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Dear Kenneth Coles everywhere: it's not the end of the world, social media is about conversation
Above is a photo snapped by a San Francisco resident outside of a Kenneth Cole location in the city not even a day after someone at the clothing company sent out that infamous tweet, reducing a violent revolution to a marketing ploy.
If only erasing the evidence were this easy:
Even though unfortunate online PR blunders like these always get immortalized, companies shouldn't panic. It's not the end of the world.
Deal with it: obsessively controlling your company's image won't ever be as easy as it was in the good old days, when you could just slap a pretty picture in a magazine or on a billboard, or shoot a hilarious Super Bowl ad spot that everyone's sure to get (not).
Marketing is transforming into a two-way conversation, which means (as much you hate the law that says so) companies are really much more like individuals and a lot less like well-greased machines. In Kenneth Cole's case, whoever is in charge of the Twitter account quickly removed the dumb tweet and apologized. Are KC customers really going to take the misstep so seriously that they'll stop shopping there? Probably not very many will. Your friends say stupid stuff all the time; if they apologize, you forgive them. If they don't apologize or if they repeatedly ignore the mistakes they're making, then maybe you reconsider the friendship.
It's really riveting: having human conversations with your audience actually matters now.
When Skype suffered an unexpected hours-long outage in mid-December, during the workday and smack in the middle of the holiday season, many users were understandably annoyed. The ordinary blog post updates and tweets went out, but the company took an extra step that made all the difference. Newly appointed CEO Tony Bates stepped on the webcam for just a couple minutes to apologize, explain the situation and offer a bit of compensation to paying users. The action was simple, swift and, in my opinion, super effective. And I hope it becomes business as usual in the future.
In the end, companies can save themselves a lot of trouble by being proactive from the very beginning, at the hiring process. Gone are the (short-lived) days of hiring just one "social media specialist" to handle your company's Facebook and Twitter needs. Rather, social media prowess should be as fundamental to an applicant's resume as are office productivity suite, email and telephone skills. After all, it's only the next stage in the evolution of human communication.
Beyond that foundation, however, organizations must keep in mind something even more important: their culture. Many successful executives and company heads highlight culture as vital to, not just maintaining harmony between employees, but also for keeping a company's image in sync with its vision. How individual customers see your employees will ultimately reflect how the world sees your company and, in an age where customer service horror tales can go viral, that's more true today than it's ever been.
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