I'm constantly reassuring my clients that they should take a chance and get involved in social media. "You've got to let your guard down," I say. "Be honest, transparent and humble, and constituents will reward you with loyalty and support. Put yourself out there."
Usually it's good advice.
That's why the recent #McStories gaffe by McDonald's on Twitter is tough to watch. Because unfortunately, it's mistakes like this that serve as the perfect excuse for any business leader to NOT try something new. I can already hear my next client's response when I give her the advice above - "What are you, kidding me? You think I want to be the next McScrewup?"
Ultimately such response would be a cop-out... a weak excuse to choose not to do the right thing for fear of the risk.
Yet this fear is more than present, it's pervasive. Client after client, experience after experience, I inevitably get the same question from business leaders I'm advising, usually in the form of "Can we delete negative comments?". (I blogged about this topic back in September 2011). This is effectively a question about risk and, ultimately, exercising control.
So I've decided to compile a list of reasons why this Twitter folly by McDonald's is different than the situation in which I'm advising my client, to prepare myself for the inevitable day when one of them references this as a reason not to take my advice. (Be sure your situation really IS different before using any of the arguments below).:
- Consumers are a different lot than employees. Employees have a vested interest in your success and therefore want you to succeed.
- While I don't advise censorship, you DO have control over the social environment in an enterprise, and therefore you can remove personal insults or profanity if they arise.
- With the above stated, employees generally want to remain employed, so they'll keep their criticisms constructive. And even if you allow anonymous posting, most employees feel you can still find out who they are if they state anything too negatively (and let's be honest, they're probably right.)
- McDonald's brand has, for better and worse, come to symbolize ALL fast food, and fast food has legions of haters out there. These haters are just waiting for an excuse to pounce and talk trash about McDonald's, or fast food in general. You don't have this problem in the enterprise space.
- This campaign was ill conceived in that it doesn't address a legitimate issue. The original purpose of the campaign was to share the pride that McDonald's farmers have in providing quality food; however I would argue that most fast food customers know the food isn't good for them, and DON'T CARE. Why try to put lipstick on a pig when everyone's happy with the pig as it is?
Do you have additional arguments to the ones I've listed above? Please use the comments section below to add them.