Fil-A – stating that the business had in fact recalled the toys prior to the Jim Henson Co. statement. True or not the problem here is that evidence suggests that this Abby Farle does not actually exist. :

  • The profile was created 8 hours prior to the first posting, which defended and communicated very different timeline information regarding Chick-Fil-A’s proceedings.
  • The photo used in the profile was tracked down to a Shutterstock photo #3117967

For all intents and purposes it APPEARS that someone took a questionable avenue in an attempt to address the situation, by creating a fake Facebook profile in order to enter a defense on the behalf of the company.

There is no proof that this was a representative of Chick-Fil-A, albeit one is left questioning who else would take the time. What is clear is that the profile was a fake, and the owner was attempting to enter a defense for the Chick-Fil-A company.

Having said that though, this is not about lambasting Chick-Fil-A, but about addressing what went wrong.

What Went Wrong:

A brand is welcome to take a stand on things. It is typically avoided regarding tumultuous issues, to protect the brand from alienating customers. Nonetheless it can be refreshing when a brand flies their colours.

A brand is also welcome, and in fact encouraged, to enter dialogue with their consumer base. That is one of the primary uses for Social Media in Branding and Marketing. Discussing issues, comments, concerns and questions are a part of the Social Media package.

Breaking Trust is not.

Breaking trust is Brand suicide.

And…unfortunately, breaking trust can also be all about perception.

The information being communicated by “Abby Farle” may have been correct, the problem is that it was communicated via what appears to be a false source. This immediately destroys not only the credibility of the information but the credibility of the brand itself.

In the example above, Chick-Fil-A has now entered a Social Media and Marketing nightmare. It no longer matters whether it was one of their representatives acting on their behalf or not, they now have to deal with the fallout – and the fallout here is potentially enormous.

  • Opponents of Chick-Fil-A will pick this up and run with it. Further damaging their brand.
  • They have piled one controversy on top of another, which does not ADD but MULTIPLIES the bad PR!
  • Any attempts to address this incident, now with damaged credibility, will be exceedingly difficult.
  • The same-sex-marriage controversy still exists, but is no even more muddied.
  • Who in the business community will partner with them after this?
  • Their brand image is hugely questionable.
  • This has now not just alienated same-sex-marriage proponents. It has potentially alienated anyone who will question the moral fortitude of falsifying a profile.

The biggest mistake a brand can make is to breach consumer trust.

This is a massive Social Media faux pas. Whoever attempted to protect Chick-Fil-A has in fact severely damaged them. The repercussions for this sort of misbehavior are huge. When this story spreads, and it will spread, it is going to be extremely sensitive ground.

Branding and Brand Promises are all about a commitment to the consumer. Social Media is all about dialogue, trust and transparency for Brands. This incident has countermanded both.

How will their brand react? How should they react? What are your thoughts?

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

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5 comments

  1. It wouldn’t take too much cunning for a competitor to throw together a fake account in order to make things worse for CFA. The shoddiness of the fake account makes me think that’s not too far-fetched actually. So. Well played, KFC.

    1. Too true! Sad to say this is all too common an action, and all too common a perception. I refer to a reference (is that allowed?) by Pursuing PR

      “Dan Ariely spoke about this in Predictably Irrational, calling it the circle of distrust. Consumers are always looking for a catch, while companies don’t trust consumers to reward them for being honest… therefore they get
      sneaky”

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